5 Steps To Becoming a Homesteader (or just simplifying your life)

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1.Write down your goals. 

Do you want to quit your job?  Move to the country?  Have an urban farm?  Homestead on the weekends?  Live a more peaceful, mindful life? 

We have been on the path to simplicity and homesteading for about seven years now.  It started with reading books like “Animal, Vegetable, Mineral” by Barbara Kingsolver and wanting to learn to can and grow all of our own food.  I started canning (badly) and started a sad little garden in the city.  I got better!

Our goals were to leave our corporate world and busy suburban lifestyle.  When Doug had a nervous breakdown our timeline sped up.  Our goals constantly change and morph each year.  We have a pretty extreme list of homesteading goals right now.  I have no way of knowing if they will work, but I have written them down and am working towards them.  Ask and you shall receive!

  • Find a place with a small house that has a wood stove.  Wood cook stove?  Even better.  Said house should be around $850 a month.  Don’t laugh, it could happen.
  • Small house would be on a bit of land.  I need a full acre of garden.  A quarter acre at the moment provides us with 90% of our vegetables during the summer and early fall, and 80% of the medicinal herbs I use.  Another quarter acre could be the remaining herbs I need to grow, and additional fresh eating vegetables, plus a pond.  A green house and hoop houses could inhabit part of the remaining half acre and a large preservation garden (everything I need to can) and a spice garden (Lord, do I spend a lot on spices!) could round out this menagerie of growing Eden.  An orchard would be added as well and then of course we need room to walk about, have our goats, chickens, and ducks, and be able to ride our bikes to town.
  • A composting toilet and gray water systems could be in place.  We will use as little electricity as possible.
  • This will be a haven for our friends, children, grandchildren, and wildlife.

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2. Learn two skills. 

There was a vast amount of information about homesteading lost with our past generations.  We just don’t know how to do many of the basic skills and farmstead chores anymore.  Find a mentor or a class or a great book and make a goal to learn two things.  Two things a month, or two things a year, whatever works for you.   

A few years ago on this homestead I wanted chickens and to preserve almost all of our food for winter.  The next year I wanted goats and alpacas and to learn to spin.  I learned to spin, didn’t like it, didn’t care for the alpacas, gave away the alpacas, fell in love with goats, got more chickens, and canned over 500 items.  Homesteading is constant rearranging of goals.  This year we got bees and ducks and started growing almost all of our medicinal herbs.  We dug up the driveway to make more space to garden.  Last year we dug up the front and side yards.  Last year I learned to make soft cheese, this year hard cheese.  Doug has learned fencing methods and how to milk a goat.

We have learned what we enjoy, what we don’t, what’s a waste of time, what’s imperative to our homesteading journey.  Learning everything at once is not possible and would be overwhelming.  Just pick two skills.  What do you want to learn?

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3. Get Money Savvy    

Rethink your finances.  Get out of debt.  Stay out of debt.  But don’t wait for pristine credit before you make the jump.

Our BIGGEST mistake that will continue to haunt us for years to come was getting into debt.  We had fourteen credit cards, owned our house (or the bank did), had two car payments and had amazing, perfect credit.  Ironic, isn’t it?  We took the Dave Ramsey program at our church six years ago and it changed our lives.  We paid off and cut up all of our credit cards.  We do not have any still.  We paid off a lot of debt.  We then lost our house and one of our cars in the crash and our credit went to crap.  Which didn’t matter at the time because we were content renting for half the price of our house in Parker.  We have everything we need but there is the little matter of $50 grand from the second mortgage that still says it is an open account and $25,000 for the student loans we still owe.  There should be a money back guarantee.  If you don’t use your degree you should get a refund.  I do not see, with the interest rates the way they are, how we would ever in this lifetime pay these off.  If you are in debt, get out.  If you are not, do not venture into that pitfall.

Save a hundred dollars a month.  Pay yourself first.  Put it in a coffee can or the bank.

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4.  Simplify.  REALLY Simplify!

Every hour you work is money spent on something.  How many hours do you have to work to make enough to pay for the car?  Gas?  The house?  Cable?  Cell phones?  Restaurants?  Is it worth it?  What do you need?  How much time would you like?

