Old Stuff (why buying used is the way to a sustainable homestead)

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Shielding our eyes, we stared up to the tops of the building facades stating 1885 or some odd old number in stone.  Buildings stretch along the street that would have once held the needs of a western town.  The train station held its ground- now a senior center- near the downtown streets.  I could just picture the comings and goings of buggies and hoop skirts, the sound of the train whistle on the wind.  The shops in Florence, Colorado are now filled with art and antiques, bygone eras of items still in good preserve.

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Oh, I’m no better than anyone else.  If we need something it is very easy to hop on Amazon and in two clicks have it shipped to the door for not a lot of cash.  Walmart is a back up.  Yikes, all that plastic.  All those things just doomed to break in record time forcing us to buy again!

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The three quart cast iron sauce pan shined and its wooden handle was sound.  I had never seen this sized pan.  Two quarts is oft too small, and a soup pot is a bit much at times, but three quarts…my goodness, that’s just right.  So was the price.  Its tiny match, a pot just big enough to heat up some barbecue sauce, came along for the ride back to our homestead as well.

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The bottom of a butter churner, a wooden pestle, and a large grain scoop that will never fail also joined our foray.  We sipped coffee over breakfast and enjoyed the views the town offered.

 

If you are in need of something new, be it measuring cups (I love my old battered aluminum ones), coffee pot (percolator anyone?), a dress, a whisk, a piece of furniture, Corningware,  dishes, a stock pot, an oil lamp, a new coat, a dutch oven, or a funky 1960’s glider, you can probably find it out there.  Try antique stores, garage sales, Ebay, or second hand stores.  There is usually not a thing wrong with old items, they have simply been traded in for a new, plastic ones.

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The benefits of buying things antique is that they have been around this long, they will last and last for you as well.  They are generally cheaper or comparable in price to their new fangled counterparts.  And they add charm to your homestead.  It’s the best recycling of all and includes an entertaining half day of “the thrill of the hunt.”  We love visiting new towns and the treasures they keep hidden behind 1800’s storefronts.  I love the feel of a good whisk in my hand that a great-grandmother likely used before me, whisking eggs from the chicken coop.

All the Beautiful Collections

What do you collect?

I am not a great lover of tchotchkes because I am not a great lover of dusting.   I do not need fifty seven plastic Santa Clauses no matter now much I love him.  In Country Living magazine they have a section that showcases this gal who collects so many things.  So many useless things.  But if they bring her joy or remind her of a time long gone or of her mother, who am I say they are useless?

When we lost our rented farm and became homeless (not completely homeless thanks to the goodness of friends allowing us to stay in guest rooms with our nine cats until we could get on our feet which took six months), I lost so many collections.  Antiques, dishes, silverware, New Mexican Santos, books….everything.  For the first few years we just gathered what we needed.  Why collect when it could be gone in a moment?  Why waste energy and money on material items?  Simplicity!  Freedom!

When we were first married we both had a few Coca Cola items.  I had purchased my first one from an antique store down on south Broadway when I was twelve years old using my babysitting money.  Together we had the beginnings of a regular collection and friends bought us pieces and we bought pieces and it was a full blown collection before I tired of it and sold it all at a garage sale.

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Back at the farm, while we were reeling from loss and devastation from losing everything, my daughter, Shyanne, was calmly moving some special things to her apartment.  She had saved the Christmas ornaments we had collected over many travels and years.  And she saved the wedding dishes.  She gave some to me when we moved into an apartment.  They are beautiful English Castle.  She has the rest.  I want her to have the whole collection.

Times change and our tastes change and different things become practical and memory filled.  I do love useful things.  Of course, over two of said items is probably just collecting.

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I love aprons.  They are so sensible.  I wear them most everywhere.  A pocket for my keys.  They keep dish water from splashing on my clothes.  They keep my clothes clean in case Doug wants to whisk me off to dinner.  They have a delicate feminine flounce to them that takes me back to a bygone era and makes me feel pretty.

