Chilies and Adobe; Pueblo’s Fall Festival

20180922_082944

The streets were blocked off and thousands of people descended upon our small city for the Pueblo Chile and Frijoles Festival.  The bright colors of chile ristras create a festive glow and the annual event corresponds with harvest and the autumn.  I brought home a wreath of colorful chilies.

20180922_14164420180922_13415920180922_114102

At the El Pueblo Museum the mercado took place.  The smells of roasting chilies and the sound of Spanish music filled the air.  Dancers that were traveling through for a Folklorico Mexican dance competition stopped and entertained us throughout the day with beautiful dancing and breathtaking attire.

20180922_081831.jpg

Inside the adobe house where the market once stood many, many years ago, time stands still.  I memorize pieces and admire the simplicity and homestead life.  I gather ideas and breathe in the history beneath my feet.

Building With Cob (a Basic How-To)

IMG_1504

Yesterday I took you with me to tour an enchanting homestead belonging to my friends, Niko and Brandi and their lovely girls.  Niko is a cobb builder by trade.  He owns the Colorado Cob Company.  He can build anything from a chicken coop to a two story house.  I’ll give you all of his information at the end so you can contact him to make you something wonderful for your homestead.

IMG_1431

IMG_1432

These aren’t precise directions since I was talking with folks the whole time I was there but I was so intrigued by this form of building.  If you have been following my writings for some time you know that Doug and I have a great love of New Mexico and adobe structures.  Adobe is made by taking this same formulation and drying it in large bricks.  Cob is more freeform.

IMG_1433

Niko started with a 5 gallon bucket of clay that he sourced from a job site in town where someone was digging out a basement.  He added a 5 gallon bucket of sand (purchased and salvaged off of craigslist from the flooding in the area last year).

IMG_1440

The mix was sifted by hand to eliminate any large clumps or foreign objects like glass or nails.

IMG_1443

IMG_1444

One person on each side shook the tarp, folded it, stepped on it quickly and then the next person would fold it, give it a stomp until it was combined.

IMG_1445

Then the fun began.  A well was made in the center of the dirt and water from the hose added to the middle.  Then children and adults alike stomped in the mud to create a pudding like consistency.

IMG_1446

IMG_1447

IMG_1451

More water was added and a person on each side repeated the process of folding and stomping.

IMG_1452

IMG_1453

They did this until the form freely fell away from the tarp and looked like a burrito!  Doug and Chris were on the other side of the crowd chatting.  I could just see the ideas over yonder bubbling from them.  It will be great fun building our chicken coop and bread oven and whatever else they dream up.

IMG_1454

Straw was added in fine layers so not to allow clumps and this too was stomped in.  This creates a network of strength throughout the clay and sand medium.

IMG_1456

IMG_1457

IMG_1458

IMG_1459

The children had so much fun blending with their feet.  The mix is done when straw can be seen in any clump that is taken off but no thick masses of straw.  It must be all well combined.

IMG_1467

The cob is added over a heavy foundation of large stones and then can be blended over wood outlines and mesh.  For an example he used a large stone by the garden.  Folks helped to blend balls of clay on top of each other using a slip if necessary to moisten and bits of straw to help blend.  A stick can be employed to help blend two masses together.  They created a fun little cat goddess.  The entire batch only made the cat goddess about a foot and half high.  So for large projects a cement mixer or other large piece of machinery may be used.

IMG_1468

IMG_1470

IMG_1477

IMG_1482

The cob is left to dry a few days then a plaster is added.  A five gallon bucket of slip (a blend of clay and water to make a thin paint-like consistency and left to sit for two weeks stirring daily) is poured through two screens into a container.  A shovel is used to sift it though the strainers.

IMG_1489

Sand is then sifted through a screen and once a five gallon bucket’s worth is sifted it is added to the slip mixture in the container.

IMG_1491

IMG_1430

A five gallon bucket of horse manure is added to the mix.  Shovels and a giant mixer is used to blend it into plaster.

IMG_1496

IMG_1500

Niko through a ball of the plaster against the house as a demonstration of its solidity.

IMG_1501

This will be added to the cob structure to create a more protected structure.