It goes against every grain of our society to make less.  The mantra is make more, spend more, the more you make the more you can give, the more you can have, the more secure you will be.  Wrong.  I highly recommend you read “Radical Simplicity” by Jim Merkel.  It outlines our footprint on this planet as well as radically simplifying your life.  If you work less, you leave more work for others.  If you consume less, you leave more for others.  If you have less, you have to work less (this does not include the good kind of work on your own time on a farmstead).  The less you consume, the less resources you take from the planet, less pollution, less animal habitat loss, less unfairness.  Do you need a huge house?  Do you need to buy all of that packaged stuff?  Does it really bring happiness?

My goals are to lessen even more.  We are stressing over bills still and have too much stuff.  What is it with the seven sets of (gorgeous) antique dishes in my cupboards?  All the clothes I don’t wear?  The jewelry I don’t wear?  Where is our money going?  I am now writing it all down, the spending for each day.  See where the leaks are.  See what we don’t need.  What we don’t need to buy.  How much is everything really costing us?

And despite the stressing of leaching money, I want to make less.  No, I have not lost my mind.  I want to stay beneath the poverty line.  I have all the food I need, I am looking at lessening my rent, getting rid of my water bill and most of the electric bill, driving less, less gas money and wear and tear.  High taxes?  Don’t have them.  Where is your money going?

I am ready to simplify even more.  Make less money.  Offer medicines on a donation basis so that everyone can afford them.  Does cable television make us happy?  We don’t really watch it, so no.  That glass of wine in the evenings?  Yes, I don’t have to give that up.  By freeing up your money and where you spend it, you have only what you need and love.  And lots of time to watch the sunset and play with baby goats.

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5. Just Do It!

No more five year plan, maybe next year, only if he gets a raise, or when the kids move out.  There are no guarantees you will live long enough to live the life you really want.  Now is the time to act!

What can I say?  I have friends my age in their forties heading on to the Great Beyond and ones in their eighties who are too tired to do any more.  What is the best time to pursue your goals, cut your spending drastically, move to the place of your dreams, and start living self sufficiently?  Now is a real good time.  And if you cannot move yet or don’t want to, if you don’t want to quit your job or change much at all, just learn a few skills.  Cheese making?  Crocheting?  And urban garden?  Simplifying and homesteading can be done on many levels.

 

 

 

Funding and Getting the Life You Want

What is your dream life?  To live in a high rise apartment with a balcony of plants?  To live in a suburb surrounded by like-minded families?  To live in the country?  Life is really short.  Scarily so.  And in these fleeting moments, where do you want to wake up and spend your moments?  Where can you breathe?

What is your dream job?  A sleek 9-5 with all the perks?  Teaching or nursing?  Are you happy in the job you are in?  Perhaps you are retired or a housewife and you have money coming into the household.  There are always ways to make money.  May as well do something you love in order to make it.

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Change can be scary when we can’t see a clear path, but it always leads somewhere, and when following a dream, it tends to lead straight to that dream!  You don’t need a lot of money to follow a dream.  If it is meant to be, any money needed will show up just in the nick of time.

Now, how are we going to spend our money?  I have told you the story of our fancy living.  Our expensive mortgage, two car payments, upstanding jobs (where we were easily replaced….no job should take up so much space in your life) and our seemingly upscale lifestyle.  Cruises, expensive dinners, really bored kids.

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When we left it all, we were hanging on to an idea, a dream, and it played out before our eyes.  The house coming up for rent, the shop coming up for rent, the farmer’s markets being fantastic.  But that is just house and finances (granted, while helping people along the way).  How do we want to spend our money?  How do we want to live our life?

We go on more little trips and mini-vacations than anyone we know.  We have this split personality where we want to be homebodies and farm and live a simple life….while traveling.  Actually, we don’t want to travel all the time, but we have found solace and renewal in overnight or two stays throughout the year.

We barter for stays at a Bed and Breakfast in Boulder Canyon.  We go to the hot springs for the day in Idaho Springs.  We go to holiday festivals.  We stay a few days in Colorado Springs (45 minutes away).  We play hard, we work hard, we rest hard.  How do we pay for it?