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I love book bags.  I have never found a purse I like.  I love to throw my wallet, some tissues, my daytimer, a pen, a writing book, a great reading book or magazine, and my water bottle into a unique bag.  Each bag showcases a side of me.  A bear having tea.  Lots of cats and books.  A typewriter.

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Plants.  I collect plants, I admit it!  I am truly out of windows now though.

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Books.  I can be frugal as can be.  Envelope system, check.  Budget, check.  Book store, we didn’t need that much grocery money anyway!  Even if I don’t care for the book, I keep it.  I adore books.  I want them to be available for others to read.  I love bookshelves of creativity and knowledge at my fingertips.  (I also love libraries and read a fair amount of their books too, but I also love taking my time, and a fresh new cover pleases me so.)  We didn’t move our books when we moved to the country.  We had such a huge collection of books while homeschooling but didn’t have the strength or time to move them all.  I wish I had.  I wish I had those books.  The ones I had to give away when we left our farm….an autographed copy of Jane Goodall’s book…..so many books….are gone.  I am clinging to these books I have now.

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I know, I know, they are just material items.  I know that, you know that, but material items bring some joy to our life.  They remind us of things that made us who we are.  They inspire us to move towards the person we want to be.  I had just mentioned to someone that I wanted to find Fiesta dishes.  My love of the southwest is not a secret and my home doesn’t hide that fact.  Oh Fiesta dishes would make me ever so happy having my coffee in the morning.  A student and friend of mine, out of the blue, offered me nine sets for a crazy low price.  They were her mother’s.  Her mother passed away.  Can’t take it with you.  I hope she loved them while she was here.  I know I will love them.  They inspire me and brighten my morning.

What do you collect?

 

 

The Well Stocked Pantry and Repurposed Antiques

I love interesting furniture pieces.  These were cubbies in a hardware store in 1950.  I love the original stenciled numbers.  I bought it at an antique store ten years ago and it was the primary showpiece, holding my tincture bottles, in my shops.  It now holds a place in my kitchen.  I realize that it is getting really dingy looking.  Sixty-nine years of army green can only hold up for so long.  (Spoiler alert!  Next week I am revamping my kitchen.  Can you guess what color the cubbies are becoming?)  I just sold my Hoosier yesterday to make room for my new kitchen idea.  It held glasses and barware.  You can take any old piece and reimagine its purpose.

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I love this idea with the pantry items.  It looks fun and unique while being practical.  Things do tend to get lost in the back of the pantry or spoil.  I end up buying way too many of one thing over time, thinking I am out.  This is a great way to keep track of what pantry pulses I have on hand.  It makes grocery planning easy.  And it serves as dinner inspiration.  Choose a grain or legume, see what veggies I have on hand, think up a theme, and go!  Dinner is on.

The Yarn Weasel

We walked by the mounds of junk looking for treasure.  Cups of coffee in our hands, my husband and I looked among the stacks of items in the tents.  Broken tools, old dishes, and VHS tapes crowded overpriced lanterns and cast iron.  Then I saw it.  I have never seen one before but I knew it instantly.  I looked sheepishly at the price then let my jaw fall slack.  I picked it up in case anyone else recognized it.  Of course,  it was twenty dollars because no one knew what it was!  A Yarn Weasel.  From the 1700’s.

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One could take their freshly spun yarn and spin it directly onto the yarn weasel from the spinning wheel then pull it off the side, twist, and make a perfectly lovely skein of yarn.  Or spin it onto the weasel and knit from it.

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I tied the end of the skein of yarn to one dowel and spun the contraption to unravel the yarn.  It was easier and much faster than carefully winding a skein into a ball for crocheting.  Once it was on the wheel, I began crocheting a blanket for my granddaughter who is expected to be born next month.  Without stopping to untangle or rewind balls of yarn that have toppled off of my lap, I whipped through the skein quickly and was onto the next.

The wood is very dry so now that I am done with the afghan for Miss Ayla Mae, I will oil the wooden relic with walnut oil to seal the wood so that it won’t crack and will give it a beautiful color.

