Making Rosehip Meade- Part 2 (bottling)

Just a sip from atop the dredges.  I sat outside on my front porch in the cool air in my rocking chair, watching the birds in my trees, while smelling the contents of my small glass.  There was a only a few tablespoons in it.  A little rough yet, but the underlying aromas of flowers and apples came dancing up from the honey liqueur.  Ah, yes, this will be quite lovely come June.

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‘Twas time to bottle the meade, my friends.  Meade is a honey wine that can be spelled with or without the e but I do love my words to be pretty so I shall keep the e on the end of my meade.  I knew the gallon jug was ready to be bottled because all the blurping and slight bubbling had ceased and all was calm in the carboy (the twirly thing on top.)  Out came the siphon and the tube.

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I would love to have a system with corks and all that but I can afford jars with stoppers at this point and the bottles are lovely and they do just fine.  They have been in the dusty root cellar so a soapy bath was first on the list.  Make sure everything is super clean.

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Now, remove the carboy and the lid from the wine.  Take the cap off the bottom of the siphon pump.  Warm the end of the tube in tap hot water to loosen and shimmy that thing onto the other end of the siphon.  Place the pump in the wine and the tube in your first jar.  Pump contents in, leaving about an inch or so headspace.  It will continue evolving in the jar.  This is a live product and a lovely one at that!

Try not to pull up the sludge from the very bottom as you siphon.  That is where the yeast and remaining plant matter falls.  I was able to get three 32 ounce bottles filled.  Lid secured, they will set in the root cellar for six months or until a good midsummer party.  Best drunk by moonlight and near an outdoor fire pit.

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Wash everything well and in the spring we will make dandelion wine!

Six Years of Farmgirl School (and the adventure continues)

1005625_697090816973051_350125397_nSix years ago today I sat down and wrote my first blog post.  I had just recently heard of blogging.  I was writing regular columns in a few local newspapers but I was excited to take my words onto a bigger scene.  Even if I didn’t get any followers, I would enjoy typing away in the morning while watching out my window, holding a cup of coffee and watching the chickens play.  We were still fairly novice at everything from chickens to growing lettuce so the blog has chronicled our vast and adventurous journey and the life of a family, and inadvertently has become a comprehensive site to find out how to do everything from making witch hazel to milking goats.  My “How to Make Chokecherry Wine” has had thousands of views over the years.  Tomorrow, we will bottle homemade mead.

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This photo was used in an article in the Washington Post about our family.

I remember seeing a blog that had five hundred followers.  I could not believe it.  500!  I wondered what that would be like.  This morning I have one thousand, one hundred, and two followers.  Over 142,000 people have read my blog since I began this journaling journey six years ago in a rented farmhouse with nary an idea of how much to water crops.  We’ve come a long way!

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Maryjane

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Ayla

Six years ago I was preparing for my first granddaughter to arrive.  Today my second granddaughter is twelve days old.  Many people watched as we moved to what we thought was our forever farm, only to become homeless.  You cheered us on as we got back on our feet and purchased a home of our own with a third of an acre and a chicken coop.  You have watched me make friends, mourned over deaths with me, read as we created new businesses, patted us on the back as they closed, shared holidays with us. laughed with me, and befriended me.

Turns out that folks don’t keep blogs going for very long, maybe just a few years.  I love blogging.  Anyone who enjoys writing ought to start a blog.  It is easy and so restorative.  I just want to thank all the readers out there right now for giving me an ear, a place to be, for following along on this Farmgirl adventure.  It is far more fun to write for an audience.

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I read through the November posts from 2012.  The first ones.  Man, that’s some funny stuff.  Typos and all.  (Amazing how much one can edit and still overlook typos!)  Thanks for purchasing my books. (AuthorKatieSanders.com) I have seven, but Farmgirl School; Homesteading 101, which covered our first few years and my memoir, The Making of a Medicine Woman are near and dear.  I will have a second Farmgirl School book out by the end of next year.  We have much to discuss about urban farming and lots of projects to do!  (Let us turn the back porch into a greenhouse.  Should we get ducks?  Let’s make a walk-through arbor with pumpkins and twinkly lights!)  Oh friends, six years later, we are just getting started.  Thanks for coming along for the ride.

