Seeking the Simple Life and Penpals

The sun is rising, splaying pink and metallic colors across the mountains and along sides of structures. I am so thankful to be in the country. I watch the horse across the street from my office window run and jump, darting through trees, and landing in a swirl of dust near his food bowl as his owner comes out with hay.

Maryjane (my six year old granddaughter) had her first riding lesson. She at first did not want to go because she found that her cowgirl boots were too small. She perked up the minute she saw the horses and she fell in love with the bubbly, blond instructor, Miss Britney. These were great horses; Maryjane clutched one large horse in a hug and he did not budge. Maryjane easily learned how to guide the horse, as her little sister, Ayla, blew kisses to all of the horses. These are country girls.

At Grandpa’s house Saturday, we celebrated his 92nd birthday. He had to take off work to do so. He is forever at his drawing board, on the phone, or meeting with clients. He sipped his coffee as he told us stories of working on a dairy farm, milking eighty head, or helping the vets bring down the draft horses for treatment. He once rode round-up moving horses from Sterling to Estes Park, 146 miles. His stories about being a cowboy, the rodeo circuit, World War Two, working on the sugar beet farm for his uncle during the Depression, and working at a dairy come with a final relief that he moved to the city.

We are lucky to be modern farmers and homesteaders. I am able to romanticize it a bit. It doesn’t hold the same urgency of survival as it did in Grandpa’s time.

Doug and I chat in the car on the way home about our ideas and goals. We have done this before so we know what to expect and how to do things better this time. We want to live simply. So simply (and prepared enough) that if the power were to go out or a storm were to rage, we would be snug in our home with plenty of light, warmth, water, and food.

Simple enough that our electric bill stays lower than if we purchased solar. The clothes being cleaned with a washer plunger in the summer and dry flapping in the wind on the clothes line. Food chosen from rows of dirt or rows of canned goods. Meat from our own chickens or from our friends’ cows and pigs. We seek out and associate with other homesteaders/ranchers/farmers. We travel long distances to each others’ homes for dinner. Keep up on social media. Cheer each other on. Support each other.

One of my favorite old activities is to write and receive letters in the post. A moment to sit with a cup of tea and an old friend in prose and see what is going on in their world. Then with pretty stationary and pen, share our private life, thoughts, and ideas. Now that we are settled into our home and winter is upon us, if you would like to be pen-pals, please write me! I would love to correspond.

Mrs. Katie Sanders, 790 9th Street, Penrose, CO, 81240.

Cowgirls, Colonial Dresses, Apples, Tinctures, and the Family Farm

Emily is driving “over the river and through the woods to grandmother’s” (Grammie’s) house this morning. We are taking my six year old granddaughter, Maryjane, to her first horseback riding lesson.

If you have been following me over the years, or if you know us, you know that Maryjane Rose came into this world a future rodeo queen. Or at least that is what she told us when she was two. She was upset when we moved to the city because there was no way she could fit a horse in our back yard. And she was overjoyed when we moved to the farm in August, her glimmers of horse-hope restored.

I struck up a conversation with the cute blond farmgirl who was cashiering at Tractor Supply and it turns out that she can give Maryjane lessons and that she lives a half a mile from me.

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I walked to the library yesterday. I spent the morning designing and sewing a long skirt for myself out of green and beige check. It is tied shut with four lace ribbons and the front has a high waist. I sewed on a lace hem. It looks a blend of Victorian and colonial- my style. It just needs a pinafore.

My eyes were tired and I wasn’t keen on jumping into housework. The air was a warm eighty degrees and I wanted to stretch my limbs, so off I went to walk the three quarters of a mile to pick up more books.

I passed an empty commercial building and in front were two large apple trees- all of the apples wasted, on the ground, and rotting. I made a mental note to come back next year and harvest them. I passed houses with trees with masses of untouched apples on them, now too late in the season to harvest.