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Yarn weasels can be found for well over a hundred dollars on Ebay, but look for a good deal online or at flea markets.  A lot of folks don’t know what to do with them, or wouldn’t use them anyway and you may be able to get one for a song.  This yarn weasel does look ever lovely next to the wood stove in our little, old fashioned home on our little, old fashioned homestead.

In Hilda’s Farmhouse

20180802_152433As I carefully unwrapped each fragile teacup, each plate, I was overwhelmed with emotion.  Each dish is over a hundred years old, hand painted from Denmark, and so beautiful.  How did the young newlywed, the new farm wife, feel as she carefully unwrapped such fine things on her wedding?  A hundred years separates and joins us in a flash of a tea cup.

My beautiful friend, Kat (whom I called mom) had a great love of history, and homesteading, and family.  She knew that I might be the only one to appreciate such things as old linens, and wind up clocks, and this and that, and so for each holiday I was gifted with heirlooms.  Hilda was her grandmother, a farm wife in Iowa and in my home I have her things.  I have never met her but we are connected through time as farm wives.  As women.  As housewives.  We are connected by our love of Kat and by the material things she used that carry memories and love.

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Gunhilda was her given name, but she always went by Hilda.  Her family was Danish and her husband was from Denmark.  A darling looking man named Jorgen, or George once he came to the states.  They were married in 1918 when Hilda was twenty-three years old.

I have read her old postcards often.  I am fascinated by her friends’ scripts and brief notations.  How sweet to receive such correspondence on a snowy day.

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I put on one of the aprons that Hilda made.  They are starting to fray but they are sturdy and lovely in their simple way.  A good sized pocket to gather eggs.

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I will make tea for the ladies that might come by for a visit.  Just as she would have done in that farmhouse past the rows of corn a hundred years ago and just as women will do a hundred years from now.  We are all connected by that nurturing spirit, love of family and community, and of simple things like hand painted dishes so fine.

Redecorating the Farmhouse, part 3-vintage item revival

Our Lady of the Goats

It has been three years since we lost everything and left our farm.  Sure feels like a lifetime ago!  We had our family and a few things and started over.  I used to love the thrill of the hunt, the search for the usable off grid item.  I had no desire to purchase items for mere decoration, they needed to be usable.  I had every homesteading item you can think of before we left, and truth be told- material items or not- it has taken awhile to fully heal from loss.

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So, for the first time, I was able to walk through our nearby antique stores without lamenting that “I used to have that!”  I simply kept my eye open for a bargain that I could use.  A relic to make my life simpler.  Not simpler in the modern theory of flipping a switch or hitting a button, but in the beautiful space in time that hand grinding coffee beans takes, or being mesmerized by the percolator.  Or curling up beneath an oil lamp with a delicious book.  Or knowing if the power went off, we’d be none the wiser as our clocks ticked, our lights shone, and our wood stove puffed out smoke into the cool air.  The tea kettle on, a dog at my feet, a cat on my lap.  Goodness, I know no better life than one like this.  The homestead revival.

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Here are a few pieces to keep an eye out for that can go to work in your home.  They are pleasingly decorative in their own right, creating a lovely old fashioned coziness to the home, but are also useful and trusty.

Oil lamps are amazing, beautiful, useful, and fairly easy to come by.  You can, of course, buy all these things from a great homesteading catalog, like Lehman’s, but that takes some of the fun out of it!  Make sure the knob on the side works.  You can get wicks at Walmart.  They create the most lovely glow and help the body realize that bedtime is soon, as opposed to LED lights which awaken the body more.

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The coffee grinder is imperative on a homestead!  This way you can purchase five pounds of whole beans at a time at a more affordable price (organic, fair trade please!).

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There a few options for coffee.  I have long loved my French press.  It makes delicious coffee and you can keep it hot by placing it on a tea warmer with tea candle.  This percolator was in perfect condition at the antique store and the price couldn’t be beat.  There is something soothing about the gentle perking of coffee coming through the lid.  It could also go on a wood stove if the gas weren’t available.

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In this picture we have a great tea kettle that goes from stove to wood stove.  A beautiful oil lamp.  A pile of library books and musical instruments.  There are many ways to keep oneself busy without screens!