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Sleepover with a newborn goat at Grammie’s house.

If you have been a follower since the beginning please make a comment.  Here’s to another six years of living the good life.

The Magic of a Yuletide Card

Thanksgiving eve.  There is always so much to be thankful for.  Health, family, security, home, and an inspired life.  These things I think of and am thankful for each day of the year.  As a vegetarian and a history lover, Thanksgiving isn’t really my favorite holiday.  And this year my children will be other places.  So, I have put up my Christmas houses and am clearing a place for the tree.  Yes, Yule is my very favorite holiday of the year.  The lights, the charity, the music, the wrappings, the trimmings, the beauty and joy that surrounds Yuletide is intoxicating for me.

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My grandparents with their great, great granddaughters. So much to be thankful for.

Now, I feel like we are all old friends here.  Just like you are over for coffee this pretty morning and I am telling you about how I, on a whim, just registered for a full load of classes to pursue a teaching degree (yes, I did that the other night) or am showing you photographs of my new granddaughter.  Over the years we’ve have had some laughs, we’ve had some tears, we’ve had some wine.  But I like the tangible as well.  I would love to be on your Christmas card list this year and I will add you to mine.  Let us pen old fashioned wishes and hopes for the new year.  I love hearing from readers and responding.  It makes us friends out there in this big, small world.

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Christmas cards may seem old fashioned, but they are a link and a wish to family and friends, old and new, and a moment of your time and love.  There is no greater gift than that.  Christmas cards have led to a few really fabulous pen pals for me.  I enjoy so much that moment of peeking in the mailbox and finding a card or letter.  Placing the envelope in my apron pocket as I make a cup of tea.  Sitting down to savor every word.  To be there.  To listen.  To read.  To pull out a few pieces of beautiful stationary and respond.  Yes, it is one of my favorite things.  Send me a card and I will send you one as well filled with good wishes and cheer, from my cozy home to yours.

Mrs. Katie Sanders

1901 Brown Ave

Pueblo, CO 81004

Wishing you a joyous Thanksgiving and a happy beginning to your Yuletide festivities.

The Grand Arrival of Ayla Mae

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She would be induced at 10:00 that night.  Not wanting to be two hours away, we checked into a hotel with our granddaughter, Maryjane, near the hospital after packing bags and finding a pet sitter.  We went swimming and snuggled in for the night, checking my phone every few hours.   Maryjane and I had coffee and then went to the hospital while Pa checked in at work.  Maryjane’s other grandma came to pick her up.  The soon-to-be big sister was nervous and excited and emotional.  My daughter, Shyanne, arrived and we all settled in for the seemingly long arrival of a little girl.  Pa came back a few hours later.  We drank tea, and watched the clock, and talked to relatives on the phone, and tried to help Emily.

Being her second baby, Emily knew what to expect and what to request.  She was amazing during her labor.  New daddy, Reed, was nervous and doting and sweet.

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The nurses all knew that we hoped the baby would arrive that day, November 14th, for it was the fervent request from the new baby’s great, great grandmother.  November 14th was my grandparent’s 70th wedding anniversary.  Never mind silver or gold, Grandma and Grandpa wanted a baby.

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And then quite suddenly it was time.  Within thirty minutes a very small little girl with curly, black hair arrived into the arms of her mother.  Daddy swelled with pride.  Pa and Auntie Shyanne cried.  Mama sobbed with joy.  I smiled and welcomed the new little one to our family.  We are ten now in our tribe.  Over a hundred in families that we gained through the children’s partners and our own extended families.  There is truly nothing more important to me than our family.

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And Ayla Mae was born.  A new little medicine woman in our line.

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Maryjane bounced into the room accompanied by her grandma.  She held a stack of papers that she had composed a song in scribbles on and immediately went to singing to her new baby sister.

Those near and dear came in to call.  Ayla has our family birthmark.  She has her daddy’s ears and nose.  She is so beautiful.  I caught my breath and held her close through the night letting mama and daddy sleep some.  And in the quiet of that dimmed hospital room, that precious heartbeat next to mine, I felt the immensity of it all, the blessings that fill my life and this family that we have helped create.  A Thanksgiving gift. (And an anniversary one as well!)