I plan on planting plenty of apples and other fruit trees. It seems strange to me that I did not spend the summer harvesting, canning, or prepping for winter. That I am not exhausted, finishing up the farming chores, and looking forward to winter. I wear myself out daydreaming these days.

This time next year, I will be exhausted, because this beautiful plot of land will be teeming with vegetables, fruit and nut trees, and livestock. There will be no wasted space or apples on this land. This is our fourth homestead and we know what to expect and what to do better.

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I set up my jars of herbs that I had tinctured before we moved. Each medicinal herb carefully harvested and brewed. I had to order loose herbs for teas. Lord, have mercy, they are so expensive! I have been spoiled with my medicine gardens! Those will come next year as well. I signed up for a craft show and will take my humble medicines and books there to introduce myself to the area.

We did not expect to move. It came as a complete (and pleasant) surprise. One day we were sitting in a park in June with my students after visiting a medicinal herb farm and Doug and I wondered aloud how far Canon City was from his work in the Springs. Doug walked off and started talking to someone in the park who was from Penrose. Ten weeks later, our house is sold and we are living in Penrose. Funny how life works that way.

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A student brought me a chokecherry and gooseberry from her land to transplant as a gift. Aren’t plants the most fabulous gifts? I hope they thrive here. I know we will.

My beautiful family at our daughter’s wedding.

Homemade Christmas Presents (planning now!)

I know no one likes to speak of Christmas before Halloween, y’all, but for us that like to make homemade presents, there is a bit of panic in the air. How close are we to Christmas? Nine and a half weeks! That may seem like a long time and there is still plenty of time to pick out costumes and plan Thanksgiving dinner, but I am wondering how I got so far behind! (Oh yea, I moved.)

The sewing machine has taken up residence on the dining room table and will probably stay there on up to Yule. There are lists of yarn and fabric still to get. Things to create. People to make presents for! And as you all know, nine weeks goes pretty darn fast.

My grandmother made many homemade gifts. She made this doll for Shyanne that year.

It is easy to go pick up something from Walmart, wrap it up, and say, “Here ya go!” But said item may inevitably break, homestead budget rarely allows for elaborate and multiple gifts, and a homemade gift speaks volumes. Wrapped in a homemade gift is poetry and love songs and a recipient can feel the affection from the giver (too romanticized?). A homemade gift is usually useful and deliberate.

So, what can you make?

Do you sew? You can make any number of things, from quilts to aprons. Maybe cloth napkins or place mats.

Do you crochet? You can make shawls, scarves, blankets, candle or cup cozies.

Do you paint? You could paint a wooden box for keepsakes or a painting of a favorite pet.

Do you weld? My daughter’s boyfriend welded together car parts to make me the most charming snowman I have ever seen.

Do you wood work? Crates and boxes and furniture are all amazing gifts.

Do you cook/bake/preserve? Jars of preserves, homemade wine, and bread are wonderful to receive.

Christmas shopping is kind of fun, so maybe get someone cast iron. Cloth napkins with good wooden spoons. Candles or an oil lamp. Antiques that are still useful. Or if all else fails, no one will balk at a gift card to Lehman’s!

I will be thinking of what I am going to dress up as for my friends’ Halloween party but I will also be busy creating gifts. What great gifts do you like to create?

Farmsteading Scenes and Living Life Well

When we first began this journey, we went into it wholeheartedly and completely naive. We learned, we cried, we laughed. A homesteading/farmsteading lifestyle makes life amplified. The good is really amazing, healing, and life-giving; babies being born, fresh food from the garden, baby goats prancing sideways, a lamb’s comical yell, gathering fresh eggs from the coop, watching the sun set, waving at friendly neighbors, gathering wood to bring inside before an approaching storm, hanging clothes on the line while watching wildlife.

