Decorating With Notes of Spring

The air has a slightly different feel to it.  A different scent.  The cold is still there.  I bundle up as I go out to do chores.  But there is a tinge of something else upon the morning breath.  Life.  Spring.  By all indications, it is still the dead of winter, but I sense it.  I sense the pulse of the earth strengthening and the awakening of the plant world beneath it all.  Spring is coming.

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Pick up miniature roses from the grocery store.  Water once a week.  They will live until you can transplant them outdoors.  I had miniature roses grow three feet high in the garden before!

My home is still in the dead of winter.  Warm blankets caress chairs and the furnace is on.  The sun shines like a spotlight through the closed windows, still low in the sky.  My spirit falls more easily into stress and I long to be in the garden.  To be outside with a book without wind chill.  What to do?  The only thing I can do is to introduce notes of spring into the house.

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Plants always infuse spring and life into a place.  These are the babies from my very large aloe.  Last week I transplanted them into a new pot.  Its wide berth lets them spill out and catch the sun, giving a warm desert feel to this corner.  The cheap pots at Walmart are usually my go-to.  I love their cheery celadon, rouge, and artist blue colors, but sometimes it is nice to get a special pot that reminds you of something you love.  In this case, the land of the southwest where my heart and inspiration dance.

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It still gets dark out early so candles are still throughout the house.  These Catholic prayer candles sans saints are perfect and long lasting.  I used an old Coca-Cola crate to hold them.

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Found bird nests and unique pieces of wood and stone are set carefully around the house to bring nature in.

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My Farmhouse sign (bought at Cracker Barrel of all places!) doesn’t have a place on the wall right now because I have all my own bright paintings up but it seems cheery on the floor against the wall amongst the geraniums and other plants.

I seem to collect things with bicycles on them.  Bicycles with baskets.  I love the idea of them.  I love the freedom of them.  The perk of being in the city.  The promise of warm breezes and exercise and French bread in the basket picked up from the bakery or fresh flowers.  I have coffee cups with bicycles with baskets that say things like “Do More of What Makes You Happy.”  My daughter, Shyanne, gave me a small bicycle statue.  So Doug gave me a bike for my birthday last year.  With a basket.  I only rode it a few times before the tires were inundated with goat heads.  But a kind friend came over three different times to fix my tires, fill them with fix a flat, put on my basket and other accouterments (a bell included!) and I am ready to take off on the first nice day without Nordic winds.  The bike had a place on the porch but I brought it in.  It adds notes of spring and whimsy to my living room.

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Lastly, I picked up a snazzy pair of bright galoshes.  Oh, spring, I hope to see you soon!

 

Natural Notes and Cozy Decorating

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I carefully arranged the candles and the oil lamps.  Fluffed the fur pillows.  I hung things on the wall, then took them back down.  I took the curtains down.  I added a tchotchke, took it out.  Peace and serenity is what I desired.  I turned the guest room into our bedroom and will turn our bedroom into guest room.  Just wanted a change of pace.  My beautiful rustic bed frame that didn’t fit in the other room greeted me.

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Perhaps it is the two retail shops worth of stuff crammed in my basement.  Or perhaps it is the beautiful books I have read about a Nordic lifestyle.   Maybe it is the time of year, the cool morning causing the furnace to kick on, the wood stove at the ready.  Maybe I am secretly signaling to myself that I need a break.  My other room looks like a tornado hit it.

I have too much stuff.

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Perhaps I will box some things up and add them to the already daunting pile downstairs.  Things I don’t necessarily want to rid myself of, but things that are contributing to the overwhelming feeling of chaos.  For the moment, I just take on one area at a time.

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I have a Nordic decorating mantra at the moment; Use Natural Elements

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Wood, candles, fur (I have opted for faux fur and will risk making polyester extinct), natural elements from the outdoors, simple, sweet, uncluttered, soft, cozy.

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Eight dollar plush blankets and a few throw pillows transform the couches from dog bed to lush reading spots.  Throw pillows are an inexpensive way to add theme.  The blankets can be rolled up when the farm dog comes in and takes his place on the sofa, or they can be washed and a lot wasn’t invested in them.

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I placed the couches back to back to create two distinct areas in the l-shaped living room.  One faces the television for movie nights and one faces the wood stove along with a few rocking chairs.  Kitties placed haphazardly about create a cozy feel.  (Oh my gosh, I have a lot of cats.)