We don’t have smart phones, Iphones, tremendously fast internet (Not that we could out here anyway!), a ton of cable channels, or data on our phones.  Our phones are cheap, off Ebay, and do the trick.  They call out and usually accept calls coming in.  (Now, of course, if it were up to me, we’d have even less….compromise is important in a marriage though.)  With the money that almost everyone we know uses on these seemingly necessary objects, we visit new places.

You can live big on just a little by deciding what is important and what is not.  We don’t buy a lot of new clothes and if we do they are Walmart specials, thrift store, or on sale.  We have over 500,000 miles between our two cars.  (I should probably start budgeting for a new truck.)  We don’t have car payments.  We live in a community where my rent seems like a lot, but it is nearly half of what we were paying in the suburbs.  We provide our own health insurance in the form of herbal medicines.

When we eat out, it is at the nicest restaurants.  We go to bed and breakfasts.  We play.  We have a modest emergency fund, clothes, a roof over our heads, a lot of food preserved for winter, and lots of memories.

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We took Bret, Emily and little Maryjane up to Manitou Springs overnight Monday.  It was their second anniversary.  We stayed at a very old, and beautiful bed and breakfast.  We took Maryjane to meet Santa at the North Pole.  We treated the kids to fondue at a restaurant voted the most romantic.  We made memories as a family.  We made our bond that much stronger and had a nice 24 hour rest.

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Last weekend we took our daughters Shyanne and Emily as well as Bret and Maryjane to the pumpkin festival we attend each year.  We missed our son who was not able to attend for the first time, but we continued to make some memories, build a scarecrow, and had a few breakdowns as well as triumphs, just like when they were little.

In a few weeks we will be in California visiting our friends, staying in their home, cooking fresh meals, enjoying real seafood, and touring wineries.  Cheap airfare, generous friends sharing their home, and saving a little extra instead of spending it on other things will provide a five day memory making trip.

How do you want to live?  Where?  Doing what?  With whom?  Now is the time to take action and make your dreams come true.  Live how you want!

(Our journey has not come to a stand still.  Our shop has closed, our classes have picked up, we want that larger farm where we have no town restrictions and can homestead how we want!  We are still working and dreaming towards that…)

Veggies on the Cheap

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Preserving food for the winter is a smart thing to do.  Whether a snow storm keeps you indoors or for some reason there is a tragedy and the grocery store is not available to you to buy food, you best have some stores.  You could can, dehydrate, or freeze (though watch for power outages), and store root crops.  I have plenty of posts on how to do so but where do you get the vegetables affordably?  A case of vegetables at the grocery store would be cost prohibitive.  I am farming a quarter acre but I will not have enough to eat now and get us through the entire winter.  We better head to the farmer’s market.

  • Ask for seconds.  Ask the farm early in the day to save you the slightly bruised tomatoes to make sauce with.  Or the apricots to can.  Or anything that may be still good but it is not pretty enough to sell.  You could end up taking home cases of plenty good produce!
  • Ask how much a case of something is.  If it is in season it will be cheaper.  You may be surprised that it is not as much as you would think and you are supporting a farmer.
  • Go at the end of the day and see what is left.  Farmers don’t generally want to take things home.
  • Seek out friends with gardens.  Everything is usually ready at once!  Farms come in all sizes.
  • When at the market, don’t ask how much everything is individually.  If you fill up a big bag or box with stuff then ask how much it is, you will get a better deal.
  • Start a friendship up with people at the farm.  Friends get deals, and making friends is always a great way to improve life even if you didn’t get anything!  Be a loyal customer.  Loyal customers get deals.

Now time is ticking!  Best get preserving!

Homesteading Freedom

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Everything costs something; either time or money.  Everything will require something as its payment.  We used to have a cleaning lady, nice cars, enjoyed expensive restaurants, took the kids on cruises.  We worked hard for the money and spent it on what we deemed the good life.  But it was a farce.  It was an illusion of freedom.  Behind cubicle walls and by his phone strapped to his belt, Doug was actually a prisoner.  I, too, even though I owned my own business and raised my own children, was stuck in the “gotta make more money” and “need more time” trap that so many moms feel these days.