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I have three amazing clocks that I got from my friends, the Jensens’.  I have the lovely, old grandfather clock that shows up in many of my photos.  I have a fun cuckoo clock in the kitchen.  And I have this melodic, wind up clock.

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Simple baskets and reusable bags (perhaps that you make out of old clothing) are great to take to the market, or to bring in the harvest for supper, or carry books back to the library.  Try with all your heart not to buy or bring home another new thing that is plastic.

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Use less energy by unplugging cell phone chargers, anything that lights up, and shutting down your computer at night.  Turn off the television and go for a walk.

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Being outdoors hits the reset button for our lives.  A nice walk at dusk, or a hike on the weekends, helps bring life back into focus.  Finding things to do that have a lower footprint inadvertently gives you things to do that are great for mental and physical health.  We may have more health care options in this day and age but I bet our fore bearers were actually healthier and happier because they had purpose, family, and kept busy.  They had the magical satisfaction of work well done, of having purpose, and the space of mind to relax during methodical tasks.

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There are many ways that we can lessen our load and the one we have put on the planet.  Spend time with family, eat homegrown or local food, laugh, read, be.  And maybe read by oil lamp.

Unfeathering the Nest

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When I was very young I loved it when I would come home from school and my mother had rearranged my bedroom.  I loved decorations and furnishings even early on.  Fast forward to thirteen years old and you would find me and my best friend, Susan, shopping the antique stores down south Broadway with our babysitting money.  I still have an antique Folgers can in my kitchen from one of our excursions.  I couldn’t wait to decorate my first home.  Off white lace curtains, hand me down furniture, painted walls, my own artwork on the walls.  I have found treasures and trinkets, unique pieces, and have held onto heirlooms from our respective families.  Our home has always been a reflection of our love for cozy quarters and a house full of family and friends.  It is easy to feather a nest.  I have been doing it for thirty years.  How does one unfeather a nest?

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Sometimes we begin to view things as an extension of ourselves.  Something holds a memory.  Something holds a belief.  Something makes us happy to see it.  It is often hard to look at a material item and see it for what it is, wood, nails, paint, metal, glass.  It is not easy to part with things that we have used to decorate our homes, that belonged to our grandmother, that our children gave us, or that we collected over the years on vacations.  So how does one deal with watching each piece leave one by one?  How does one get rid of all of their possessions?  We know some folks have the trauma of natural disaster that does it for them.  I do not know which is harder, having everything gone in one fell swoop, or consciously watching each piece walk out the door.  Here are some tips I have learned to downsize one’s possessions.

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1. Realize that the memory associated or the person it reminds you of does not leave with the piece.  You will still remember great grandma’s smiling face at the door, the cruise on your honeymoon, your child in second grade.  Getting rid of yearbooks and old drawings and awards and journals and clothes and furniture does not take away anything from your life history, memories, or people in your life.  Detach the memory from the piece and you will just see another item that will eventually deteriorate.

2. Imagine the item torn or broken.  I have Doug’s grandmother’s watch.  I bet it is eighty years old.  It is beautiful and intricate and worthless.  It does not work, it cannot be repaired, then when dropped accidentally the face fell off.  It no longer looked intricate or beautiful.  It was just a paper face.  If the leg broke off a table, would it still be valuable to you?  Envision things as broken and see if they still hold a place in your heart.

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3. Imagine moving all that stuff!  We helped our friends move out of another friend’s home.  That latter friend has to fix his home up to sell.  Many, many years of accumulated items clutter the yard and home.  I do not know how he will do it.  The land we are on now holds a collection of discarded items that once held value and now look like a giant dump!  Things break, they rust, they deteriorate, they are just things.  When Doug’s grandmother died no one wanted any of her things.  It became a burden for those involved to empty her apartment.  It is hard for those left behind to sort and try to give away everything that the person in life held dear.  The material items do not hold the same memories to the ones trying to clean up the accumulation of things.