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Back in my new serene bedroom with hardly anything in it, I used only twinkly lights, oil lamps, and candles to light the room.  A rocking chair creates a quiet nook.

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Old trunks stand in for side tables.

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An old heavy door leans against the wall.  I used one of those over-the-door set of hooks to hang sweaters.

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I don’t have any window coverings in my house so the interiors are flooded with natural light in the day and at night twinkly lights and candle light rule.  Such a blessing to have a home.

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The End of Summer

The end of summer.

‘Twas yesterday eve that I felt the shift.  The night temperatures would fall much too cold for summer crops.  I gathered my long shawl- orange and reds to match the changing leaves- across my hair and over my shoulders to keep the encroaching dusk chill away and gathered my baskets.

Out into the gardens with falling light I felt for vegetables and fruits in the dirt, on vines, hidden in lush leaves, swiftly clipping and twisting them into my hands.  Watermelons, butternut squash, yellow squash, poblanos, chilies, jalapenos, green peppers, and dozens upon dozens of green tomatoes came tumbling in.

Into the warm house where the fire was lit and the candles dazzled the rainy night.  For rain it poured and torrents of it came, while lightening bid farewell to the summer night games.  An autumn chill has descended here and the nights will stay cool as the sun tends to fall asleep early and the gardening days of fall are almost done.

The oil lamps lit, and candles brighten pages of good books.  And the darkness descends us into a warming rest.  I took a sip of tea and watched him put another log on the fire.

Welcome to Our New Shop (a video tour)

My friends, I would like to show you around my new shop that opened Saturday!  My daughter and I (and a beautiful array of angelic friends) have been scrubbing, painting, creating, preparing, and decorating this glorious 1800’s store front.  Welcome to Pumpkin Hollow Farm Homesteading Supplies and Classes.  If you are ever in Pueblo, Colorado, do come by!  687 S. Union Ave.  Facebook.com/pumpkinhollowfarm

The Interim Room (and a recipe for a luxurious oil bath)

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I am sitting in the waiting room between the first part of my life and the second.  A space with cream colored walls and carpet and a fireplace run by a light switch.  It’s quiet here in this respite room as I wait for the universe to throw open the next door.  I breathe and listen to my own heart beat.  My lesson here is rest.  Learning to balance rest, work, and play. I am plenty good at the work and play part, not so much with the rest.  I am forced to learn rest before I can move on.  It is imperative to the creation and success of our next ventures.

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I will be forty-two next week.  I am thankful for each and every birthday as I know how precious they are no matter the age.  Perhaps I will be sitting on a beach or running about the San Diego zoo or strolling a really fresh farmer’s market.  I know not, open to adventure, we fly out Tuesday to stay with our friends, Lisa and Steve, who graciously opened their home to us.  We are taking the opportunity to travel some this year before we have to find farm sitters again!

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I am really listening to myself in the silence.  I am highly sensitive person.  I have to be careful what I watch or read as it can completely change my heart rate, ignite fear, create chaos.  I close my eyes and meditate on nothing, or love, or acceptance, or peace as I look out beyond the crows to the snow bound mountains and the low lying clouds that embrace.  I stretch into yoga poses, more flexible and getting stronger than I have been in a long time.  I have written poetry and gratitude every day since the beginning of the year and my poetry collection is growing into an anthology of my life.  I recognize myself more, I embrace change, I look forward to the future, but I embrace today.  Even the dishwasher and dryer (which I still could do without).

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The highlight of this beautiful apartment is the garden tub.  The first I have fit in at nearly six feet tall.  It is wide in girth and long and luxurious as I rest my neck against its back and meld into the warm water in the warm bathroom with candles lit.  My spirit resetting at each wave of water and each meditation prompt, and each yoga move, and each delicious clean dish served from my kitchen.  A lovely interim.

The Luxury Bath

As the bath is filling, light candles.  Let there be silence, it is mesmerizing.

To water add a good drizzle of oil, such as olive, apricot kernel, avocado, sunflower, et cetera.

Add 1/2 cup of baking soda to balance the PH of the body.

Add 1/2 cup of fine sea salt.

Rest in bath and pour a bit of your favorite (not volatile or hot) essential oil under the pouring water.  I particularly love rose, lavender, jasmine, and/or orange depending on my mood.

Breathe and rest completely.

