Pumpkin Hollow Farm

Seven Years in Farmgirl School

“But how will you plant with all the rock?” the sweet librarian asked me. Her colleague looked on curiously.

I began rambling on excitedly about how to grow in this particular environment. The soil of our new farm is really more sandstone and red sand (with a little cactus thrown in) then it is soil. I can see how many people would look at it and think there is no way you can grow here.

The librarians nodded at me with sympathy. She must be new here. I have grown terrific gardens in driveways, the wild, untouched prairie, and neglected yards; a little sandstone and dry high desert won’t stop me now! There are four techniques over the years that I have come up with/learned/combined/improved upon that work in any situation. Having little money, living in Colorado in terrain that is not usually farmed by the sane, and really wanting fresh vegetables has given way to ingenuity. Trench planting was one of my first techniques. (I will go over the others in the weeks to come as we get to them.)

Trench planting can be done in the front yard, along a strip of driveway, or in a pre-existing garden. This year I obtained an amazing new tool for the job! It glides through the sand and soil and unearths the shale as I go. I am not sure how I have lived without a triangle hoe before!

I am using the fence here as a trellis for field peas. Field peas become split peas for winter soup! The bricks suppress weeds along the fence.

Step 1: Choose where you want your rows. Corn field in the front yard? Pumpkin patch around the porch? A dignified garden inside a fence? My three gardens this year are the same size as my entire urban farm that we moved from last summer. This technique works for a 2000 sq ft kitchen garden or a nice flower garden in the front yard.

I’m saving a lot of energy here by only hoeing only where I will plant. There is no reason to rototille the entire thing.

Step 2: Pull the hoe through the soil to make a trench the depth of the roots of your plant. So, six inch trench for carrots, 3 inch trench for peas, etc. I hoe out the weeds from last year as I come to them and move large rocks out of the trench.

Organic gardening soil can be expensive on this scale. We used our hardware store credit card to get it. If that is our only debt starting a farm, we are doing good. If you consider that this size garden will save us between $2400 and $7000 a year in groceries, the $500 soil cost is worth it. From here on out, we will amend with compost so this is a one time expense.

Step 3: Fill trench with organic gardening soil. The plants won’t be growing in the rocks and sand, they will primarily be growing in the garden soil so it doesn’t matter what the native soil is like.

Step 4: Water rows. Plant seeds. Done.

Wasn’t that so easy? Well, I mean you do have to exert some energy to hoe around. The bags of soil are kind of heavy and you’ll need to do yoga to get your back in garden shape, but creating a garden is super easy.

Maryjane and her great adorer.

My granddaughter, Maryjane, was going to help me plant peas, but she was too busy playing with Gandalf! I will be planting spring crops all week! In the coming posts, I will cover planting spring crops. Until then, soak up some sunshine and get to hoeing.

In my mind, especially after watching the absolute chaos of this week unfold, I feel like old fashioned principals and homesteading practices have never been more important to incorporate into one’s life. Then one might not be so apt to wipe out the shelves of Walmart hoarding toilet paper over a cold that Oregon Grape Root and Elderberry can get rid of. This is a homesteading blog, so instead of being quiet (as I have been this last week and am in every day life so I don’t offend my friends who I love), I will write.

Image from internet

I want you to note what has happened this week. We as a society have placed all of our trust into a money driven medical system and have disregarded the use of plant medicines. A new virus will actually be more easily fought with western herbs because it hasn’t had a chance to adapt to anything. One of the primary goals of homesteading is to be self reliant. By having a good grasp on herbal knowledge, you will be better prepared for anything. I have half a gallon of antibiotic, a gallon of cold medicine, and several pints of lung specific herbs at the ready. I am not worried in the least. Plus I believe this virus has been going around for months; we just haven’t recognized it because it has the exact same symptoms as a regular cold!

