Gardening the Driveway

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I can see from the Google map of the house five years ago that people were parking their cars in this part of the yard.  There is a concern that oil and other chemicals have gotten into the soil.  Antifreeze lettuce doesn’t sound like a good deal.  The house has been empty for six months and I do not know how long it has been since folks parked in the garden, but…  I am looking at hugelkultur gardens, raised beds, and purifying plants.  We’ll want sustainable, inexpensive, and easy ideas and come up with a garden plan.  Tune in each day this week!  It might be a little early, but spring planting is right around the corner!

Roses; Memory and the Gift of 17 Rose Bushes

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I adore roses.  Roses on their stalks and heady smell.  Taller than me when I was young.  I stood in Grandma’s and Great-Grandma’s respective yards (next door to each other) and had my first internal lesson of aromatherapy.  Nature teaching me early.

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I have grown roses in pots, roses in the gardens, and have a granddaughter named Maryjane Rose.  The tall, cut stalks in the store ready for Valentine’s Day are not my favorite flower to receive (I do love tulips), but in the garden and cut from an old varietal, roses are so powerfully beautiful.

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Medicinally, roses are a mild nervine.  That means they are a supporting actor in medicines for sleep, stress, and pain.  Particularly stress.  All one has to do is feel the effect of smelling a rose to note its healing properties for calming.  Spiritually, it is love medicine and we use it in our teas to help create more love for oneself. It is a lovely tonic to drink and a beautiful water or oil to apply to skin.  It is, of course, the flower of romance and beauty.

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Yesterday, I had a few moments to actually walk around our property.  There are many stumps along the fence line because Siberian Elm is insistent upon taking over the world.  (I will use it for medicine.)  Among the stumps I found new stalks.  New stalks of rose!  Many of the stumps are ROSES!  I wonder how old they are.  Perhaps planted by the mistress that first built this home. Some are feeding off of the elms.  Some are their own masses made up of smaller stumps, some two feet in diameter, and life shooting out of them here in this milder climate.  Seventeen rose bushes from what I could see.  They have been fiercely neglected, but they waited for me.

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I have five in pots that I brought with me that are ready to be added to the garden.  Perhaps one day my grandchildren will walk through my gardens and remember fondly the towering rose bushes and how they made them feel.

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Happy Birthday HotRod!

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For those that are long time readers, the people that are mentioned in my blog are almost characters in a book.  It’s fun to see folks that read the blog meet my friends for the first time.  It’s almost as if they know them!  Rodney is one of those characters.  He and his wife, Pat, have been our best friends for twelve years now.  I have never had friends for that long.  We have traveled together, celebrated together, watched our kids grow up, mourned together (especially when Rodney’s mom, Kat, died last July.  I called her my mom too), and laughed together.  When we were losing everything and about to lose our minds, they threw us in their backseat and took us to Utah for four days to play.  We go to New Mexico together and plan our respective homesteads.  They are moving to Pueblo this year along with Rodney’s dad, Rod.  These are my people.

Today Rodney turns fifty.  I think that is a monumental success and reason to celebrate.  We have all lost friends that did not make it to fifty.  This is a gift, a blessing, and I am blessed to still call this man my friend.  We have a lot in common spiritually, and our families have really melded into one.  My granddaughter, Maryjane, calls them Aunt and Uncle, and their son is her best friend (he is 16…that is the sweetest kid) and cousin.  We are their grandchildren’s godparents.

So today I just wanted to share this celebration with all of you out there.  Happy Birthday to my best friend, travel partner, confidant, and trouble maker.  May you get every wish come true!  Wishing you health, happiness, love, and peace.  And a home by us!

Here’s to friends (clink!) and here’s to Rodney (double clink!)….Raise your coffee cups!  Cheers.  Happy Birthday, HotRod!

Chicken Mama

I simply cannot wait to hold those babies in my hand.  Those little balls of fluff.