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Rest, I am learning, is as important as work and play.

(You can type “A Walk in the Vineyards” in the Search and find our week of adventures in Napa Valley and San Francisco with Steve and Lisa from a few years ago.)

Simple Country Christmas Decorating (and the surprise gift)

 

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This is our simple abode, our little honeymoon apartment while we wait for farm doors to open.  It is charming and cozy.  Using simple additions such as greenery, lights, and candles, plus things that mean something from Christmases past, one can create a lovely place to dwell in the candlelight of Yule.

A trip outdoors found fresh air, deer resting in the snow covered grasses, and fresh tips of trees that joined the celebration.

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Lights are strung across the ceiling, across the door and window, and the candles and greenery are set.

But the sweetest gift of the season thus far was from my daughter, Shyanne.  I woke up a few nights ago with a sudden devastated thought that all of the kids’ Santa pictures were gone.  Holding them in my hands the other day at her home was an amazing blessing.  While I was busy having a nervous breakdown, figuring out where we going to live, and trying to get out of the home we were in quickly, Shyanne was calmly filling her car with boxes and things and taking them to her apartment.  She gave me back the box of ornaments and I nearly wept for joy.  These little things do mean so much to us.

May this season of holidays bring you all peace.  May they be filled with laughter and family and joy.  And surprise gifts of happiness and love.

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Maryjane Rose wasn’t sure about this Santa! I love him though! Merry Christmas!

 

 

Candle Sweaters and Pin Cushions (homemade gifts)

Well, the craft room is done.  Christmas time is upon us.  This year with our friends and family, and with some of the kids’ gifts we have agreed to give and receive homemade gifts.  This an economical approach as everyone is trying to get by.  It keeps gifts incredibly local.  And it is really nice to get and give gifts from the heart.

Here are a few ideas to get you started on homemade gifts:

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I made these for someone I hope doesn’t read my blog!  Click here to see how to make candles.  It is easy and most folks like candles.  Especially us homesteader types.  I made some in dollar store mugs and some in canning jars.  Put the lid on after the candle sets and you have an instant gift.  I wanted to do something a little extra.

I love the look of a cable knit sweater.  The cable knit throws at Pottery Barn and the pillow shams speak to me of mountain cabins and cozy evenings in.  I am still working on knitting (straight) so I crocheted some little candle sweaters.  They whip up in no time and add a festive and wintery appeal.

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Chain enough that the strand fits around the largest area of the vessel.  Then in the following rows do a combination of double crochets or triple crochets.  Add in spaces, chains, three triples in one hole, create your own pattern!

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Next, a pin cushion for those on your list that enjoy sewing or would like to learn to sew.  Find an old cup and saucer in the cupboard or the thrift store.  Glue the cup to the saucer using a hot glue gun or other good glue.  Next, cut a Styrofoam ball (from the craft store, often used to make planets) in half.  Wrap a piece of beautiful vintage fabric around the ball and use pins, glue, or other means to attach it to the bottom.  Glue the Styrofoam ball into the cup.  Okay, you’re done!  Put a few pins in it so the recipient knows that it is a pin cushion.

For other ideas, visit last year’s post here on homemade, heartfelt gifts.

Happy crafting!

Oil Lamps and Sleepy Tea

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My friend, Faleena, and I had just discovered that we both shared a love for homesteading and a desire to live with less electricity use.  We both love and have oil lamps that we use in the evenings.  We also joked that we had to turn on the overhead lights in order to find the lamps and the matches!

That was over a year ago and we have definitely made vast improvements on our homesteading goals and achievements.  I no longer have to turn on the lights to light the oil lamps!  At dusk each evening we go around the house lighting various candles and oil lamps.  To my son’s dismay, when he is home, I walk straight in the house and without thinking, turn off all the lights.  I am the worst version of the mom throughout history that yells, “Turn that light off! Electricity isn’t free!”  I love how the house looks and feels by candle and oil lamp light.  It is a natural way for our internal clocks to work.  In the evening we naturally slow down.  After dinner, the sun is going down, the lights are lit and our bodies automatically relax.  If we sit in front of the computer all night, or watch television late, or heaven forbid stay awake working, our bodies don’t get the message to get ready to go to sleep.  LED lights and habits keep our bodies awake because they never knew it was time to go to bed!  Probably the reason my Sleep medicine, that I make, is our best seller!