Ayla Mae Thompson

November 14, 2018

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How to Grow, Use, and Keep Fresh Herbs

Herbs are so heavenly.  Not only are they filled with nutrition to lower cholesterol and improve circulation and immunity, they give everything a taste of fresh summer.  A bite of excitement.  A perk to the senses.

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If you aren’t used to having fresh herbs in your food, it may take a little bit to get used to.  One might be more accustomed to mint in their tea than mint in their salad!  Just start small and add more as you go.

Try cilantro on top of Asian, Indian, or Mexican food.

Parsley is nice atop savory dishes.

Basil and Oregano, of course, are the king and queen of Italian food.

Thyme is delightful baked on top of squash halves and potatoes.  Same with rosemary.

Soups adore to be simmered with dried herbs then topped with croutons and fresh herbs.

Rice with mint or couscous or in salad is refreshing.  A mixture of herbs even better.

How to Grow

In the summer, herbs grow wonderfully in the garden.  In the winter, one might want to start some in a window sill.  The plastic containers used to hold washed salad from the store are great for starting plants.  Fill 3/4 of the way with potting oil and dampen.  Sprinkle seeds on top.  Sprinkle a light amount of soil on top.  Spray with a water bottle and put lid on.  Set in sunny spot.  Use water bottle to keep seeds from drying out.  The lid does create a greenhouse effect.  Don’t overwater or the seeds will mold!  If the top soil is getting dry, give it a good spritz.  When seedlings are an inch or so tall, remove lid and continue to grow delicious herbs!

How to Chiffonade

This is the best way to chop herbs.  For leafy herbs, roll several leaves together into a small log then starting at the end slice them into small ribbons.  Smaller herbs can be minced.

How to Store

The best way to keep fresh herbs, whether harvested or store bought, is to keep them in water like a nice bouquet of flowers.  My basil actually grew roots after four weeks!  But usually fresh herbs will last about a week to ten days.  Cilantro likes to be in water in the refrigerator.  They lose their oils over time so do attempt to use them as soon as you can.

It is Enough

My mantra this year, for 2018, was, “Never make a decision based on fear.”  It was amazing how many times I caught myself making decisions (keep my struggling apothecary open, open another shop, apply to begin school) based on fear rather than faith.  This simple mantra helped me understand my motives and make better decisions (no more shops, no school).  And through that faith Doug got an amazing promotion and I am able to stay home and do what I do best, homestead and homemake.  I am available to help my children, feed my husband nutritious meals, keep a house, take care of a mini-farm, and grow our food.  That mantra led to a great outcome.

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Autumn always feels like a new beginning to me.  Like the pagans of old, I feel this is the New Year.  My mantra for the next year is, “It is enough.” I have enough things.  I have enough love. I have enough creativity.  I have enough space on this mini-farm right here, right now.  And most importantly, I am enough. 

Our Lady of the Goats

With so much time on my hands I have had way too much space to reminisce, regret, and be hard on myself.  Over the past four years we have built our dream farm, lost it, went homeless, lost our animals, lived with friends, lived in the city, rebuilt, bought an urban home, made a farm, closed our businesses, Doug went back into the IT field, our children have found the loves of their lives, and our second granddaughter will arrive any day.  A lot to take in.  A lot of gratitude.

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So I may have made some dreadful decisions over the years.  But I have made a lot of good ones too.  I am enough.  I don’t look like I did when I was modeling in my twenties.  I have faults.  But I have more wisdom and I have more love.  And everything around me echoes, It is Enough.

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…maybe one day we will have goats or the animal sanctuary I so dream of….or maybe we will stay here in this space…or maybe it will become legal to have farm animals beyond chickens in the city here…but in the meantime, I must leave the future where it belongs and be present.

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It is Enough.  We are enough.  You are enough.  This beautiful life is enough.  And when we realize that, gratitude comes rushing in with peace and great joy on its wings.

Easy Flautas with Spicy Cashew Queso

I promised on my Instagram (@katiesanders0223) that I would share a super easy meal to get on the table in 30 minutes or less, Flautas!