I also want you to note the immense power that media has. The media has the ability to cause mass panic, chaos, every-man-for-themself terror. If you had no knowledge of this virus, you would just think you had a cold (which you would) and you would treat it with your herbs and get better and that is that. See how easily everyone is being manipulated? It is disconcerting.

Just some of our medicines.

Homesteading principals also lead us to being prepared. Not only for a cold outbreak, but for a natural disaster, or if the power or water was interrupted. It is really easy to have food, water, toilet paper, batteries, a flash light, and blankets on hand. This should be a no-brainer. Homesteading takes it further by saving money by growing our own food, canning and preserving our own food, having plenty of herbal remedies, food, water, and firewood on hand. When we empty a glass jar, we fill it with water and put it in the crawl space. We put money into getting a wood stove and have another cord of wood to heat the house and cook by if needed. We have oil lamps and candles. There is no panic here. (There is nothing to panic over anyway, but we aren’t panicking all the same.)

I also want you to note that this is an election year. Did you know that a mega-virus hits every election year? Isn’t that interesting? Homesteading principals also rally for our freedom. Freedom to treat ourselves. To not be forced to go to the doctor, have poisonous vaccinations, and to pay for everyone else’s medical bills through our own hard earned work. To not be forced to send our kids to public school. To have the freedom to teach our own. To teach our kids what we value and what history really looked like. To teach them skills that are actually necessary in life. Our taxes are really high and they go to fund abortions (don’t say the money goes to screenings, there is no separate fund), slaughterhouses, big AG, big Pharma, big Oil. To raise our taxes even higher…don’t get me started. If you value your rights and freedom at all, vote Republican. Seriously. I stay quiet when all my democrat friends go on and on about a president who tells it like it is but hasn’t done anything that prior administrations haven’t done (just more quietly) and have helped more Americans lead better lives. Folks, the Constitution is important. My rights, your rights, the rights of my daughter who homeschools and treats her children with natural remedies is important. The rights of my friends who have guns for protection is important. The right to work hard and actually keep what you made by working hard is important! Why would you want to take away rights?

So new mindset, let us teach and inspire everyone to grow their own food. What a difference a garden in everyone’s yard would make. Teach and inspire everyone to grow their own medicines. Teach people to have toilet paper on hand before panic hits. Teach people to utilize the library system and educate themselves always. My blog is intended to put the power of self reliance in the reader’s hands. I hope you see how a virus with a very low fatality rate can caused so much disorder around us. How we have let media cause us to panic and fear. Now let’s get our shit together and start leading with love, kindness, and generosity instead of fear, hoarding, and anxiety.

That is why we homestead. Preparation. Confidence in our own abilities. The option to laugh at the media. The ability to help others as needed. Let’s get our wits back and do a raid on library books and craft supplies instead. We are all going to be okay.

What is an HSP? I first heard the term Highly Sensitive Person some dozen years ago. It is used to describe someone who is very sensitive and emotional. Words such as empath have come forth, but there are differences. An empath is someone who feels others’ emotions and feels empathy for them. My husband is an empath, but he is not an HSP.

I wish that more parents knew the traits of a highly sensitive person. They might recognize their own child and know better how to raise them. The HSP is generally the black sheep of the family because they are not easy to live with. They are emotional, anxious, and not like other kids.

HSPs are highly sensitive to artificial lights. Fluorescents can nearly take us out! (Or so it feels.) HSP’s are sensitive to sound. They are generally born with heightened sensory. So very loud voices, yelling, loud music, and crowds can leave an HSP in tears. School is usually very difficult for an HSP, as they would rather be anywhere but sitting still. They are also usually the targets for bullying. And not just as children. It is hard to be an HSP in the world today.

There are many great traits of highly sensitive people. HSP’s are wonderfully mesmerized by beauty and that rubs off on the people around them. They notice every bird, every color, every sound, the tastes of food, the moment in which they live. They are loyal friends and sensitive family members. Their empathy is beyond an average empath, because they physically feel what they see or what they are around. For instance, I cannot watch the news, because I physically will feel what someone who was beaten or raped or lost felt. That can be exhausting. An HSP has to be wary of what they see and what they read and who they are around. Highly Sensitive People are often psychic, because all of their senses are heightened. It isn’t far fetched to believe that hermits are all highly sensitive people! Maybe we don’t want to become hermits, but that is where living an old fashioned life comes in.