Crop losses, predators, freak accidents, money worries; there are a lot of things to worry about while being a homesteader. The neighbor’s wolf/husky got into my coop last night and killed my favorite chicken, Bubba. I was mad at myself for not closing the coop sooner. I was mad that I purposely chose this lifestyle! Where there is life- and farms are teeming with life- there is death. And it is much more in your face than apartment living. When we lived in an apartment, on our way to our next homestead, we had plenty of stresses and things to worry about then too. So, it really is a matter of how you want to live. This lifestyle gets ingrained in you, so that you have no other choice but to live like this. And we do love it.

Being a homesteader and farmer comes with a great sense of accomplishment. I tend to point out everything on a guest’s plate that I grew or handmade. I love the methodical motions of traditional domestic work. We appreciate the intense rush of love that comes over us when we see a baby being born. We appreciate seeing the horizon and knowing how to judge the weather by watching nature. Homesteading and farming is all about family, and living life to the fullest. If life is short, then I want to spend time bottle feeding precious infant goats, and being followed around by lambs and chickens. I want to laugh at duck antics while sipping homemade wine. I want to watch the fire swell up as it fills the wood stove. I love tying off the final piece of yarn to finish a project or snipping the last thread on a dress I have made.

If you are considering adopting this lifestyle- Do It! You won’t regret it. It costs some to get started but it pays itself back quickly. We save money, eat well, live healthier, have a happier marriage, a closer family, and a sense that we are really living. Start somewhere. Get chickens, or cheese making equipment, or get out yarn to make holiday presents. This is a very good life.

Bringing Back Sunday Dinner (and an easy dinner to prepare)

Norman Rockwell’s famous dinner party.

Sunday feels symbolic of family and spending time together. In old homesteading and farming memoirs I have read, the families go visitin’ after church, or family comes to see them every Sunday. A chicken or two inevitably gets plucked and the sound of children running around while the adults chat can be heard through pages of books and memories. I love the idea of bringing Sunday dinner back. (Dinner traditionally being lunch, whereas Supper is actually the later meal.)

My cousin had come from two hours north to visit me. She hadn’t seen our new farm yet and after much chattering and catching up, she spent night. As she sat on the couch sipping coffee, catching up on news, my husband drinking his and waiting for football to start, I texted my best friend, Tina, and invited her and her husband over. I had a chicken defrosted.

I had harvested some things before we moved out of our old house and into this one a few months ago, so the meat chickens were in the freezer, my homegrown potatoes and onions were in the pantry, and I had jars of green beans. A half stale loaf of homemade onion bread became stuffing and a bottle of local Pinot Noir was opened.

I drizzled olive oil in the bottom of a cast iron Dutch oven, and placed fingerling potatoes all over the bottom. They need a sprinkling of salt and pepper. I then used my fingers to rub the chicken with olive oil and gave it a good rub with New Mexican red chile and other spices. That went breast down into the pan on top of the potatoes. Cook the chicken with the lid off for 15 minutes at 425 degrees, then lower the temperature to 350 degrees and replace lid. Total, the chicken will cook for 15 minutes per pound.

I let the chicken rest on a platter for 10 minutes, moved the potatoes to a bowl, heated up the green beans with butter, and made a quick gravy with cream and flour in the broth that was left at the bottom of the Dutch oven. The stuffing came out, the chicken was cut up, and everyone feasted. The chicken was tender and delicious, the stuffing crisp, the potatoes soft and the green beans reminiscent of summer.

Rusty, Tina, me, and Julie. Doug is taking the photo.

Nothing has to be difficult to prepare. The table settings simple. The conversation and connection is the important thing. Sunday dinner is a very nice tradition to bring back.

Moving Aunt Donna’s Garden (and how to create a cottage garden)

We climbed out of the truck at Aunt Donna’s house. My cousin and I fought back a few tears at the thought that she wasn’t here. Nor will she be again. Her gardens were so dry, but the snap dragons and the huge trees stayed true to Aunt Donna’s garden with color and life. We were there to pick up wood for my new wood stove.