Emily, Shyanne, and Peep
Emily, Shyanne, and Peep

I remember clearly a conversation that my friends and I were having at dinner one night when we talked about organic, vegetarian food compared to quick, processed food.  They were arguing with me that theirs was far cheaper.  I said, “A bag of organic beans is less than two dollars!”  “But you have to spend more time making everything.  We don’t have time.  You have to spend more time to save money.”

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Doug and I are working ridiculous amounts of hours right now.  We are putting up money and goods for the winter like little squirrels….exhausted ones!  But we know the trade off.  One always has to work.  What will you work for?  I want to work on preparing and storing my own food, making what clothing I can, selling excess to help pay bills, creating and selling herbal medicines to support us on our own time.  We heal people, we are as self sufficient as we can be at this moment, we work hard, but we fall into bed satisfied each evening.  We are much happier than we ever were when our tax returns said we were living a good life.  We know that we traded money for time.  Time spent doing things we want to do and creating a life that is more satisfying to us than our run-around city life.

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We try to walk softer on the earth.  Not use so many resources.  Pollute less.  Use less electricity.  Buy less stuff.  Stay home more and enjoy each other and our animals.  We have created a life no one expected us to have.  Don’t wait.  Don’t do the five year plan….the “when I retire”….”the when I get land”….the “when I get married”…the “when the kids move out”…just do it.  If you want to live simply.  If you want to take that leap of faith to become a homesteader, do it now. Life goes faster than anyone wants to admit, and the peace of living as a homesteader far outweighs any fears.  Homesteading is freedom.

Self Fulfilled Prophesies

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Do you believe in self fulfilled prophesies?  “Careful what you wish for, it just may come true.”  “Guard your mind and thoughts.”  “Put it out in the universe and watch it come to life.”  I have mentioned before that by writing out or saying what you desire is like a prayer waiting to be answered.  It is pretty astounding, actually.  It always works!  I have not been living my own belief here lately.  Doug snapped me back into reality, by yelling, “Self fulfilled prophesy!” at my whining that I don’t know if we are going to make it here.  He said we will make it here.  Our business will still thrive.  Our customers will find us online or hanging out at the coffee shop.  Our bills will be paid.  We will have more time together.  And this little farm will suit us just fine for a long time.  We are alright.  We lit a prayer candle.  And that was that.  Case closed.

For the past year I have complained about having a retail shop.  Not having a business, but the retail shop itself.  I am more of a one-on-one talker, a teacher.  Doug is the talker, the people person.  People love him.  I am not a sales person.  I have no patience for stupid remarks or jokes.  I am behind the scenes.  I successfully develop Diabetes medicine.  I am tired of people thinking we are witches because we brew Echinacea.  It’s just silly.  I thought of selling the shop until Doug gave me a look of sheer horror.  He loves our little business.  We help an extraordinary amount of people and animals.  I want a farm and to teach classes, I said.  I don’t want a shop.  Our shop is now closing.  Whoops.  Did I do that?  Yikes, I hope not.

And the farm has landed here.  Nearly everything I wanted in a farm, a place to do classes, and sell the herbal medicines.  Plus a genius computer husband that can make us an even better online store for Garden Fairy Apothecary.  I can have a pot of tea ready for anyone who wants to come by the house and visit while refilling their tincture bottles.  I have what I asked for.  What I wanted!  I guess I just didn’t mean this second.  I wanted this.  It came.  We will make enough money to survive here.  Not a million bucks.  Just enough!  No worries.  Self prophesy.  We will succeed!  And help and educate people for many years to come.  Keep thinking positive, people!  It works.  Make your own destiny.

Do you have a self fulfilled prophesy to share?  Would love to hear it!

Re-Simplifying

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We go through lots of changes, moves, lifestyle changes, job changes, but we have always tried to simplify in the process.  More meaningful work, less bills, less consumerism, more good, simple fun.  Inevitably things sneak back up and though we are not “as bad” as we used to be, we certainly are not that simple anymore.  I look around and there are a lot of items to dust!  The cable and cell phone bills are more than the utilities.  The amount of gas money we need is exorbitant!  Where the heck are we going that we have to drive so much?  Our shop is seven miles away and everything else is in walking distance.  (I do go drive to pick up Emily and Maryjane quite a bit, I’ll give you that one.  But ever so worth it!)  At least we haven’t picked up our really bad habits again like credit cards, but we still need to look around and see what is happening here.