Last night, my husband and I sat in our rocking chairs listening to records by the light of oil lamps and candles. The calm of evening resets my senses and helps me to breathe. My friends and I joke that I become a pumpkin after nine. A kind way of saying I straight fall apart and end up crying after ten! I honor my circadian rhythms and that helps me to stay happy and relaxed.

To incorporate old fashioned living for a HSP is simple, here are some ideas:

Highly sensitive people need softer light. Oil lamps, candles, and twinkly lights all fit the bill.

I am overjoyed that I inherited my Great Aunt Donna’s record player the other day! Soft music is better than blasting music.

Highly sensitive people cannot deal with anger problems and fighting. Soft voices, sweet words, this is more important than I can describe.

Turn off electronics. The television overstimulates highly sensitive people. (We won’t get into video games.) The sound, the light, (the fact that there is nothing good on except The Voice…) it is often too much. Books and creative outlets are better. LED lights can be switched off. Unplug anything with a light shining from it.

Highly Sensitive People are better homeschooled and as entrepreneurs. Home should be a respite so decorate with comforting pieces, like quilts, musical instruments, books, soft lighting, and old fashioned items from a relatives’ house. My house is filled with memories since I use things that were once my grandma’s, my chosen mama’s, my aunt’s, etc.

Spend lots of time outdoors! HSP’s do better outdoors. Grow a garden, have chickens, and chairs that face the sun. Animals are important.

From scratch cooking and herbal remedies are important for health. HSP’s don’t do well with conventional medicines or vaccines. You will find that many HSP’s are vegetarian.

Highly Sensitive People do not have a disease or a disability and it is not something they can just get over or toughen up. All of the HSP’s I have met have been truly loving, extraordinary people. I think the lifestyle that we can create to accommodate an HSP is one that could benefit everyone! Being present, being positive, avoiding hysteria in the news and on social media, filling time with creative pursuits and great books, spending time with ones we love, honoring our circadian rhythm, improving health, slowing down, being easy on our senses; all these things make life a million times more meaningful.

It is magical how something simple can transport us to another time, amongst people we love, to memories…so often bittersweet. Suddenly and without warning, I found myself in Great Aunt Donna’s garden. I could see her jutting along with clippers and bags. I could see her deftly slicing the tops off the rhubarb stalks with a paring knife. Her light hair curled and in place, her squints of joy through her glasses, her smile because we were there.

I took another bite and felt the sunshine of a spring day cusping into summer, the smell of damp soil, as I walked towards her garden.

The jar has sat on my pantry shelf for the past five years. It was time to eat it. The rouge of the stalks had disappeared and the sliced vegetable had turned a blue-green color. The pieces looked nothing like they began and were soggy and sad. Aunt Donna had told me after I canned all those jars of rhubarb how to freeze future harvests. 6 cups of sliced rhubarb, 2 cups of sugar in a freezer bag. They scarcely lasted the year.

Yet, those original jars of rhubarb still moped on the shelf and I decided on a whim to drain a jar and make a rhubarb crisp. I sliced some frozen strawberries and blended it with the soft rhubarb, stickily sweet from all those years in sugar syrup. I needn’t add more. I stirred in a bit of flour. Topped the whole thing with oats, chopped Brazil nuts, freshly crushed cardamom, brown sugar, crumbled together with coconut oil. I baked it. It smelled divine. I poured my coffee and took a bite.