My Great-Aunt Donna

Janet and I walked around the back yard reminiscing. The old swing that used to hold family laughing, rocking back and forth. The family gatherings on the porch.

My Andy and Emily on Aunt Donna’s swing at one of the many family get-togethers we had at her house.

The decades old rhubarb was gone. The apple tree looked the same but with no apples. A broken limb hung from its girth.

I went to the shed and found all of her tools still in place. I took a shovel and went to the Oregon Grape Root that I always gather this time of year from her house. The last time, most likely. The house will be sold soon after the estate sale.

I filled a small bucket of water. I pulled up some of the Echinacea and placed it in the water. I dug up a few Sumac tree starts that had scampered away from the large trees. “Come with me, kids,” I said to the silent plants, “we are moving to a new garden.”

My own land here isn’t ready to plant. There is no amended soil. Just limestone and clay as far as the eye can see. The previous owner put in a small strip of garden along the front of the house with a plant every few feet for curb appeal to help the house sell. You know me and inter-planting; no soil unused! I filled in some of the spaces.

It is very easy to transplant anywhere you live.

  1. Simply dig a hole.
  2. Water the hole.
  3. Let it drain.
  4. Sprinkle a little organic garden soil in the hole.
  5. Put plant in the hole.
  6. Cover with soil.
  7. Give a little more water.
  8. Talk to it and tell it how happy it will be here if it will grow!
Sumac and a stone from Aunt Donna’s garden.

I do this every time I plant a tree or transplant a plant or bush. To prevent weeds and to keep invasive plants in place, put cardboard around the plants and top it all off with wood chips or straw. Everything looks beautiful, there was no need to rototille everything, and one can fit a lot of plants in a seemingly small area. It is the secret to creating a sprawling, cottage garden.

Pinterest.

I will increase the size of the garden next year with the same technique and establish a walkway. A hundred medicinal herbs and more flowers and pleasing plants will join the garden. It won’t be Aunt Donna’s garden, but with any luck, her plants will thrive here and I will have a little piece of her spirit in my cottage garden.

Shyanne’s Halloween House

For a long time, my daughter, Shyanne, had a life-sized faux skeleton posed in the passenger side of her jeep. It was hilarious watching people walk by her car and suddenly take a second look and a jump back! Victor proudly held onto the front seat until Shyanne got another car. Victor seems to have found a new place, this time on the front porch, sunning in the autumn rays and scaring playfully in the evening haze.

Our family has always gone all out for holidays. On October first, the children would arrive home from school to find the house joyfully decorated (I am not much into real fear and gore, more Disney Halloween) and I would be standing at the stove with an outrageous witch hat on carefully stirring my pot of witch’s brew. (Apple cider with pumpkin pie spice.) The dollar store, spider webs and cardboard cutouts graced the house and a large witch on a broom, that we named “Grandma,” hung from the ceiling fan above the dining room table.

“Grandma!” the children would all greet her.

The children had a great bin of old clothes, past year’s costumes, and lots of dress-up in order to create the perfect Halloween costume. We made veggie burgers with American cheese that had eyes, nose, and mouth cut out of the slice to make a face. They melted onto the patty in fierce/darling images of scarecrows, vampires, and ghosts.

Yesterday, I went to my daughter, Emily’s house to help her with her girls so she could clean out a closet and so that we could put up spaghetti sauce. Their house is cheerfully decorated for the spooky season. A mask was on their scarecrow, and each time that ten month old Ayla Mae saw it, she began to laugh. That cheerful-baby-laugh continued every time she saw something scary. She will be like her Auntie.

Shyanne needs a job with Martha Stewart, I have always said. She is brilliant with crafts and baking and bringing to life fun and creativity. I am bringing you scenes of her yard today to inspire and enchant you; and maybe scare you just a bit!

Shyanne hand crafted this spooky arbor. Enter if you dare!
Victor’s new girlfriend.

The Medicine Person’s Guide to Herbalism (my newly released book!)