As we were losing our rented farm and needing to find someone to live with, we had to give away everything.  I stood outside and watched those chickens be placed head first into crates.  My chickens.  Laverne, Luisa, Ginger, and twenty-two of their named sisters…the ducks too.  I kind of lost myself there for awhile and as Doug helped them pack up my chickens, I stood screaming.  Screaming.  Losing my animals was worse than losing my antiques.  Worse than losing my three cords of wood, my newly planted garden, my homesteading school, my dreams.  Our chickens made us farmers when we first started out.  Our little house in town where our children would spend hours in the coop kissing and cuddling each chick.  Chickens took us to the next level.  In four weeks we will have chickens again.

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Doug and Maryjane drove to the feed store to order chicks and picked out two Salmon Faverolles who lay pinkish eggs, have slippered feet, and who are docile and good layers.  They are also very pretty.  We do love pretty chickens.

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Two Marans joined their order, those beautiful dark chocolate eggs and pretty feathers.  This is a picture of me holding one of our Marans.  It was used in an article that was written about our family in the Huffington Post.

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Four Jersey Giants, our favorite.  One of our Giants, Shirley used to sit in the lawn chair and read magazines with me.  They were among our friendliest chickens.

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My friend is raising Javas.  They have pink eggs, are a little conceited, but they are pretty enough to warrant it.  We are getting four of them.

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To complete our order, after much begging from me and Maryjane, Doug chose two blue Runner ducks.  My heart is full.

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In four weeks I will be a chicken mama again.  I know I keep saying it, but it sure is good to be back.

DIY and the Three R’s

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Homesteaders old and new must be so busy we had to find acronyms for everything!  DIY-Do It Yourself.  So, when our friend, Ingrid, said to look up videos on YouTube to see how to fix the fridge, we wondered why we didn’t think of that!  We are homesteaders after all!

Armed with a drill and some online videos, Doug set to work.  Back panel off, fought the shelving unit, removed the ice maker, tried to get the inside panel off.  I went and did yoga in the living room.  Too much for me.  Then I got the phone number for an appliance repair.  Here’s where the Reduce, Recycle, Reuse comes in!  We got ourselves a refurbished fridge.  It’s ugly as sin, shorter than me, and needs a paint job (can you paint refrigerators?), but it will do the trick.  They will take ours, fix it, and resell it.  We keep a small business busy, kept a fridge out of the landfill, saved money, and Thursday we will have cold food.  All in a day’s work!  We didn’t need new.  Just a little thinking through.

Dealing with a Broken Refrigerator Farmgirl Style

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Fifty-five degrees.  Well, that’s not good.  The refrigerator should probably be colder than that.

We do not presently have the money for a new one.  I slurp my lukewarm milk from my bowl of cereal.  I panic.

I go outside, sit down, face to the sun, feet on the ground and quiet down.  Then I laughed.  Do I not speak for entire weekends about this type of thing?  Am I not nicknamed the Farmgirl?  At the last show we were at, more people recognized me as the Farmgirl then White Wolf.  Have I not read every homesteading and pioneering history book I can get my hands on?  Are my ancestors laughing right now?  If anyone can handle this, it ought to me. Don’t I pride myself on knowing how live simply and without much electricity?  I have been in the city for a year…I’m rusty.

Okay, first things first.  Calm down and get another cup of coffee!  We are alright!

Two.  Defrost the meats in the freezer (before the refrigerator dies completely) and can them.  I found some good blog sites on canning hamburger.

I can preserve most things in the fridge and freezer.  Cheese doesn’t mind 55 degrees, that is the temperature I aged mine at when we had our little dairy.  The milk…not so much.

Invest in a cooler!  I wish there were ice trucks still.  I wish I had added Ice House to my house hunting criteria!  Get ice from the store.  Switch to non-dairy milks that do not go off so quickly.

Now from there, perhaps it is an easy fix and it might be worth it to call a repair man?  In the meantime, stop panicking and bring out my inner pioneer!  We can do this.  But, let’s do it before food poisoning tries to take over, shall we?