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Where did I get all of this stuff?  Oh my poor friends.  We asked them to move us last year.  We saved a thousand dollars not getting a moving van and it looked like we didn’t have all that much stuff.  John and his kids grabbed their horse trailers and our friends from all around came to our rescue.  As I saw them driving up, vans, and trucks, and horse trailers, and cars full of stuff, my mouth dropped open and a glazed look of shock took over.  Where the heck are we putting all this…ahem…stuff?  The garage is packed.  The basement is packed.  The more I take to charity the more it seems to procreate.  I think my junk is cloning itself.  Now, don’t get me wrong, we are not hoarders or packrats.  Our house looks very nice.  I just get to wondering, why don’t I sell the piano and make a rent payment?  Because it is almost a hundred years old, and in perfect condition, and I play it for two minutes once a year…or so.  Why don’t I sell the hutch that takes so much space?  Oh, and why do I have seven sets of dishes?  Where did all these tables come from?  I might need them.  I love my roll top desk. It has taken up residence in the garage for the time being…for the last year….hmm.  We are having a garage sale this weekend.

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Where is our money going?  Well, right now I guess I could ask, what money?  Ever since our vacation things have just been dwindling down and I better straighten up.  Sales are way down and we have had to use our savings to pay bills and taxes and even though the farmer’s markets are starting soon, what happens afterwards?  We eat out too muh.  It is fun and tasty and a habit we really ought to knock out.  We spend a lot on gas.  We dwindle.  We have contracts with the cable and phone companies until the end of the year and we can readdress those.  What we really need and who has a better deal, etc.  Those are really our only extra curricular bills.  It is possible that our student loans may never get paid off at our current rate!  Time to evaluate our money situation and what we are going to do and start implementing all of the things I have been preparing for.  Grow and put up all of our food for this year.  What I cannot grow enough of, I can get from farmer friends.  I can freeze enough milk for the year to make cheese with over the winter.  I can get cheese from the store on sale and wax it myself.  Lisa taught me that.  It will stay good for twenty-five years that way.  Holy smokes.  That is some aged cheese!  Play more cards, read more books, use less electricity, cook all of our meals.  Be a good homesteading housewife, for crying out loud!  And get back to that good simple life we adore and aspire to.

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Sometimes you just need to re-evaluate.

Support Your Local Homestead!

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For centuries women have tended the home and the family and on the side sold things made by their hands to help support their family.  It seems to be an innate instinct in us.  Many homesteaders are entrepreneurs.  In this economy it can be scary out there.  What can we do to make sure we can put food on the table?  What can we craft, make, sell excess of, teach?  There are many opportunities to start a homestead business.  I have always told my homeschooled children that I would rather them make a smaller amount of money and work their own hours taking pride in making things from their own hands then to be cooped up in a cubicle day in and day out unappreciated!

Over here, we are trying to reinvent our business. (Doug and I will be doing markets as well.) Trying to be resourceful to appeal to the public and the community so that we can put food on our table while helping those around us.  Nancy is looking for the same thing.  We absorbed everything Joel Salatin told us in an intimate gathering and farm to table dinner last summer.  We have read books.  I have actually exhausted every single farming book available to me in the library system. (Can someone please publish another one?  I need something to read!)  We feel the need pulsing through our blood streams to become farmers.  There are no books specific to us.  We are not in our early twenties.  We do not qualify for the term “Greenhorns”.  Pity, it is such a fun name!  Most of the farmers are older and are retiring.  There are only names signifying possible craziness when two middle aged women want to become farmers.  But boy do we look cute out in the garden!  What we do have is collective business experience, a youthful exuberance and tons of energy and ideas, and two daughters willing to tag along and help!  We have computer savvy husbands with two sets of extra strong hands.  We have support.  We have creativity and a great collection of cute farmgirl clothes and aprons.  Oh my goodness, I can’t wait to wear my bonnet at markets!  Somewhere it will fit in!