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When we go to bed, Doug goes in the bedroom and lights the beautiful, large orange oil lamp that we found in an antique store.  Doug simply replaced the wick and it is like new.  It is bright and creates good reading light.  My side has a candlestick and an oil lamp.  Those light my way through journal writing and books about farming or about traveling Europe in search of good wine and food.  Doug just got a Nook for Christmas and on the nighttime setting it will cast a nice glow for him to read by.  I do not need more than my oil lamp and candle stick.  You wouldn’t believe how much light comes off of those!

So, what’s the point?  We have a house that is fully outfitted with electricity and gas.  We don’t have a wood stove yet.  We can turn on the heater at all times, cook on the gas stove, we have every modern convenience.  We could go out and replace the oil lamps with table lamps and plug them in.  What is the point of all this homesteading nonsense?  All of this trying to use less energy?  What is the point?  I have asked myself this as well.  Why am I so adamant about this?

  1. When Andy came home one day and saw the tea pot warmer with the coffee press on top, a tea candle keeping it warm, he asked dryly, “Are we Amish now?”  No, but they certainly have some great aspects of their lifestyle, don’t they?  A stress level tremendously less than modern society’s.  A natural rhythm to their work and days. I wake up at dawn, write, drink coffee, take care of the animals, make eggs that the girls just laid and toast from homemade bread and talk with Doug.  We go to work or I work from home on the mini-farm.  Keeping a household together is a full time job outside the shop!  I pack our lunches.  I make dinner and we have dinner together every night along with any children that might be home and any friends or boy/girl friends that come over.  Most of the time anymore, it’s just me and Doug and it is lovely.  We play cards, or games, or read, or watch a movie, or just listen to music and talk.  We light candles, and oil lamps and our bodies know it’s time to unwind.  Asleep by 10:00.  Not a bad existence.  The non-electric items I use, from the washtub to the coffee press, to the oil lamps create a sense of unhurriedness in me.  I methodically wash clothes, hang them on the line, grind coffee, prepare dinner, light candles, make tea…..everything has a rhythm.  I, for too long, lived in the rush rush world that is our current state of society.
  2. Petroleum is not a renewable source.  Electricity, great as it is, has created some disastrous problems in our environment and among people and places and has made it possible for us to live that rush rush existence even though it should have slowed us down.  Perhaps I cannot solve all of the world’s environmental problems on my own.  Indeed, I am using lamp oil to light the lamps, but less energy is used in our house than before.  But, I do believe in the ripple effect.  Surely, by my taking less, less energy, less stuff, growing our own food without synthetic chemicals, and providing for our own needs will leave a little bit more for my grandchildren’s children.

So, here I end by wishing you lots of light; sunlight, oil lamp light, and candle light especially!  Here is a recipe for tea to help you sleep.

Out Like a Light Tea

In a canning jar or sandwich bag combine 1 ounce each hops, California poppy, skullcap, chamomile, and catnip.  You can add valerian for an extra kick but it does have the essence of gym socks.  Fair warning.  Use 1 teaspoon per 1 cup of boiling water.  Steep 4 minutes, sweeten with honey if desired.

Homemade Christmas (and Lip Balm!)

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Gifts from the heart.  Or from your homestead.  Or made by the work of your hands.  Or something you devised from the nearest craft store.  A letter.  Let us all strive this year to give each other things of real worth.  Nothing that needs to be dusted or that may end up in a landfill.  Something that touches our hearts, or souls, or our tummies, or that just makes us smile.  Here are some ideas for homemade gifts and a recipe for the best lip balm you will ever try.