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4. What is the actual value of an item?  I paid $300 the gorgeous New Mexican style armoire that held our television.   It is a heavy, sturdy piece in great condition.  I have it for sale for a hundred dollars and no one wants it.  I thought I would get $10,000 for all of our antique collections, farm implements, animals, collectables, fine china, heirlooms, and stuff.  Closer to $2000 will be the final number.

Material items are really worthless.  Using just what we need and releasing attachments to finite items can help unfeather the nest.  It makes it easy for the next generation to sort our things when we pass away, leaves us with less housework and burdens, and gives us more freedom.  The real treasures are the lives that share ours; our cats, friends, children, neighbors, wildlife, people, they are what is important, not an antique Folgers can.

What the Pantry Holds

We know what the root cellar held, and the importance of canning, what the freezer held, and we’ve been dehydrating .  And indeed, this year’s root cellar is going to be even more complete than last season’s, the freezer is nearly full, and dehydrating is in the works.  All great means of preparing for winter, but we haven’t discussed perhaps the most important; staples!

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Putting up food is not just a “prepper” ideal for potential zombie attacks, nor is it folly or old fashioned.  It is smart.  One good snow storm or emergency could leave you home bound. One lost job or identity theft could keep you from spending money.  Having a house stocked with food is important and takes away a lot of worry and fear.

In a pinch, you could blend together baking powder, oil, flour, salt, and water to make fluffy biscuits for breakfast or guests.  Use jam from the root cellar and you have a fabulous treat.  You can make bread from just salt, yeast, flour, and water.  You can make a lot of delicious meals more filling with cooked farro, or barley, or couscous, or rice.  Dried beans are at the ready to simmer all day to enjoy on a cold winter’s night with some warm bread.

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Organic bulk grains, nuts, seeds, beans, legumes, and flours are fairly inexpensive (two bucks a bag for beans) and can make several meals complete.  I store mine in canning jars so that I can see what I have.  Otherwise they become mountains of staples in the pie safe that I forget I had.  One positive thing about closing my retail front was reclaiming one of my display pieces.  It is a sixty plus year old hardware shelving unit with several cubbies.  I love the look of it, the numbered spaces, and the vintage appeal it lends to my kitchen.  It is becoming a wine rack/staples case.  Filled with canning jars of nuts, beans, and different grains and flours, and of course, wine, it will lend an easy air to cooking in my kitchen this winter.

Look for split peas, lentils, pinto beans, white navy beans, rice, barley, couscous, cornmeal, walnuts, pine nuts, any thing you enjoy, and fill the canning jars with them.  Display.  They look great out and make cooking dinner more inspiring.

100 Year Old China (and other heirlooms to use)

There are attics and basements everywhere filled with unique treasures.  Grandmother’s china, photographs, clothing, old aprons, beautiful linens, scrumptious cookbooks.

I have been collecting aprons for years now and friends have gifted me with hand sewn beauties that belonged to their grandmothers.  I have Doug’s grandma’s old, old, china.  I have fabulous old cookbooks.  I have things that I do not want to get ruined.

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I think many people do not want to use their old treasures for fear of ruining them.  I understand.  I am saddened that some of my old apron pockets are ripping off along with the material they are attached to because I wear aprons every day and especially to the farmer’s market where I keep everything in my apron pockets.  I do not want any of our heirloom dishes to be broken.  They are truly irreplaceable.  I don’t like that the pages are falling out of my old cookbooks.  I don’t want any of my vintage items to be destroyed.  I do not want to keep them in a box to keep safe either though.  What would be the good of that?

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What is the point of having things if you don’t use them?  My grandmother has closets and closets of dolls she paid hundreds of dollars for that were supposed to be worth thousands now.  They are not.  My mother-in-law gave me a box of towels from the May Company from the early 60’s with the tags still attached.  Why?  They don’t look so pretty now but we are using and loving them!  Things are meant to be used.  They will either waste away unappreciated and unloved in a box or can be part of a busy family’s lovely day to day living.  Material things may not be important but they do add or subtract from one’s atmosphere and living among beautiful and practical items does make life nicer.