Cob building is a project that allows the homesteader to make affordable structures that are unique and artistic.  But also allows the participant to play in the mud!

Colorado Cob Company (click name to be taken to website)

Nikolai Woolf

719-510-7566

He also offers classes and hands on workshops for any sized project!

The Enchanting Urban Homestead (a field trip, class, and future)

IMG_1388

Farmgirl school is supposed to be uplifting, inspirational, and full of fun and hope.  It is also about our life so I suppose not everything can be as such but I inadvertently caused a storm of emotions for many people across the continent and beyond in empathy for us.  We want you to know that we just do not have the extra strength or energy it would take to rip out the wood stove, pipes, fittings and fix the ceiling at this point.  We have no emotional attachment to the stove.  Our hundreds of plants will feed the local wildlife and a lot of hungry girl scouts that are coming Monday to take home a transplant since they helped create the garden in the first place!  We are not sad over these things any longer.  With the encroaching wind mills and the negativity here we are more than ready to head out on our next journey.  So let’s get back to the inspiration and hope part of this blog!  Yesterday we visited a lovely urban homestead that was so enchanting and complete that I am ready to get back into the city.  We were there taking a cob building class to make outdoor structures.  Doug and Chris will be creating a chicken coop, bread oven, and who knows what else!  Tomorrow I will take you through our class to learn to make cob.  But today I want to take you through the enchanted homestead of my friend, Niko and his wife, Brandi at Folkways Farm.  

IMG_1422

IMG_1498

It wasn’t very long ago that I wrote a blog post about Old Colorado City (which is a bike ride away from where we are going to live) and that is where we headed this fine evening.  I met Niko three years ago when Joel Salatin came to speak at a local farm.  He sat with me and Nancy and we talked all things homesteading, about his family, his work as a cobb builder, and we told him about our adventures in homesteading.  I later ran into him building a yurt with our friend when we went to visit the goat she bought from us, and then at the homesteading store, and then…well, you get the picture.  We were meant to meet.

His beautiful wife held their youngest daughter on her hip and spoke freely with the guests.  His middle daughter came up to me and took me with her on a tour of the “forest” where a silent cat lay secretly in the high weeds below trees.  They are easy people, barefoot, comfortable in their surroundings and self and I was instantly drawn to them.

They have created an oasis in town, a secret place of sustenance and wealth.  Herb gardens, Permaculture gardens of food, honey bees, goats, a shed-barn, and places to get lost and read or dream or be.  The plot of land is about the same size as the one we are moving to and I was so inspired and overwhelmed with ideas and joy.

IMG_1506

The cob structures look to be out of a fairy tale.  A sweet chicken coop stands off the back porch.  Another is a bit more elaborate and whimsical.  It is a chicken coop with a bread oven on the side.  One could start a fire in the cooking area to heat the coop on the coldest nights while making some delicious thin crust pizzas.  A door on the other side lets the chickens out to wander a closed in area that felt roomy and lush.  A towering apple tree above provided shade.

IMG_1504

IMG_1423

IMG_1503

IMG_1505

IMG_1403

IMG_1400

IMG_1398

IMG_1399

IMG_1392

IMG_1390

IMG_1397

IMG_1395

The greenhouse built in the back yard was a structure of fine art and skill, a transporting place out of the cold.  A place for tea and books in autumn and a place to grow starts in the spring.  All made from reclaimed windows, mesh, wood, straw, clay, sand, water, manure, and painted with beautiful slips.  Niko is an artist above being a builder.

IMG_1419

IMG_1406

IMG_1402

IMG_1410

IMG_1420

IMG_1415

IMG_1414

IMG_1412

IMG_1418

IMG_1417

IMG_1416

IMG_1421

One can meander from the front herb garden, past the vegetable gardens, visit the bees, duck under the apple tree, wade through weeds and medicinal herbs, follow a path past the goat yard, past bins of delicious compost, a pile of wood, the beautiful green house, wave to the chickens, pass the hemp plants growing tall for fiber, onto the back porch to sit a spell, and visit with the kind family that lives there.