  1. Use rough yarn, or leftover scraps of yarn to whip up little kitchen wash rags and a pot holder.
  2. Anything you canned this year, or if you didn’t can this year, it won’t take long to cook up some jelly!  A beautiful jar of beets, applesauce, or strawberry jam is always a delight to receive.
  3. Infused alcohol: place vodka, rum, brandy or other hard liquor in a pretty bottle and drop in vanilla beans and a little brown sugar, or raspberries, hazelnuts and honey, or lemons and sugar, or cinnamon sticks and maple syrup.  The combinations are unending, the aperitif unparalleled.
  4. Homemade laundry soap (future post).
  5. Candles, made by you or not, candles are always nice to have in any lifestyle!
  6. A pretty tea cup with your favorite blend of tea and a tea ball.
  7. Homemade cookies, fudge, any delight from the kitchen that the recipient may not have had time to make this year.
  8. Your prized recipe with a few of the ingredients.
  9. A letter telling the person how much they mean to you.
  10. Cover half a styrofoam ball with leftover fabric and glue into old teacup flat side down to make a charming pin cushion.  Glue cup onto saucer.
  11. Seeds and instructions.  Your saved seeds even better!
  12. Infused honey.
  13. The best lip balm: In a double boiler (I put the ingredients into a glass measuring cup inside a saucepan of water) you will need 2 and a half ounces of olive oil, almond, grapeseed, or apricot kernel oil.  Add to that 1 oz of shea butter, and 1 oz of chopped up beeswax. While that is melting prepare the lip balm containers (available online, I get mine at http://mountainroseherbs.com ).  Drop 3 drops of essential oil to each container (spearmint, orange, lemon, or vanilla all make yummy lip balms).  When wax mixture has thoroughly melted and you have stirred it with a chopstick several times in the process, pour into each container without cussing.  It’s quick and kind of messy and worth it.  For you will have 20-22 fabulous lip balms in your possession made by you.

Merry Christmas Everyone!

The Entertaining Farmgirl

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People often think of homesteaders as those who go out and survive on their own away from society and civilization.  Most homesteaders know that one cannot become a hermit.  A better term than “self sufficient” would be “community sufficient”.  I could not possibly make and provide everything my family needs.  So, I depend on Miller Farms to help me out when I fall a little short on my gardening goals.  When I need goat cheese for a recipe (like the one  below) I call on Nancy who has goats.  When she needs herbal medicines, she calls on me even though she took my classes and knows how to make them, time catches us all at the end of the day and sadly, we cannot do everything!  I get honey from someone else until I get my hives in the spring.  I provide a lot of preserved food and fresh eggs and physical labor to my mini-homestead.  Even when I get the whole farm and can grow enough animal feed, peeople feed, legumes, eggs, fruit, honey, and can mostly take care of myself, we might fall short on wood one year, or need someone to help us sheer the alpacas.  God didn’t design us to walk it alone!  We can have our little haven but we’ll always seek out the company of like minded people.  Here’s some ideas when you invite them to supper!

Candles and twinkly lights are my arsenol all year long.  The rooms look so beautiful softly lit with candles, oil lamps, and Christmas lights.  I understand once I go off grid, I will have to find a source for solar twinkly lights!  In the meantime, I buy a year’s worth in season.  It is my downfall and my vice, but they make me so darn happy!  Tons of candles (that the cats can’t reach) and oil lamps light up the dark corners and everyone looks fabulous after a hard day working on the farm in the glow of flame (small, not out of control flame).

Inexpensive gold chargers make each place at the table special.  The candlelight bounces off the luster and the table seems to sparkle.  I will one day, when the children move out, buy some crystal wine glasses that will really sparkle!  In the meantime I have mix-matched glassware and small canning jars.  Luckily if you keep pouring the wine, no one cares.  I use my Christmas dishes or fine china.  No use keeping everything locked up.  You’ll never enjoy them in the attic.

This meal is super easy to prepare and oh so delicious!  Serve a bold red wine to balance the goat cheese.  We had a great Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, and Syrah blend from Argentina.  One day the wine will come out of my own cellar!

Oyster Mushroom and Truffle Goat Cheese Pasta

2 oz of dried oyster mushrooms reconstituted (I get mine from Savory Spice Shop)

Marinate mushrooms in 3/4 cup of marsala wine for 30 minutes

In the meantime mince 3 cloves of garlic and saute in 1 Tablespoon of butter

Add mushrooms and wine plus 2 more Tablespoons of butter and cook for 5 minutes.

Add 1 Tablespoon each of fresh parsley and thyme plus a pinch of cayenne

Add 3 shakes of liquid smoke, 1/4 teaspoon of pepper, and 1/2 teaspoon of salt and paprika

Stir in 2 cups of fresh goat cheese, 3/4 cup of cream, 1 teaspoon of maple syrup and heat on low for 10 minutes stirring to blend

Whisk in 1 Tablespoon of flour to thicken. Cook for 5 more minutes or so.

Serve over 16 oz of pasta.

A great big salad drizzled with sesame oil, a bit of rice wine vinegar, a handful of sesame seeds makes a great side dish.  Place salt and pepper at table so everyone can season.