My first herbal remedy book was released over five years ago when I closed my first apothecary to become a full time farmer (three months later we opened a new apothecary!). Homesteader’s Pharmacy has been my best seller ever since. I am grateful that I have been able to share my knowledge and the many recipes I have developed over the years as a Master Herbalist. I am grateful because I have been able to write and homestead and there are folks out there that support my work by reading my books. Wado, Tapadh leat, Thank you.

The funny thing about being a writer is, one cannot just sit down and write a book. It just comes. As if I am not writing the book at all. My cousin calls it the Writing Witch. Once it hits, the dishes don’t get done, the house goes to the wayside, and the writer is consumed with words, writing as fast as they can before the precious prose vanishes. Well, around here, the dishes weren’t getting done.

My new book has just been released and I am so excited to share it. It follows up Homesteader’s Pharmacy with over fifty new recipes and new ways to create and brew medicines with detailed instructions. This book goes a step further and teaches many things that I have learned from studying with medicine people, and my experiences as a medicine woman.

The Medicine Person’s Guide to Herbalism; Healing with Plant Medicines, Stones, Animal Spirits, and Ceremony draws from my own work. It is important to have a knowledge base of plant medicine. It is essential on a homestead, in my opinion. Most folks also understand, however, that there are many ailments that manifest as physical, but are often emotional, stemmed from trauma, or are purely spiritual in nature. This book covers different ways to blend modalities in order to achieve true healing. I am honored to share it with you now!

To celebrate the release of my new book, my other books have been newly edited and have lower prices. I hope you enjoy my books and thank you for allowing me to teach, write, and follow my calling!

Click HERE to order your copy of my new book today!

You can see all of my books at AuthorKatieSanders.com

Everything in its Season

I long to get this show on the road. To get this new farm set up! Get the rototiller! Get the goats! Get the fencing done! Let’s get planting!

But, alas, it is October 2nd. I can plant hopeful bulbs of dancing tulips and sunshine yellow daffodils that will surprise me with delight come spring. That is all.

The wood stove is coming next week and the goat shed is coming too and we are slowly getting fencing done. I can see it all! I can see the corn in rows interspersed with pumpkins zooming along the front yard on green tendrils and vines. I can see the vineyard I have always wanted stretching out to the western sky. I can see the bright red tomatoes, the crisp lettuces dancing in the cool breeze, the baby goats and sheep jumping around the pasture in the sunlight. My polar bear dog with a job, finally.

I can see myself moving the dutch oven to make room for the kettle for a cup of tea and checking the fire. I can hear the vibrant shaking of the pressure canners putting away summer’s gifts. Wiping my hands on my apron and taking my granddaughters outside to play. Watching the sun set behind the wild pasture with rabbits shooting to and fro and turkey vultures swaying gently on the breeze overhead.

This is our fourth farm. Our fourth homestead. The second home of our own since beginning homesteading. This one on land. In the country. Our own. My heart soars with gratitude and excitement to get this farm set up! But alas, it is October 2nd.

The dark smoke billowed densely and ferociously off the mountain sides. The smell of it all filled the air. The wildfire was scarcely contained and my heart broke for the animals and trees and the wildness being consumed. Death and ending before our eyes as we drove to our mini-vacation spot. Next spring, there on the mountain, life will unfold. Everything in its season.

The aspens and oaks danced in brilliant colors of gold and red, creating patchworks across the mountainsides. That specific shade of bold autumn blue sans clouds stretched above everything and the west was in its ultimate splendor.

Our youngest daughter, her husband, and their new baby joined us for a few days at a beautiful place. A private spot where one can hike to various hot spring pools nestled along the mountain. Walking along the path we stopped to eat hawthorn berries and wild plums. Deer wandered past the pools, a fawn catching up with her mother. Birds flitted from thick tree to tree and life buzzed all around. It is a clothing optional resort and the feeling of air on one’s skin while passing thickets of herbs and trees and the feeling of the water from warm waterfalls is grounding and restorative.

