Katie Lynn Sanders is an urban Farmgirl, writer, Mama, Grammie, and herbalist. Katie lives with her husband, Gandalf the Great Pyrenees, kitties, and seven chickens in a hundred year old adobe in Pueblo. She is the writer of two blogs; FarmgirlSchool.org and DancingWithFeathers.com. You can find all of Katie's books at www.AuthorKatieSanders.com
Living as our authentic self. Re-finding our true spirit. Beyond the “I am’s” and the perceptions, tapping into that inner spirit of self.
So many years or decades of being told by person or society or self what you are. Who you are. What you can be (what you can’t be.) What you should believe (what you shouldn’t believe.) Of morphing and changing and wrapping ourselves up in layers to appease people. To make my parents proud. To be a proper spouse. To be a good mother or aunt or friend. It can take years or decades to unravel each layer.
When we no longer follow the religion we once did. When we can no longer go back to that way of thinking. We trepidly take off that wrapping around us and peer into the next layer. Relieved of our wrapping, we look different to the world around us.
He just settled back down to sleep. 7:20, the school bus comes. He jumps up, the futon shaking, and barks loudly at the small, hooded figures with backpacks, their parents shadily waiting in their cars, probably planning on breaking into our house. They all disburse, the bus drives away, and Gandalf sleepily settles back down on his bright pink futon and begins to snore.
We did our research on the Great Pyrenees. I like to thoroughly read everything possible. They can be pretty vicious. Like, you may want to put signs up warning people. If they aren’t socialized, they can be impossible to have around people and animals. We laughed as we watched a video before getting Gandalf about how this gentle giant breed will guard you against predators, strangers, lawn chairs, birds, the wind….yea, we didn’t really get it. They bark. “Good!” I said, I want a guard dog. They shed. “Ha! I have had nine cats at one point, he can’t shed more than them!” Ha ha…yea, he can. We will train him! You don’t train this breed. They do what they want. Dogs are how you raise them, right? But there are definite breed traits that one must know before committing to the lifetime of a dog. You cannot train hundreds of thousands of years out of any particular breed.
There are growing populations of Great Pyrenees in shelters. These adorable fluff balls of polar bear proportions are just about too much cuteness not to fall in love with. They grow quickly. Comparing Gandalf to dogs at the dog park, he is probably over 180 pounds. He’s still growing. We have socialized him. I have a lot of clients, students, and friends over and he has been fawned over and given treats for over a year now. But he is very sensitive and even a benign person with too much energy makes him very wary and, let’s be honest, scary. I keep him in the back yard if people are coming over. At the dog park, he is fine. Off duty, he plays and has a great time, turning into a puppy again. At home, he is on guard.
When people say they bark, it is not like a heeler or lab. His bark is deep and bellowing and can be heard blocks away. Intended to keep predators from flocks of sheep, the bark of a Great Pyrenees is meant to frighten away any dangers before confrontation. In the city that means that anyone walking a quarter a mile away gets barked at. He barks nearly all the time. Loudly. All. The. Time. Now, that may sound great if you are concerned about security, but your neighbors may not think that is a great way to wake up Sunday morning. His bark doesn’t change much. Could be a burglar, could be a neighborhood cat.
He sheds. No, no…he sheds! The interior of my car was black when I bought it. I will bring dog hair with me on my clothes, find it in my coffee at the coffee shop, the couch is plastered in it, the floors have tumbleweeds of dog fur flying about every time the furnace kicks in.
He did snap at a child that he didn’t know who took food from him. That is any dog. With Maryjane, he is the gentlest, sweetest, most attentive companion and I do not worry about her playing outside by herself with him by her side. Even at the dog park, children will hang off of him. He does live up to his Gentle Giant status.
When we take walks, he pulls Doug. If we are walking with someone who has their dog off leash, he pulls. I was nervous the other day to take him by myself around the lake. He has a different mindset with just me. If Doug is not there, he feels his entire job is to watch after me. The leash stayed slack, he kept looking up to me. My beautiful, great leader. He has a beautiful spirit. He is playful, and adorable, and a great companion. I love my loud, shedding polar bear.
He matches his breed. There are so many huskies, heelers, and other beautiful dogs in shelters because they are amazingly cute puppies but someone didn’t take the time to understand their innate breed traits. Gandalf is a lot to handle, but I don’t regret adopting him. He is part of our family. He spends most of his day outdoors by choice, but right now he is happily snoring on the couch.
Merry Christmas, Happy Hannukah, and most Joyous Yule, my dear friends. Our household, throughout the year, tends to honor and celebrate the oldest of traditions and beliefs, long before organized religion and that feels beautiful and real to us. We will be celebrating Yule, but since I was raised Christian and Doug was raised Jewish, we incorporate all sorts of lovely traditions into our house and celebrate with our families. For all the celebrations are really the same, the celebration of light, love, and hope.
