Pull Up a Chair and Introduce Yourself

Come in, come in, so glad to see y’all.  Better set awhile.

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You know a lot about me after all these years.  Blogs make the world just a little smaller.  They connect us in commonality and friendship.

If you read Farmgirl School every day, or maybe just coming back to it, peek in once in awhile, or are new ’round these parts, welcome.  I want to hear about you!

Introduce yourself in the comments.  Where you from?  What are your goals?  What brings you ’round this way?  Let’s make this world a little smaller!

I’ll put on another pot of coffee.  I can’t wait to hear from you!

My Homestead Kitchen and Root Cellar

 

20170927_161036This is always a happily busy time of you year in my homestead kitchen.  There are lots of things being canned, lots of frozen items, lots of dried items, lots of staples.  Colorful eggs decorate the counter.

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We could walk to the grocery store.  Everything I need is already canned and frozen there.  We went from five plus people to just two of us here, why so much food?  Potential weather disasters, power outages, sh*t hits the fan, just in case, lots of reasons, but my grocery bill was only $36 this week, and that’s pretty great.

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I also love to cook.  I am rarely happy with restaurant meals or packaged foods.  I like my own sauces.  I love creating my own pickles, red chile sauce, sauerkraut, but also having lots of really fresh vegetables canned swiftly in glass containers.  No preservatives.  No Monsanto.

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We are busy folks.  It is nice to come home and have everything at the ready to make an amazing meal.  I enjoy the methodical time putting up the food and the pride I feel looking at my humble root cellar.  215 canned items.  I still have a bit more to do.  I will just leave the pressure canner upstairs this year.  That way I can quickly can more broth, beans, or soups as I go.  There is no real “end of the season”, homemaking pleasures continue through the year.

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If you had walked through my warm homestead kitchen this last week you would have smelled the cinnamon apples being canned, watched the apple cider vinegar and kombucha brewing.  Thick halves of pumpkins baking to be put up, their seeds washed and drying on the counter to plant next year.  A wheel of farmhouse cheddar was being waxed.  Sauerkraut fermenting.  Frozen meat from friends’ ranches.  Lots of beans and whole grains and spices.  Just need more flour, sugar, and coffee.  Lots of coffee.

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There is still much more in the garden.  I was pleased to unearth a sweet potato, something I haven’t been able to grow in higher climates.  More tomatoes, winter beans, burdock, carrots, beets, kale, zucchini, peppers, cabbage, spinach, lettuce, radishes, potatoes all await our autumn meals.

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Donning a cute apron and working quietly in one’s own homestead kitchen brings a peace I cannot even describe.  Food security, health, and peace of mind permeates the air along with the smells of chilies and pumpkins.  This is the life for me.

Farmgirl’s Pueblo Green Chile

20170926_153841I lift the spoon from the crockpot to taste and the aroma instantly transports me.  I close my eyes and I am in the plaza of Santa Fe.  I reopen them and I am in my kitchen in Pueblo.

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Here in Pueblo, Colorado they take their chilies as seriously as New Mexicans.  I am growing New Mexican red chilies in my gardens but to say that I prefer them would be fightin’ words in these parts.  I picked up Pueblo chili seeds for next year!

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The climate here is very similar to New Mexico and chilies grow great.  The Pueblo Chili Festival is taken as seriously as the State Fair.  Doug and I went and checked it out, took in the aromas of roasting chilies, and the many, many booths of salsas, ristras, and beans.  We brought home a basket of chilies, onions, garlic, and a big bag of local pinto beans.

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And then I made the best green chili of my life.  Here is the recipe!

Farmgirl’s Pueblo Green Chili

You will need 8 chilies.  I used 5 (supposedly) mild green chilies, 2 poblano, and 1 sweet pepper.  You can roast on the grill, in the oven, or on a gas stove top.  Use tongs to blacken the skin all around and then immediately place in a freezer bag.  The steam loosens the skin.

Brown half a pound of stew meat, cut up smaller, dredged in 3/4 of a cup of masa mixed with a little salt and pepper, in a few tablespoons of olive oil.  Put in crockpot.

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In same pan sauté with a little more oil 1/2 an onion.  Add to crockpot.

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Mince 6 cloves of garlic.

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To prepare chilies, scrape skin off with the side of a knife.  Slice open and remove seeds.  Cut up chilies.

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Add all to crockpot with 2 cups of diced, peeled tomatoes with juice (I was tired by then so I just opened one of the jars I already canned).

Add 3 cups of broth (I used my homemade corn and red chili broth)

1 T salt

1 ts pepper

2 ts oregano

1 ts cumin

Add 1/2 cup of beans.

Pour in rest of masa used for dredging.

Cook on low for 8 hours.  Sneak a taste every so often because it is so good.

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A cold beer and goat cheese cooled the heat from the chilies.  Fritos made it a little closer to Frito pie from New Mexico.  If you close your eyes you will find yourself basking in the sun in the plaza of Sant….um, I mean Pueblo!

The New Farmdog

20170924_071821On Mabon, the eve of equinox, I smudged the house with oils and Doug carved on a candle a few things we wanted to manifest.  “Dog” was one of them.