A crow cawed and flapped its wings loudly as it flew close by. The warmth of the water followed by the cool breeze was enlivening. Amongst plans of future and to-do’s and day-to-day life, it is good to rest and restore, to ground in a new place, to spend time with loved ones, and to look out over thickets of oaks and pines and into valleys. To pull a blanket closer around, sip coffee, and hear the earth speak, as breezes lightly blow fog up the road. Everything in its season.

A Day in the Life of a Farm Wife (and why homesteading is the best life)

The early morning dawn brings with it the sound of roosters crowing around the village. The smell of wood smoke fills the air as the fire comes alive with a whoosh in the wood stove to start the day. A kettle of water is put on for coffee. Out into the early morn, a scarf pulled around the neck, the chickens are let out. They scurry by and gleefully pounce on scratch being thrown. Next up are the goats, and the sound of “mah”ing brings a smile to the farmer’s face. The sheep try to body check the others out of the way in order to get to the hay first. The sheep are distracted while the goats are led to their stanchions in their turn. The gentle sound of milk hitting the metal bucket methodically starts the day and inspires prayers of gratitude. A sleepy farmer can easily balance their head against the warm side of a goat happily chomping on sweet feed. Back inside, the milk is strained into half gallon jars and placed in the milk fridge. Boiling water is poured over fresh coffee grounds, and the cats and dog are fed and watered. Hot coffee is poured into a mug.

This is the average morning of a homesteader. If one has children, then they are tending to the youngsters as well. This was our life during the first years of our homesteading. For the last four years in the city, we have not been able to have anything but chickens, but here on our new farm, we are happily plotting the loafing shed and the pasture fencing for the “mah”ing of goats and the low “mom”ing of sheep. (Have you actually heard farm animals? It does make you wonder where the children’s books came up with their animal sounds.) We have homesteaded in each place we have lived, from country to city and back to the country. We build the infrastructure of our homestead and farm. The wood stove is coming in two weeks. The fencing this week. The loafing shed in two weeks. The goats and sheep? When we find them. Most likely in the spring. And our hen continues to crow.

Our 1st homestead

The rest of the day for a homesteader is filled with satisfying chores. Keep the fire going. Plan supper. Make bread. Clean the house. Plan what to pack for hubby’s lunch tomorrow. Care for animals. Do laundry. Hang on the line. In growing months, tend to gardens-plan, plant, weed, harvest, preserve. In winter months, catch up on sewing, make Yule presents, craft, crochet, and write.

There is a joyful cadence to homesteading. A well versed schedule of chores, work, play, and rest. Of being present. Immersed in the cycle of life and death, joy and pain, intensely taking part in the life before us, and savoring every bit of it.

My granddaughter always chooses what she wants to me to order (everything)!

Yes, from old fashioned skills come real peace that truly cannot be found anywhere else. We step back from the craziness of the world, and stoke the fire, make cheese, harvest grapes, bake bread. We spend less, save more, have a lower footprint, and a lighter heart. We tend to be heathier, eating fresher food, breathing fresher air, making real connections with neighbors and holding family close. We appreciate and communicate with the natural world. We teach others how to do the same.

The joyful sound of newly canned preserves, their tops popping tight, lining the counter. The smells of manure, hay, wood smoke, coffee, bread, roasted chicken. The sight of mountain views and sunsets and skies of stars and baby goats entering the world. The feel of a sheep’s fleece and how the yarn slides through one’s fingers at the spinning wheel, and a soft kitten’s fur against one’s skin. The taste of really, really fresh, homegrown food and drinks. The sound of the baby laugh when the dog licks her or the squeal of delight as the older child finds the perfect pumpkin in the patch.

Our first homestead when we farmed the whole yard!

Yes, this is why we homestead. It is why we come back to it each time we move. It is truly a good life. For us, it is the only life.