 

Life with Squirrels

 

squirrelWe have never been known to have underfed animals, and that goes for wildlife too.  Where most folks purchase squirrel proof feeders and shoo them away, we set out welcome signs.  We have a long history with squirrels.

It started with me as a child and teenager at the park feeding them and talking with them.  I didn’t think it strange, I still believed everyone spoke to animals.  Our first home we had together in Parker had a lot of squirrels, one particular was named Pierre, and he had a large bowl that we kept on the table in the back yard filled with bird seed and squirrel food.  The birds could still get to it and we didn’t have to mess with feeders.  One time we heard him yelling so we looked out our window.  There he was with his empty bowl.  He caught sight of us, showed us the empty bowl, then threw it on the ground.  Yes, squirrels are not much better than toddlers, I am afraid.

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We moved to Elbert county, and to our surprise found that there were hardly any squirrels!  We had one that visited us on the porch in the mornings as we had our coffee when we lived in Elizabeth.  His name was Pedro.  When we moved to Kiowa, there were even less!  We were delighted when we noted the squirrel nest in the tree near the road.  Unfortunately one baby fell out of the nest.  I carried him in my shirt tending to him, trying to bring him back to health.  But, I fear he had too much internal damage.  As I gently held him on my lap swinging in the back yard he had a seizure, scared me so that I tossed him.  I felt so bad, I held him close to me again crying as he passed into the next world.

You may have noticed we are not particularly scared of rabies.  Rabies is one of those rampant fears that is actually quite rare in reality.  No one seems to be scared of dogs and cats or people.  They could all be carriers!

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A few months back Shyanne brought to the shop a squirrel that she had rescued from the street.  We didn’t think he would live the night.  His held was tilted to one side and he made slow circles when he tried to walk.  We thought it was spinal, but began to believe it was neurological.  Every day without fail, the squirrel allowed Shyanne to give him his medicine.  We make very good animal medicines, and he received his twice daily doses of Arthritis and Anti-Parasite.  He took to us rather well, particularly Shyanne.  She could be seen out on her smoke break in the back with a squirrel playing at her feet.  Every day he wandered further and further, she would just call him and he came prancing back to her, gaining strength each day.

Soon he was well and we knew it was time to release him as he looked at us as captors instead of friends.  Shyanne drove him to a nearby state park and released him.  She sat on a rock watching as he climbed a tree, came back to her, climbed a tree, fell out, climbed a tree, looked at her with thanks, and was gone.  Through tears she made her way back to her car.

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Healing animals is one of our favorite aspects of our work.  We are glad that we did not raise our children to fear animals.  We adore these creatures that share the earth with us and they have made our lives so much lovelier, even the wild ones.

On our new homestead here, there are two rather fat squirrels that have been working very hard, despite the black birds, to build a nest in a hole in the tree outside our kitchen window.  We leave them bits of toast and greet them.  Perhaps we will have some young ones scampering around the yard and house.  I better get a bigger bowl.

Farmgirl Time; the beauty of old clocks

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I love old clocks.  I love that there are no obnoxious light up, LED, plugged in clocks messing with my natural rhythms and using up electricity.  Old clocks have a steady pulse to them, a heartbeat, an ongoing dance of time so long as you remember to wind them.

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I have always loved clocks.  I always wanted a cuckoo clock.  We stayed with a couple in Kansas one weekend whose home was filled with old clocks.  I loved the top of the hour when they all sang and then returned to gentle ticking, methodical and calming.

clockKat’s father repaired and collected clocks.  Rod’s home is filled with them.  I am the grateful owner of three of them.  Kat gave me a cuckoo clock for my birthday many years ago and I still adore it.

The grandfather clock came from their son, Rodney’s home, I only needed to get it repaired, which I with great joy.  It has a lunar face set to the new and full moon cycles, effectively telling me when to make my medicines and when they are complete.

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This old wind up alarm clock is quirky, loud, and fun.  It pleases me.  We never have the alarm on!

Even though farm time goes more with the seasons and natural progressions of the day, if I do want to know what time it is, all I have to do is listen and the clocks will tell me.  All in good time.