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The next morning my friend, Alli, sent me a picture by text message of a litter of puppies.  Her husband was fixing equipment on a ranch and the pure-bred puppies were only fifty-dollars.  He could bring one home for me.  I looked up at the sky and said, “Dang, that was fast!”

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He ended up bringing one home for Alli and for one of their other friends as well.  Eight week old Heelers are pretty dang cute.

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We named him Arthur to match Merlin, our ten week old kitten.  Those two are running around this place like little bats out of hell until they fall into one of their many naps.  It’s pretty cute around here.

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Well, here he is folks, meet Arthur.

Autumn Houseplants

 

20170920_143750The night air dipped and rose the past few weeks and autumn is certainly in the air.  The houseplants have all been lazily sunbathing all summer (with me) on the front porch.  They love the fresh flow of water from the hose each day and the sun shining on them.  I snap off any leggy parts and remove dead leaves.  Any bugs and diseases that jumped on from being cooped up last winter are gone.  Yet, the thermometer lowers steadily in the night.  At 50 degrees I start covering the plants with a large sheet before I go to bed.  The days are still gloriously warm and they just need a little extra cover under the stars.

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But when that fateful forecast shows 45 degrees at night, everyone has to come inside. Party over.  By the end of summer a lot of the plants have grown.  Trim them into proper shapes and transplant them into bigger pots.  I put a little soil on the bottom, place the whole plant and dirt in the new pot, then top with fresh potting soil.  Water thoroughly and let sit in the sun a bit longer.  There should be holes in the bottom of your pots.  Soggy feet are the death of many a houseplant.  They should be able to drain completely.

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Meanwhile, inside prepare a spot with a nice west, south, or east view-preferably south- and place drip trays or old plates where you want your plants.  Carefully bring in each beautiful specimen.

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The plants will go from daily to every other day waterings to once a week now.  Water until it leaks into tray.

I don’t have typical houseplants, myself.  I have two poinsettias, two Ephedra plants, two jasmine plants, a bamboo, an orchid, a few little succulents, a unique aloe, a behemoth aloe, a coffee plant, and four large geraniums.  The ginormous plants have followed me from place to place for years and some are new.  Last year I overwintered a tomato plant someone gave me in the south window.  It grew a little and when I put it out into the soil this last spring it sprung to life in heaves of mass foliage and huge ripe tomatoes.

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You can have anything as a houseplant.  They just need light, the right amount of water, they enjoy a cup of room temperature coffee per month (no kidding), and talking to them doesn’t hurt either.

(The plants are getting to know the kitten…not thrilled I’m afraid!)

 

The Happy Cheese Maker

IMG_20170917_102206We made arrangements to go see Sherry’s farm to pick up our first share of fresh, raw goat’s milk.  Roughly twelve minutes of driving and we were there.  I had no idea that we were so close to the farms in this area.  Goats frolicked here and there as her livestock dog barked.  Our new goat girl’s granddaughter skipped among the Alpines and La Manchas.  Piglets ran around in an enclosure in the back.  Chickens and ducks freely marched about.  Their wild vegetable garden looked prolific and baby goats looked for someone to give them a bottle.  We went home with two and a half gallons of delicious, frothy milk after lots of goat hugs.

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20170920_160636It has been two and a half years since I have made cheese.  I used to turn our own goat’s milk into a rich Gouda,  sharp cheddar, creamy chevre, and many other wheels of wonderful cheese.  I was surprised how quickly it all came back to me as I slowly stirred the curds.  A two pound wheel of cheddar is drying on the counter.

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We may not be able to have goats in the city but we can certainly help out another Farmgirl and get all the cheese we want in the process!

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Here are a few links to my blog posts about making cheese;

Soft cheese and Hard Cheese

Thanks for reading and helping me keep this blog alive and thriving.  Happy Autumn!

How to Make this Season’s Strongest Antibiotic

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I often tell my students that the most frustrating, the most difficult part of being an herbalist is not being asked for help.  I see on Facebook cousins who are always sick, cousins going in for surgery, people in pain, friends under some constant barrage of bacterial infection.  With bottles of incredibly effective medicines at the ready, I wait.  And wait.  People just don’t know how amazing real plant medicine made by real herbalists can be.  I may not be able to help everyone but I can teach you how to help yourself.  What if I told you that this winter you would be blissfully cold and flu free?  Bacterial infections cannot stand up against this antibiotic either so it is a really great medicine to keep in your cupboard!

There are lots of places you can purchase the herbs.  I highly recommend that you plant what you can.  We would be wise to be more sustainable as herbalists.  Until then you can purchase dried, ready to go herbs from reputable companies such as Mountain Rose Herbs, Starwest Botanicals, Penn Herb Company, Frontier Herbs and many others online.