My daughter, Emily, granddaughter, Maryjane, Grandma, me, Aunt Donna

Suddenly and without warning, I am gathering up giant leaves of rhubarb and placing them into the compost bin laughing. I always loved Aunt Donna’s garden. She showed me tricks to composting, to growing, to harvesting. She introduced me to Jerusalem Artichokes and she let me harvest her wild medicines, though she doubted they were medicines at all. She would call me on the phone and say, “The rhubarb (or grapes, or apples, or…) are ready, you better come get them!” She waited for us to drive to Denver to her house on a busy corner and take what we liked before she let others come. I was always mindful and left plenty.

Rhubarb season is still a few months away. Great Aunt Donna’s rhubarb is no longer there. Neither is she. But if I close my eyes and take another bite of this rhubarb crisp, I shall be by her side once more, slicing rhubarb, and enjoying the sunny spring day. And there is one more jar on the shelf.

I am a voracious reader. Books have created me. Books have helped me define my perceptions, my experiences. Books teach me. Books take me places I may not otherwise visit in my lifetime here. They take me to different periods of time. They transport me to farms and homesteads around the world and in various centuries so that I can intern there over cups of tea.

I am always rather surprised when I meet someone who doesn’t read. You don’t read? I think, But where do you… go?”

Why just this week, I was up visiting Tasha Tudor in Vermont in her charming farmhouse, when she was alive, learning to spin and dip candles. Then I grew up in 1902 with a sweet, Jewish immigrant in North Dakota on a fierce homestead, experiencing the Dakota Diaspora. Then I was Stealing Buddha’s Dinner and off to relive the 1980’s with a Vietnamese refugee of my same age. To recall it all through a different set of eyes. Now I might listen to The Last Lecture, or perhaps I will visit England The Summer Before the War. I am on the list to meet Anthony Ray Hinton and hear him tell me about how The Sun Does Shine, even after thirty years falsely accused, sitting on death row.

Oh, the places I will go and the people I will meet! Just think of all the free information, places, and new friends holding space on thick shelves in the library just waiting to be traveled to. I must go.

Between laundry and dishes and throwing scratch to the chickens, I don’t mind a quick trip to Paris, or the South, or to Grand Rapids, or 1864.

Before

It is such a lovely home just the way it is. I was wondering about my crazy ideas this morning before demo began! But this is our farmhouse and it needs to work for us! Sure, there is a strip of floor and a strip of wall missing now- all which can be covered and repaired in time. The other thing that is missing is the wall!

After

Our decidedly not-built-by-a-homesteader 1993 home just didn’t have a few things we needed. Like storage for over 500 jars of produce come fall. It also had a weird 3/4 wall, which seemed to be an afterthought, and blocked all the nice light and ambiance of a wide open kitchen/living room/dining room.

When we first moved in six months ago, I decorated in modern Scandinavian-inspired elements and furniture. Oh heck, I even bought electric lamps. You know how it goes when you start over and everything has to be new and different? Yea, well I probably could have saved some money by purchasing second hand because no sooner had Yule hit and the house was becoming our style again. Homey, homesteady, old fashioned, grandma style. Like come in-kick off your shoes- sit by the oil lamp- and read style. It’s good stuff.

We had a modest stipend thanks to a rebate we received and we decided to use that to affordably, mindfully remodel our home in three phases. The first phase happened last week when we put in expansive, gorgeous shelves all across the north wall. Read here.

Today, the wall came down!

The next phase is painting the cupboards. What do you think? Olive green (kind of 1800’s style)? Chalk board paint- that would be lots of fun! (Too much black?)

It is all coming together. This is the best time to do farmhouse remodeling because soon we will have our hands in the soil and the house will be but a place to rest and drag mud through. A home should be a place of respite. It matters not how new it is or how worn. Small elements can create a space of comfort and calm, of peace and memory-making.

I watched the most inspirational and delightful movie the other night with my husband. Both of us tearing up, singing along, and enjoying every second. We didn’t know what to expect when we rented A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood but we knew it was about Mr. Rogers.