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Many great businesses have been started by resourceful women…and men.  The local businesses on your street need their community in order to survive.  What you can do is support these businesses.  The same people you see at the bank, at the grocery store, in your church.  These people need your help.  I wish I could tell people, even people that shop at my store, that every time they go purchase herbal medicines and salves at the big health food store, they put me that much closer to going out of business.  Every time one goes to Cost Cutters instead of the single mom cutting hair, she can’t pay one of her bills.  Big corporations pay their bills just fine.  We small businesses are often cheaper, you get more, you get more quality, and yet we are forgotten in the shadow of a big store.  Granted if no one in my neighborhood is crafting shovels and I need one, I go to Walmart.  I won’t lie.  But there are so many shops on our quiet Main street that could supply a wealth of what people are looking for.  Farmer’s markets help bring the people together.  I don’t know about all the tents of people selling stuff they bought.  Packaged pancake mixes and magical weight loss mixtures, but those that make and craft and grow.  Those are my heroes, the ones I want to help.

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Nancy and I are making rich soaps, all organic ingredients.  Made from her goat’s milk.  We have made them beautiful, simple, clean.  I am making my famous lotion, renaming it Farmgirl Face and Body Cream for the markets.  I have made soy wax candles in darling coffee cups.  I have made aprons, double stitched and darling, a staple for any farm girl.  I have planted rows and rows of greens.  Nancy has planted even more rows and rows…and rows of greens!  We have herbs growing.  My dining room is overflowing with over-wintered herbs for cooking.  Our spoiled rotten (but adorable) chickens are all laying and we will sell our combined rations of fresh eggs with their beautiful orange yolks.  Nancy and Faleena will be busy baking muffins, breads, pies, and other goodies.  Emily is hand roasting organic coffee beans and designing the packaging.  She is also selling cups of coffee at the market with fresh goat’s milk and sugar.  Emily and I spent an afternoon developing many medicinal tea blends and packaging them.  We have organic green and black teas to offer as well.  Medicinal honeys add a sweet touch to administering medicine and our collection of extracts that have been our staple for years will be there as well.  We have fresh preserves, jams, beets, zucchini and more that we have sat in hot kitchens canning.  Emily is making organic baby food.  Faleena is spreading the word about us in the media world.  Doug has made us a darling logo and is making our labels and banners.  Steve tilled up the soil for Nancy.  We are set!  We are ready!  Come out and say hello to us at markets!  (And you can certainly go “like” our page on Facebook.. https://www.facebook.com/5Farmgirls?ref=hl ) Farm to table dinners….classes….the ideas are endless.

flower power (The youngest Farmgirl, Maryjane, will be at markets)

What homestead business could you start?  What is your skill and passion?  And what business could you support to keep your local economy, nay your neighbors, strong?

Keep Calm and Start a Farm

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I nabbed this off of Facebook.  Such a glorious poster!  I’d like to greatly enlarge it and plaster a main wall with it just to keep me focused.  I tend to overthink every situation, worry about every possible scenario, plan not only Plan A, but Plans B, C, D, and parts of E.  I am a “go getter” which both exhausts and over stimulates me…and my husband.

People have asked, “Why don’t you buy?”  “Oh, we can’t buy.”  That is always my answer.  We fell on our faces after perfect credit scores and a cushy lifestyle to the sound of the housing market.  We lost our house and car within three months.  That was three years ago.  The car company sold the minivan but still is coming after us for thousands.  We have this and that black-marking our credit.  But, then I started thinking (uh oh, there I go again),  here I keep praying for a farm and then looking up rentals.  Perhaps I am supposed to have my own farm!  (Well, not my own, Doug wants one too.)  So, we asked a mortgage lender and we can qualify three years after a foreclosure.  This means the craziness is about to begin.

See, here are the scenarios….

Currently our bills are too high and the sales at our shop are too low.  There is a possibility that the new owners of our building where our shop is located will raise the rent exorbitantly to match surrounding rents.  There is the need to pay off the items on the credit report, start saving boatloads of money to get us through winter if necessary, or to just pay off the debts, and/or to put a down payment on a farm.

Or….the rent won’t go up, sales will pick up, and we will just need to make extra for the fixing of credit and down payment of a farm.  Or….this is the point where I need an herbal anti-anxiety! (St. John’s Wort anyone?)