IMG_1494

IMG_1502

IMG_1442

IMG_1429

IMG_1428

IMG_1439

IMG_1497

IMG_1479

IMG_1437

IMG_1404

IMG_1389

IMG_1411

IMG_1409

I spoke with Jillian at the end of the class.  She wanted to make sure that I considered our new venture to be our homestead. I asked what if we jumped forward fifty years and there we still were and her then much older daughter would mention to visitors that her crazy aunt lives in the back.  “That would be fine,” Jillian replied.

And so begins our urban farm adventure.

The Original Homestead Checklist

SAM_0328

First gather your friends and build a fabulous structure out of mud.  The small windows on the outside are so that intruders cannot easily get in.  It keeps children from sneaking in past curfew as well.  The small door is opened so that people can come in and out.  If you open both gates you can let in people with their horses and all their stuff.  Being hospitable is always important when homesteading.

SAM_0330

The front room is where business would be conducted.  You could come and get herbs or herbal medicines from us.  Get your broken arm set, or we could fix a wound, send you home with something for your sick child.  It would also serve as a guest room if anyone doesn’t want to travel home after dinner. (It’s a long horseback ride to Colorado.)

SAM_0332

A watch tower to see how your animals are doing, see the whole compound, see if you are about to be attacked by Indians, or more relevant, by traveling salesmen and Jehovah’s Witnesses.

SAM_0338

The original kitchen.  The fireplace (kiva) is in the corner.  It serves as a cookstove by placing hot embers beneath pots.  The heat rises to the shepherd’s bed above.  We would put grandpa there, a sick child, or a new lamb to keep warm above the fireplace.

SAM_0339

I did barter for a hand grinder for grains so that will make my life a little easier, but one could always get a couple of flat rocks and grind the corn and grains into flour.  It wouldn’t kill me to work out a little anyway.

SAM_0340

This is Maryjane’s swing for when I am watching her while working in the kitchen.  It is covered in sheepskin to keep her nice and toasty.  Here is something I learned, see that black vase in the background?  I can still order olive oil and have it come up from Mexico on the Camino Real.  Or, if I am a little strapped for cash I can always use lard.  It might be hard to be a vegetarian on this homestead!

SAM_0336

These good looking men are standing in front of the hornos, the outdoor ovens.  Simply start a fire in them and close it up.  When it is down to embers, sweep the embers out and put a small piece of wool in there.  If it burns, it is too hot.  When the wool becomes a light cinnamon color it is ready to place bread into.  No heating up the kitchen!  I wonder if Doug will build me one.

SAM_0348

Coming out of my refrigerator.  I am afraid it was rather empty.  I won’t even ask if Doug will build me one of these.

SAM_0342

These are Churro sheep.  They have great, thick wool that makes wonderful blankets, and I will take their word for it, good meat.

SAM_0341

They were exceptionally friendly and Mark had a great time petting them through the fence and speaking softly to them.  It was nice to see him taking a break from video games and out seeing animals and history.

SAM_0333

How fitting that the weavers, carders, and spinners were there.  I learned how to card my future wool and turn it into roving.

SAM_0334

Imagine all the beautiful, natural plant dyes out there at my fingertips!  Many plants we use for medicine can also be used to turn yarn into lively colors.

SAM_0354

Welcome to my future homestead. (or a variation of it.) A gentleman that tagged along with our group was baffled with my absolute awe of everything.  He said, “You wanting to live like this would last one day.”  I answered a bit too quickly, “You don’t know me!”

SAM_0359

Pat and I taking a break from our many chores on the homestead.

SAM_0327

The weather here is so beautiful and the vacation is most appreciated!  If you are in Santa Fe, I recommend that you visit Las Golondrinas.  It is a wonderful place to see how things were a few hundred years ago.  There are many things that we could implement now.  Sometimes I suspect technology has actually made our lives more difficult instead of easier.  We are losing time, are frazzled, and it seems to take longer to do simple tasks.  Getting back to a simpler path is my goal for this year.  To find that homestead.  To live healthier and more free.  To find what I want and live it.  My birthday is tomorrow so this makes me think harder on what I want to do the next year.  I feel like life is short and if we want to live a particular way, we ought to get going on it!

SAM_0353

This is my new favorite saint, San Ysidro.  The patron saint of farmers.  May this year be the year that we get a farm!  Chase your dreams, friends!

SAM_0324