Decorating for the holidays should be nothing short of fun! Incorporating ideas, palettes, and items that bring joy are the basis for holiday décor.
We have collected cute stockings for a long time. The children took some of their stockings to their own homes. We are one short this year with the arrival of Ayla Mae, so I will find an adorable one for her. Santa is coming to Grammie and Pa’s house Christmas Eve! (To my great delight!) I hung the stockings with care from the curtain rods.
This was the first tree top angel I bought when I was nineteen years old in my first home. I, of course, chose the tallest tree I could fit in my house this year so angel sits in the window welcoming loved ones. Find these beautiful candles for a buck and some in the religious aisle of your grocery store. They have them without the pictures on them. They burn for a long time and they add festivity and charm to the home.
Incorporating things you love is easy. This moose was one of two that Doug got me our first Christmas together. Her head is falling off but way up on the bookshelf she has a safe place of importance.
The tree is filled with ornaments of old and new. Photo ornaments the children made in grade school and ones from my childhood. Ones from Grandma’s tree and many from our travels.
Yuletide décor is in the details. Use holiday china this time of year, even for lunch! Put oil lamps in each room. Light plenty of candles. Place strings of garland and twinkly lights in each room (even the bathroom!)
These sweet, little cloches hold seasonal treasures. Bird’s nests and moss covered twigs, sprigs of pine and pinecones.
We opted this year to just string lights around the front porch and set them on a timer. I love my ristras (one day I will be in New Mexico) and I leave the chairs and tables set up all winter in case of a sunny day that can be spent on the porch. Always add pieces of yourself in the décor. A sterile scene from a store doesn’t create the spirit of life that your own personal touches can.
Place tea candles on sand inside lunch bags and line your front walk. Light an oil lamp on the front porch for visitors. Make handmade gifts this year. Spend time enjoying the season. And make space in your heart for light, love, and hope.
She was three days old. Bouncy, adorable, and everything one would imagine a baby goat to be. She nibbled on the geraniums, went to inner city schools with me when I went to speak, played the piano, and loved her bottles. She stayed next to me as I read and thought herself a cat. She rather enjoyed rides in the truck and loved everyone.
We often have to learn things the hard way to realize what our true beliefs are. I had been vegetarian for twenty-five years and then vegan for an additional two years when we entered the farming scene head on and fell into line with all the other small farms around us. We started a small dairy. We increased our chicken family. We had many animals who all had to “earn their keep.”
Elsa got pregnant too early. When she gave birth, we took the baby away. (That is how people get the milk and not the infant) (and we were so thankful it was a girl because boys get killed in the dairy industry. Period.) She got mastitis and scabs on her udders. Instead of letting her heal and giving her another year, I quickly sold her to a family who ushered her into their minivan and were gone. For $250. It was only then that I realized in my farming fervor that I just sold our baby girl. Roosters I couldn’t get myself to eat came home plucked and beheaded for little reason. I have too many recipes out there that need to come down.
Many folks deter squirrels with cruel spinning feeders and squirrel proof this or that. We had a squirrel years ago that would throw his food bowl if it was empty after getting our attention! They are quite fascinating and sweet animals. Our life is certainly richer watching them play. They come quite near to receive their goodies.
Birds of all sorts gather around our third of an acre in the middle of the city. Scores of blackbirds, owls, hawks, eagles, sparrows, finches, and silly blue jays. Hummingbirds drink the nectar from the geraniums on the porch.
The chickens are named and are actually included in our holiday cards. They all have very different personalities, just like cats and dogs. My friend’s young turkey was killed. A few weeks later, the mother of the turkey died. She was depressed and had stopped eating. There is no difference (and it is only humans that have determined who is more worthy, who is food, who is equal) between the dog, the cats, the chickens, the squirrels, the blue jays, even the mice that steal a nibble here and there from the birds’ food bowl. They all have a right to live and be and I have no more right to be here than they. We are all walking upon mother earth.
At this time that we wish for peace on earth, let us remember these things. Not only will your health drastically improve, but your emotional state will be happier, anxiety disappears, your impact on the earth’s resources will lessen, and the very number of lives you will save and improve by not eating animals and by putting out some bird seed will be significant. That is how we get peace on earth. One life at a time. This mini-farm is a sanctuary, for me as much as them.
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.
‘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.
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.
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.
Wash everything well and in the spring we will make dandelion wine!
Six 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.
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!
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.
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.
If you have been a follower since the beginning please make a comment. Here’s to another six years of living the good life.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
And Ayla Mae was born. A new little medicine woman in our line.
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!)
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.
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.