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In a canning jar combine 3 Tablespoons of Oregon Grape Root, 2 Tablespoons of Echinacea, 1 clove of garlic (just one, trust me), 2 Tablespoons of Mint, 1 Tablespoon of Juniper Berries, 1 teaspoon of pepper, 1 teaspoon of turmeric.  Everything but the garlic is dried in this recipe.  Fill 3/4 full with vodka.  Add a few dried apples or plums for flavor and more cold fighting antioxidants then fill rest of jar with honey.  Place in sunny spot for a month.  Shake the jar when you notice it.  Do not strain.

Take 1 teaspoon if you feel like you are getting sick.  Take 1-2 teaspoons 4x a day for a full blown infection or illness.  Halve the dosage for children.  Omit the juniper berries if you are in the early part of your pregnancy. This concoction’s shelf life is forever.

Now that we know we won’t be wasting any time getting sick this season, we can start planning things we want to do, like weaving and cheese making and candle making, and soap making, and…

(If you don’t make your own you can always order some of our incredibly effective White Wolf Medicine Antibiotic at http://whitewolfherbs.com.  Thanks for supporting your working herbalists!)

 

A Great Farming Book and Why Every One of Us Needs a Garden

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With very little work I am still pulling out baskets of tomatoes, cucumbers, cabbage, beans, squash, and greens from the gardens.  The nights are getting cool enough that tonight I will need to bring in the houseplants.  Crickets still sing for summer as I write.  These gardens have been such a lovely respite.  They didn’t cost much to start or maintain and if I did have more money for amendments it would have been even more prolific.  Each year the soil will get better and better with techniques I have learned over the years from organic gardening and permaculture.  I am still learning.

A garden is not just a hobby.  It is one of the most fundamentally important things we ought to be doing.  To provide really fresh, nutritious food without chemicals and without the oil needed to produce, package, and ship our food from across the world is imperative to the health of our beautiful earth, and in a time of epidemic chronic disease, imperative for our own health too.

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Miraculous Abundance; One Quarter Acre, Two French Farmers, and Enough Food to Feed the World by Perrine and Charles Herve-Gruyer is a lovely guide filled with inspiration and ideas.  By simply focusing our energies on the soil and improving it we then let nature grow all of the food.  We are the helpers, not the geniuses behind food production!

The author states, “If we want to live sustainably on this planet, a growing number of people will have to reconnect with the land and produce food for themselves and the community….But the farmers of tomorrow will not come from the agricultural class that has been reduced to near extinction; they will come from the cities, offices, shops, factories, and more….Their farms will be places of healing, of beauty, and of harmony.”  The farms will be in front yards, in the country, on balconies; we will have to find a way to feed all of us because the current food model is killing us and killing the earth.  Period.

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Our yard in the city is the equivalent of four city lots, or just under a third of an acre.  We have utilized very little of it this year and are still producing all of our own produce for our week’s meals plus some for canning.  I have purchased the rest of the vegetables for putting up from local farmers, thereby boosting my local economy and putting food up for our winter meals.  I have chickens for eggs in the city and just purchased a goat share so that I can get plenty of fresh milk to drink and make cheese and other dairy products.  I trade classes or spend my grocery money on fresh meat from my friends that are ranchers.  Now I just need to get staples.  I save money, eat better, and support my local friends and farmers.  This is the model that we may all have to follow sooner or later.  Unsustainable systems are doomed to fail, and Honey, if you look at our food and medical systems….better plant some comfrey and Oregon grape root while you’re at it.

But we can do this!  We can support each other and help each other with knowledge and tool sharing, with friendship and bartering.  What can you plant next year?

 

Farmdog Needed. Inquire Within.

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We have had unlikely farm dogs.  We had Windsor for eighteen years.  He was completely devoted to the children.  He also peed on the kitchen floor every day of his life.

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Our greyhound, Bumble, was a great family dog.  He lounged on his reclining lawn chair guarding the chickens every day.  He would dig great holes in the yard (presumably to help me plant trees) and would run a mile circle if accidentally let out of the gate.  When he passed away in the night two and a half years ago, we decided no more dogs.

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A few months ago I babysat my daughter, Emily’s dog, Azzy for two weeks.  She is a small blue heeler/border collie.  She never left my side.  She rode in the car, loved walks, growled at little old ladies who looked threatening, kept squirrels out of the yard, and scared the recycling guy.  She has separation anxiety something awful so I just took her everywhere with me.  I found myself very upset when she went back home.  And her mother won’t give me her dog.  Kids these days.

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My granddog, Lupo

 

The city has been difficult for me to get used to.  Our cars have been broken into four times since we moved here.  Last week they shattered the window to get in, only to find nothing of interest.  In the country we never locked our doors.  I find myself worried to leave my house windows open.  I am home alone most of the week and even though it is pretty safe around here, I wouldn’t mind the company of a dog.

I am worried about getting the right dog though.  I take adoption seriously.

“MWF seeks big, snuggly dog with big bark who loves long walks around the lake and rides in the car.  Must love chickens, cats, and kids.  Looking for big, strong, protective pup who would enjoy years of being spoiled who doesn’t care to dig or run away.  Preferably one who doesn’t have separation anxiety and doesn’t eat couches.”

Is that even possible?  Does my farmdog exist?

What breeds would you recommend?  Puppy or adult?  I would like to rescue.  Ideas?

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