It was amazing how quickly I regressed forty years. I instantly remembered the puppets, I knew every word to the songs, my heart quickened upon seeing the sets. I used to think that Mr. Rogers could see me through the screen so I always quickly straightened the living room before he came through the front door. My granddaughter, at the same age, watches him still. Such a legacy.

During my Mr. Rogers watching days

I enjoyed the myth busting (not a sniper), and Tom Hank’s always stellar performance. What struck me was Fred Rogers’ ability to every day choose to make a difference and be present with people, to spread love and encouragement- not just on the set, but in every moment of the day. Even as he quietly prayed for each person that crossed his path by name.

I have written before that I’m not a huge fan of mass prayers for people in churches and social media posts, as if God only helps the most popular. But I do think there is great power in individually praying the name of a person. Garnering energy for them, sending them love, and helping to make their hopes a reality. In the book, Eat, Pray, Love, Liz prays for a loved one with all of her heart, on another continent, in a present, meaningful way during prayers of a different language, and that child was helped. I do pray for people by name, but I like the idea that was in Mr. Rogers of writing their names down so that each utterance is meaningful and no one is forgotten. I generally pray people’s names when I lay down to go to sleep.

I guess what the movie showed me is that there are many ways to help people. I always try to be a positive influence. I check in on the young people I adore and I try to be kind to everyone I meet. I don’t leave the house too often and I tend to feel that my only way of connection is through social media, but there are ways we can be influential without the use of the computer.

If we can be present to the moment with the person that we happen to be with, that’s what’s important.”

Fred Rogers

When you are with someone, be truly present. Do not pick up your phone. Do not let your mind wander. Focus on what that person is saying and who they are. This is a valuable moment. Instead of quickly deciding what you are going to say or interject, just listen. How many times do we wish that we could go back and listen to a loved one that has passed? How often do we feel listened to? Such a simple thing to be present with someone, and how powerful.

“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.”.

Fred Rogers

Control your emotions. Social media and news thrill themselves by making us hysterical. And I am afraid it is far too easy to fall into it and to snap back cruel responses by fingertip. As the election gets closer, folks are going to get uglier. As more and more of our rights get threatened, people from both sides lash out from fear and anger and personal opinion. Let us avoid all that nonsense and only speak inspiration and joy. Truth and kindness. Fear never solved anything. Talk about your feelings in a personal way to someone you love.

It is really so simple, isn’t it? Do what you love. Do it well. Folks will be ushered into your life who need your love and encouragement, or whom you need. Always be kind. We never know what heartbreaks for fears others are experiencing at any given time. Pray for people quietly by name. Be present and appreciate people for exactly who they are. This world is certainly a better place because Fred Rogers was in it. And it is a better place because you are in it. It is a beautiful day in the neighborhood today. I’m glad to be a part of it.

We do not have a lot of money so we designate extra funds to anything that builds or benefits our homestead. I picked up a “new” oil lamp and two beautiful wooden candle holders with chimneys at an antique store yesterday. Our house is so lovely and rather modern compared to our past houses. It was not built by homesteaders so a few changes were needed to prepare for our year of farming ahead.

Before

We put up hundreds and hundreds of jars of produce each year and where will we put them? There is no basement here and we have limited storage. We spend most of our time in the main room of our house. When you walk in the front door you are in the living room which is attached to the dining room and is separated from the kitchen by only a 3/4 wall that was made into a pantry. If that wall were gone, it would be a perfect square. The wood stove putters along nicely heating the house and the east and west windows keep the space light, the high ceilings make it feel airy and rustic. To make it fit our needs better, there are two things we wanted to do, build shelves along the north wall and take down the wall.

After

With the rebate we received from getting solar panels on our last house we hired the fellow that put up our shed. The shelves are stunning and rustic. It is rather amazing how shelves can totally transform a space. We chose the brackets (Celtic scroll) and the wood stain. Four 12 foot long shelves went up on one side and two 6″ boards went up on the other side. Kevin was kind enough to move my behemoth piano to where I wanted it. The result is stunning. You could call our decorating style, 1860’s General Store style, I guess!