No matter what the situations involve this summer there is one thing I will do.  Work my farmgirl tail off.  Five farmer’s markets a week.  Two booths, one with the Apothecary and one with me and Nancy and our daughters’ Farmgirl booth.  The Farmgirl booth will be filled to the brim with everything we make from our respective homesteads.  Homemade goat’s milk soap (we are making four batches today with creativity and fun in mind), fresh breads, scrumptious pies, crisp greens straight from the garden,  our farm fresh eggs, sweet medicinal honeys, organic teas, hand roasted coffee from Emily.  Double stitched aprons, charming candles, and whatever else our entrepreneurial farmgirl spirit inspires us to do! The Apothecary booth is our mini-store.  We’ll bring a baby goat and our new granddaughter and we should have the most popular booth there!

Dawn to dusk we will work.  Farmer’s market and the shop.  Canning, gardening, and the regular homestead chores.  Keep up with farmer’s market products.  I will be exhausted.  Tan.  Content.  And that much closer to getting a farm.

Keep Calm And Start A Farm

Four Star Farmgirl (meal planning and movie stars)

teotro
We celebrated our anniversary this weekend with a stay at a four star hotel in downtown Denver.  It is a very old building with excellent service and two four star restaurants and lush surroundings.  We were standing in the foyer the other night looking at one of the menus.  A gentleman sat to our right.  He had passed us walking down the street earlier and now sat near us.  Doug whispers (probably a bit too loud), “Don’t you think that guy looks like a mix of Clay Aiken and Martin Short?”  He looked right at us.  I said, “No…maybe a little like Martin Short.”  Of course it turned out that it was Martin Short!  The weekend was accentuated by fancy restaurants with dime sized danishes for seven dollars, two ravioli for fifteen (a steal, I am sure), and very loud traffic, screaming homeless people, giggling drunk girls, and ongoing construction through paper-thin windows.  We did enjoy all the mouth-watering food, never having to open a door, delicious twelve foot windows to look out while sipping coffee and three days of doing nothing or whatever we pleased.  A fabulous weekend all together.  I type this in our beautiful hotel room as we prepare to go back to the country.  Back to peace and quiet.  I will have to start opening my own doors though once I get back.  I could be waiting on the porch for a long time.

martin

After weeks of celebrations and eating out and spending near fortunes (all worth it for fabulous food and company) it is time to get back to being a proper farmgirl.  And proper farmgirls meal plan.  Not meal plan like when I was first out on my own when it was imperative to do so because I was so broke.  Monday- Mac and Cheese, Tuesday- Hamburger Helper, Wednesday- Ramen Noodles.  Lord, how did we ever survive our twenties on meals like that?!  Now we meal plan because of health, finances, and because we desire good food!  No matter how good the food was at Cru or Kevin Taylor, it was probably genetically modified, not organic, and who knows where it came from.  I like to know what I am putting on the table!  Fresh, organic, grew it myself maybe (in the years to come, that will increase dramatically), homemade.  I love to eat like I am in a four star restaurant and I think for a hundred and twenty dollars I could have put on a better feast!  Infused oils, fine salts, fresh herbs, brightly colored produce, and homestyle cooking make life very nice indeed.  Add to that a glass of great wine (for less than twenty-five dollars a glass) and you are in business!

gourmet

However, after a long day of cleaning house, tending to business, taking care of animals, running errands, and a short attention span, if I don’t have a menu planned out, forget it…we’ll be eating Chinese food.   And I don’t really like Chinese food. I would much rather have my own cooking, I just need a bit of preparation.  I tried meal planning a week of meals in advance.  Beautiful, but by day eight if we didn’t get to the store we were out to eat.  I tried meal planning for three weeks.  Lost interest after two weeks.  So, two weeks of meals seems to be the magic number.  I have to drive to town to the health food store to obtain ingredients so every two weeks works for me.

I have begun checking out two library cookbooks each week and making my meals from there.  Mind you, I never follow recipes.  I can’t.  Too many variations and ways to make it better!  But I get fabulous ideas and general guidelines and each week is a new theme or book.  Cowboy cooking and slow cookers this week.  One pot meals and fresh Tex-Mex next plus plenty of personal inspiration.  Little House on the Prairie cookbook and Farmer’s Market Cooking the next.  I am determined for the next several weeks (okay, except the night we go to Evergreen for Doug’s birthday with our dear friends, Monte and Erik, for a ‘could die of happiness, the food is so freakin’ good’ meal) to make and stick to meal plans, eating at home every single night of the week, plus lunches and breakfasts at the table as well!  We will feel better, will not be overly full, will have lots of extra money to put into the homestead fund, dinner will always be available to children passing through or drop-in friends, and evenings at home are marvelous and fine.