Oh my, these delicious, savory, crisp at the edges, smothered in Spicy Cashew Queso sure taste like a lot more time went into them.

You can start with leftovers if you wish, any roasted vegetables, beans, veggie meats, etc.  Blend them together with some taco seasoning.  Or grab a bag of Beyond Meat or other veggie crumbles and sauté with onions and garlic, or simply put in refried beans spiced up with taco seasoning.  All depends on what you have on hand.

Now put a layer down the middle of a flour tortilla and roll it up.  Place side down on a cookie sheet sprayed with oil.  Repeat with the rest and leave a little space between flautas so they get nice and crisp.  Spray tops with a little oil spray.

Bake at 400 degrees for 10 minutes, flip and bake another 5-10 minutes until nice and toasted.

Top with guacamole, vegan sour cream, tomatoes, lettuce, salsa, cilantro, and queso!

Spicy Cashew Queso

Meanwhile make the vegan queso (which is plant based and so good for you!)  This recipe was adapted from a recipe by a blogger @ConsciousChris in Thrive magazine.

Soak 1 cup of raw cashews in a doubled the water for a few hours.  (So you will have to plan ahead)  Strain and put in good blender.

Add 4 Tb of sriracha or favorite hot sauce

4 Tb nutritional yeast (cheesy and very high in B12)

1/2 ts sea salt

1/2 ts of smoked salt (opt.)

1/2 ts of cumin

1/2 ts pepper

1/2 ts garlic

1 cup of hot water

Doug is the master of the vegan queso so he adds more of this or that to our liking.  I like a little bit of hot garlic chili in mine.  It is savory and delicious on nachos or poured over flautas!

Three Juice Margarita

One can’t seriously have Mexican food without a margarita, can they?

Fill a beer glass 1/3 of the way with orange juice, 1/3 apple juice, and a good splash of cranberry juice (let’s all get 100% juice, not from concentrate, shall we?) and a shot of tequila.

 

 

The Beloved Family

There is a very large photograph in Aunt Donna’s basement of her as a young woman, dark hair, slim figure, standing primly in a beauty pageant.  Her forties hair swirled perfectly and her lovely face and smile… my Shyanne looks very much like her.

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Aunt Donna is my grandma’s sister.  I say ‘is’ even though she passed away on Halloween.  She is mentioned throughout this blog many times as my gardening guru, my insight to family history and spirituality, and my friend.  At eighty-nine years old, she left behind a family that she had helped keep together over decades.  The matriarch.  I shall miss visiting her.  I shall miss her home.  I shall miss asking things like, “What do I do with Jerusalem artichokes?” after a day of harvesting sumac and Oregon grape root, or apples, or grapes or Jerusalem artichokes.

Family is beloved.

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My own beautiful family. (From left: Reed, Emily, me, Maryjane, Doug, Andrew, Bree, Shyanne, Jacob)

Family looks differently to different folks, indeed, but a family is a family.  Even though the actual definition is of blood and descent, I feel the dictionary ought to update.  I was born into a very large family.  As I grow older in the line, the family line changes and we all take different places.  My grandmother is now the matriarch.  There are many pieces missing in between, either from death or distance or apathy, they move away or fall apart or come closer and evolve.

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Maryjane’s beloved Aunt Pat (my dear friend)

My granddaughter, Maryjane, knew Aunt Donna.  She knows my grandparents on one side.  She also called my friend, Kat, grandma and calls Rod, grandpa.  She calls my great friends, Auntie and Uncle.  The harsh lines of lineage change and soften.  Maryjane’s Pa adopted all my children when they were very small.  There is no question that he is their father and his entire side of the family can be found penned into Ancestry.com as such.  My lovely, dark skinned sister and brother are as much my brother and sister as my blond brother and sister.

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Four of the five of us. (From left: Patrick, Vanessa, Joel, me)

And to Maryjane there is no difference between anyone.  If they are in our lives, they are family.  Community and family and friends intertwine and become stronger.  Find those that bring you joy and choose to spend time with them.  Call once a week, pen a note and send it off.  Be there.  Be present.  Be kind.  Be thankful.  Because family, made up of the kindest and those that love us, is beloved.