Getting a little low on preserves! Come September, these shelves will be brimming with hundreds of colorful jars.

Each 12 foot shelf can hold 244 jars of produce. Is it safe to have all of one’s canned goods out in the open like that? I did my research and actively used a thermometer to monitor the temperatures of the wall in several places. The first time I ever saw canned goods was at one of my best friend’s houses when I was sixteen. Her family was Mormon and quite sufficient in their lifestyle. Rows of glimmering glass jars shone from open shelves on a sun porch. I was mesmerized. Funny how little things like that can change the course of your life.

According to my research, I learned a few things. 1)Canned goods are best kept out of direct sunlight. The shelves are on the north wall. Thanks to a covered patio out back, the sun never shines directly on that wall. 2) Homemade preserves are best kept between 50-70 degrees. No higher than 90-100 degrees. The highest temperature the wall got with the wood stove at its peak was 78 degrees. That was nearest the stove. The higher shelves were at the highest temperature because heat rises.

Books will fill the spaces nearest the stove.

I believe that the sight of hundreds of colorful jars of sustaining produce is the prettiest art installation I have ever seen. It may seem odd to have all of one’s pantry out in the open but the benefits are many. One, it is so beautiful! Two, you can see everything available and inspiration for supper comes easier and you can see what you are getting low on. Three, it looks like an 1860’s General Store- which happens to be my current decorating style.

If we had installed the shelves ourselves it would have been even more affordable, but we didn’t fancy having crooked shelves and we needed them to be put up strong and correctly to hold that much weight! The second phase happens Wednesday when the wall comes tumbling down. Such little changes to make a homestead more efficient and charming.

Bye bye wall!

The last two homesteading books that I have read were great to read because they outlined clear and practical guides to subsistence farming and homesteading without the use of animals. In the books, Will Bonsall’s Essential Guide to Radical, Self Reliant Gardening and Helen and Scott Nearing’s The Good Life, the authors are/were all vegan and I appreciated reading books where the authors were successful and offered approaches that I have, and will continue, to utilize on my own homestead. To continue taking the cruelty out of agriculture.

There was only one thing missing from the books. Because the authors did not use animals on their homestead and were vegan themselves, they saw no reason to keep animals at all, not even dogs and cats. Valuable resources wasted on animals and keeping animals just to do so seemed unnecessary. Have you ever walked into someone’s home and it’s really eerily quiet and clean? And then you notice what’s missing? No dogs, no cats, not even a parakeet? To us, animals make a homestead a home as much as each other’s company. Animals add so much joy to our lives.

Each year that we tick off as another that we have homesteaded, we make our own way. We learn from others, we experiment, we make lots of mistakes, we make heartbreaking decisions, and we move forward creating the life that is best for us. I considered starting a non-profit animal sanctuary but I decided against it for a few reasons. I have many friends that have sanctuaries. 1) They have a lot more land than I do and I would be very limited as to whom I could take. 2) My friends have to hustle for donations constantly. 3) People are really cruel. They call these sanctuaries and make threats about what will happen to the animals if the sanctuary doesn’t take them. No thanks. I wouldn’t be able to handle it. And 4) These are pets to us. Our past goats and sheep followed us around our farm just like little puppies. We enjoyed them so much and will not be giving up ones to come. We want to adopt a few bottle babies. Raise a few chicks and ducklings from birth. Just as we go to the shelter and choose kittens that need us most. We bring in animals young and slowly so that everyone adapts well. And then they live here their whole life and are loved ridiculously well. That is our sanctuary.

The farm animals might contribute by donating their wool (they are getting sheared anyway), their eggs (they just walk away from them anyway), and their antics. We make sure we make enough money to take care of them, just like our indoor animals. But there is no cruelty here, no using animals for meat or dairy. Some people watch cable television, some people like fancy cars, we like to watch animals play. It is worth the money.