Remember when you are meal planning to take some things into consideration: If you need to pack a lunch or dinner, make it picnic food.  If you know you will have a terribly busy day, plan for the slow cooker.  Have a nice mix of leisurely dinners like homemade pasta, and quick dinners like potato soup so that you are prepared.  Have plenty of ideas and ingredients to make impromptu dinners if you couldn’t get to the store after two weeks.  Eat plenty of colors even in the winter.  Kale, cabbage, carrots, potatoes, sweet potatoes, salads, squash, beets…beans of all sorts and lots of garlic.  Soup is fast and easy!  Leftovers are your friends for lunches.  Above all, enjoy the sensory and tactile experience of foods.  Enjoy the process of making it, serving it, eating it whether with others or alone.  Perfect the art of making sauce.  Sauce makes everything special.  Candlelight and good music a must!

The World of Free Knowledge and Serenity

I ordered three Cuckoo Marans (chocolate egg layers), three Buff Orpingtons (for their lovey disposition), and three Aracaunas (Easter egg layers).  I ordered three pounds of bees with the Italian queen.  I already picked up my custom made, gorgeous bee hive.  One hundred dollars worth of heirloom seeds are ordered.  *Sigh*  Now what?  Is it Spring yet?  I’m done resting!

kiowa library (our local library)

I spend this time learning.  I learn everything I can get my hands on.  I love the concept of homeschooling; you don’t stop learning at eighteen years of age, it goes on forever.  Any trade I want to learn, any skill I want to learn, any thing I want to learn, I merely need to step out the door and walk four blocks to my favorite place.  And it doesn’t cost as much as chickens, bees, and heirlooms.

A virtual vault of free, unlimited knowledge awaits us! It astounds me still that we have access to so much education, so much wisdom, so many good recipes all in one place.  Thousands upon thousands of books at our very fingertips.  The library is one of my favorite places in the world.  It is part sanctuary, part school.  The interlibrary system allows us to request books from all over the state so no matter what we want to read, we can usually get it.

When I was a child my grandmother asked what magazine I would like to receive for my birthday.  Every year I asked for Country Living Magazine.  An odd choice for a twelve year old.  I would receive the beautiful magazine in the mail, it’s cover shiny and inspiring, and tuck it in my backpack.  After school I walked to the library.  My folks were foster parents and along with my sister and brother, there were always two small babies and a lot of commotion at our house.  So, the library beckoned.  The library in Denver where I walked to was in Platt Park and looked like a miniature medieval castle complete with a turret and window seats that were tucked away from the rest of the library.  I would carefully remove the prized possession from my backpack, smooth down the cover, and read through.  Anne of Green Gables, Julie and the Wolves, all my favorites were brought to life in that silent turret of serenity.

library (Platt Park Library)

Our family has always loved books.  The children lugged home boxes of free books filling the book shelves with every title imaginable. The children were in writing clubs and well known to the librarians at the Parker library.  We walked or drove there once or twice a week.

When we were more flush in cash, and had first started homeschooling, our favorite outing was to the book store.  Our favorite movie, “You’ve Got Mail”, was replete with book stores.  We longed for the book store with its swank coffee counter and clean, fresh books at our fingertips.  At least once a month we carefully selected and carried out books for each of us.  At some point I realized that all those books were read once and then set on the shelf and when we moved we gave away many of them.  We downsized our life and our finances and our free state of mind came with the return of our free books and the library became our sole sanctuary once again.

The difference now is that we go to the book store, sip hot coffee while writing down all the new and old titles we want.  Save our hundred dollars and go request them at the library.  I have bee books, and farming books, and chicken books, and recipe books, homesteading books, Andrea Bocelli CD’s, travel books, wine books, and movies.  Doug has espionage books in case he is ever called on to become a spy.

I hope this inspires you to visit your local library and see what treasures unfold for you.  What are your favorite books?