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My world.

Sunday Morning on the Farm

We need to bring in more wood.  I shall find some more kindling.  Empty the ash into the compost.   A wood fire is far more warming than the furnace.  And delightful as well.

The grandfather clock chimes and the morning is still.  Blue jays call in the distance.  Steam rises from my coffee cup as my husband sips his beside me.  A quiet Sunday morning save for sounds of the homestead.

Blur….upp, the sound the honey wine makes while fermenting.

The busy whir of the sewing machine as I work on Yuletide gifts.

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Gentle snoring from the farm dog who reclines comfortably on the sofa after a cool night outdoors keeping watch over the urban farm.  He loves his work and does it well, coming in to rest then opting to go outside again late morning.

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This life, this home, it balms, sweetens, and simplifies.  This homestead life.

Root vegetables- sunchokes, parsnips, and potatoes- harvested from the garden beds will be roasted for brunch alongside fresh eggs from the coop.

The chickens dig around in the leaves and the golden light of autumn cascades over the sleeping beds.  I jot down ideas for a preservation garden.  I will need more fencing.

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Dreams, and the gentle lilt of every day life pervades me and I smile, and take another sip.

Putting the Garden to Bed (compost, adding new beds, bulbs, and there’s no place like home)

Gardening need not be expensive nor incredibly difficult.  By necessity I have come up with ways to make widespread, prolific gardens quickly and easy on the homestead pocket.

The first thing that is imperative to a great garden is compost.  Compost is one of those things that still baffles folks a little.  You do not need a fancy, turning contraption to make compost.  Doug screwed together five pallets to make two open spaces and it is tucked into a far corner of the yard.

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The chicken coop certainly adds to it.  In the fall the chicken bedding gets changed and the soiled straw goes into compartment one.  For six months I add leaves, coffee grounds, lint from the dryer, food the chickens don’t like, and it builds up.  Repeat in the spring, only use compartment 2.  Put on the garden beds what you began six months ago and do this in the spring and fall.  I do not turn the compost or water it or do anything to it really.  It just does it’s thing.  If it smells, add dry material like straw or newspaper or leaves.  If it is not decomposing at all, add more wet items like food scraps or grass.  Let the chickens play in it, they scratch it up nicely.

Time to clean out the garden beds.  I let the plants go to seed.  Next year Mother Earth will grow dill, basil, carrots, spinach, arugula, and many other plants for me.  Everything is pretty well frozen and quite deceased so out they go and into the compost.  Perennials and winter greens stay put.

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Add a layer of compost.  Then a layer of warm straw.  Not thick enough to suppress weeds (because the water won’t get in) but enough to keep the soil cozy.

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When we first moved in.

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Now

I have a third of an acre here and I am only gardening a quarter of it.  But, we haven’t even been in this house two years; the changes in this property over that time have been impressive.  As always, I want more garden beds!

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These easy beds create abundant crops and very few weeds!

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This is my own design; a very easy gardening bed that combines many great techniques.  Lay out cardboard where you want your bed.  No need to rototill or disturb the beneficial guys underground.  Ring with wood you have on hand, rocks, bricks, anything really, use your imagination!  Then top with a 2 inches of thick straw.  You can add your compost and soil now or wait until spring.

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I am adding a bed that runs alongside the other one and putting an arbor over them.  Next year I will grow pumpkins over them (and will try to outsmart the squash bugs).  It will create an enchanted walk through that leads to the house or the gardens while freeing up space in the garden.  Pumpkin Hollow Farm is moving up!

Plant tulip and daffodil bulbs and lots of garlic cloves.

Everything looks great!  The garden is put to bed, the new spring beds are ready for next year, and the perennials are snug in straw.  Bulbs are planted, muscles are tired, and the farmer is happy.

All this wondering what to do now that I don’t have my businesses.  Should I go to school?  Should I get a job outside my writing?  Should I…?  And as I spent the day hauling compost, designing beds, standing in the next herb garden, dreaming, being present, working hard, I realized that this is what I want to do.  This is where my heart is happy.  At home.  Creating home.