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If you don’t use it or don’t love it, pitch it.  Give it away.  If you love it, even if you don’t want it to be ruined, get it out and use it.  Love it.  Enjoy it.  Crystal dishes for breakfast.  An old tablecloth on the family table.  Don an old apron.  Honor the person who made it or bought it by enjoying it.  Heirlooms are meant to be seen and used!

Farmgirl Decor

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“What do you want to be when you grow up?”  “I want to be a mommy, and a housewife, a teacher, a nurse, a veterinarian, a singer, a dancer, a model, a nun, a fashion designer, an interior designer, a writer, and live in the country.”  That was always my response growing up.  I would rattle off at least five starting with a mommy, a housewife, a teacher, a writer, and then one of the others.  I have never answered with just one job.  And I never will!  I guess being an herbalist kind of combined the nurse and vet.  Teaching herbalist classes and dance classes covers the teaching.  Karaoke every Saturday gives me my diva fix.  The nun thing didn’t work out though I still think it would be have been wonderful.  I paint pictures of them instead.  I am a writer.  I shared with you my fashion designing and now I’d like to share my interior designing.

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Home is where the heart is, someone said, and it is also the place where family gathers, we rest, we dream, we work, we refuel.  It is a direct reflection of our soul.  No matter how big or small the house may be, it speaks of you.  You can use your home to help you achieve your dreams by setting up a space where it can be a mirror of what you love and aspire to.  It can inspire and comfort.  Your emotions will be notably different in a messy place as opposed to a clean place.  Too clean of a place can make one uncomfortable.  Colors can bring out aspirations and create calm or passion.  Items can invoke good memories or clutter.

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This is my house.  It is not really my house.  I rent it from a lovely older couple who could no longer live here.  It is almost a hundred years old and speaks of remodels and old bones.  Of flood survivals and pioneers selling their water rights.  Of old gardens and housewives.  Of ancient chickens and attempted fruit trees.  Of laughter and hope.  It feels good here.  The color was a dirty lime in the living room.  It did nothing for my happy levels.  I painted it peach.  I sat there crying, for it was so bright in the lit up room that I couldn’t function.  It is now cinnamon.  Lush and comforting.  Not too bright when the sun bathes the room, and very romantic and secure when the candle light dances around the corners in the evenings.

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We realized we were re painting over wall paper, which seems such a shame.  In Emily’s room we discovered a chimney that had been painted over and in a top built-in cupboard sparkled the original wallpaper.  Pink, gold swirls, elegant.  Who’s room was that?  It’s about to be home to Emily and a little one next month and so another occupant puts their imprint on the space.  Touching it with memories and dreams.

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This is not my homestead but I have filled it as if it is.  For, even on my own homestead, my stay may be brief, or natural disaster could seize, or any number of things could happen.  So, I feel that while we are here, it is ours.  My love is New Mexico.  Deep in my soul, I belong there but may never live there.  The colors, the food, the history, the architecture all sings to me.  Lulls me.  I am saddened if I think too long on it so I have turned the living room into Santa Fe North.  Pieces I picked up in Santa Fe or from my friend, Marco, at his shop Camino Real for not many pesos.  Craig’s List finds and antique stores along with Doug’s grandma’s fabulous table that seats around sixteen fit perfectly in the space.  Nothing cost me over $200 except the piano.

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The living room still holds its farmhouse flair and the other rooms maintain their farmhouse dress as well.  Simplicity is now pulsing through my veins and a great many truck loads of items went to charity as more pile up in the garage in my attempts to only have what brings me supreme joy.  The paintings are all my own work and I love them for their stories they tell so that I can remain silent.  I do not love overhead lights, in fact I scream as if I were a vampire and turn the lights off throughout the house should they be on.  Twinkly lights frequent the space long after Santa is gone.  Candles and oil lamps and bright sunny windows do the rest.  Pictures of vintage farm posters.  I adore these.  I will have a farm.

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What do I want to be when I grow up now?  A mom, a housewife, a grandma, a college professor, a writer, and a farmer.  May we always have a home to come home to filled with love, inspiration, and laughter.