The other animals that we welcome are of the wild sort. I have a good bird guide near the office window and provide bird seed for the many wild birds that visit. We see traces of deer that came through in the night. Foxes live over the hill. Hawks float above the trees. Our Great Pyrenees keeps everyone safe on the ground from behind his fences. I enjoy the world so much better surrounded with animals.

A homestead does not have to use animals for food. A homestead is more of a home with animals as family. There is more than one way to homestead and farm successfully. Find your path and find your joy.

There is something about old fashioned living that appeals to many of us. Old fashioned living honors the natural rhythms of nature and the body. It is better for the senses, the spirit, and one’s outlook. I am not romanticizing the life of pioneers of old- the starvation, traveling away from their families, the freezing temperatures- but we can take the practical, slower, methodical (and sometimes fast paced), family oriented, earth friendly, sweet aspects and incorporate them into our modern homesteading practices. One of the easiest ways to incorporate homesteading into one’s life is old fashioned lighting.

This mouse is one of my favorite finds!

A girlfriend of mine and I go visit Amish friends in Westcliffe every so often. The last time Elizabeth and I were there, Ruth showed us around their new home, freshly built of rustic logs and windows with views.

“What are the outlets for?” Elizabeth pointed at the ceiling.

“Oh, we have to have the house wired in case we ever want to sell it,” was Ruth’s reply.

Hanging between two comfortable looking chairs facing west and looking out upon the grand Sangre de Cristos- so close you could practically climb them- was a battery operated light, much like one you might find in a mechanic’s garage. They charged it in the basement at night and it ran for many hours in the evening.

So, what’s the point? If one is going to have light at all, why not just flip on a switch? For the Amish, living a slow, simple life keeps them closer to God and each other. That is really what homesteading is about as well. It connects us to things greater than ourselves. Greater than video games, recorded television shows, and opens the way for meaningful conversation and family time. One area of lighted space keeps a family together in that space, reading, laughing, sewing, watching the children play. When Doug and I popped in to see Ruth’s husband, Joel, at his furniture shop last weekend, he mentioned the birth of twins. Happy moments shine brighter in an old fashioned life.

Oil lamps are my favorite because they are beautiful and practical and some of the old ones come with their own quiet stories. Oil lamps are easy to find in antique stores and even Walmart. There are beautiful ones online and even second hand stores. That is where my daughter, Emily, spotted this charming red one. Oil lamps come in all shapes and sizes. When you are looking at an old one, turn the knob and make sure it moves the wick up and down. You can get a new screw on collar for the lamp if needed online. Put in a fresh wick. Empty any remaining oil and clean the lamp. Pour in a clean oil like, Klean-Heat or Firefly. Let the wick gather up the oil for a few hours before lighting. Let the wick barely show over the top in order to keep the lamp from smoking or wasting oil. Clean the chimney and place on top.

I also use extra chimneys to cover candle tapers. I have some lovely candle holders. Candles perhaps give off the best light. Look for packages of candles at second hand stores. The best though, is to purchase a bulk pack of dripless candles. They last a long time and do not make such a mess.

If I supplement light, it is from twinkly lights. We always grab a few extra boxes of Christmas lights during the season. They use less energy and help supplement the space with soothing light.

By using off grid or near off grid lighting options, the dimmed light allows the body to calm down and you will sleep better. It is a natural way for your body to know that the day is fading. It just doesn’t get the memo with television and phone screens! It is less harsh on the eyes and flattering on faces. It is calming in a way I cannot explain in prose. We are so relaxed and comfortable in the evenings. Between the wood stove and our off grid lighting, our gas and electric bills are less than half of what they would be in a conventional environment. And even though oil for the lamps and candles have a footprint, it is less than blaring all the electric lights. Incorporating non-electric lighting into one’s house is easily done anywhere and is a great step into the world of homesteading.

Some more of my articles you may enjoy:

Visit Ruth’s House

A return to our Amish friends’ house

Oil lamps