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
I had a great, new experience yesterday. I was on the radio! I was interviewed about plant medicines and homesteading.
If you want to hear the interview here is the link!
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.
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.
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).
The mix was sifted by hand to eliminate any large clumps or foreign objects like glass or nails.
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.
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.
More water was added and a person on each side repeated the process of folding and stomping.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
A five gallon bucket of horse manure is added to the mix. Shovels and a giant mixer is used to blend it into plaster.
Niko through a ball of the plaster against the house as a demonstration of its solidity.
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)
He also offers classes and hands on workshops for any sized project!
Yesterday the amazing women in my herbalism course took an herb walk around the property to see what was in bloom now. The skeletons of many herbal medicines and bushes stood stark still but the life was brimming around their bases. We could see Artemisia, Lady Sage, used to regulate periods, and Yucca, also called Soapwort, which contains saponin. The leaves are boiled to make soap and the root is one of the best anti-inflammatories I know of. There were many pain relievers and liver tonics to be harvested. Almost like nature knew that after a long winter of meat and wine to keep warm (and the deplorable lack of fresh vegetables!) that our livers and organs would appreciate a bit of a cleansing. Dandelions waited to be made into teas and salads and tinctures. Motherwort and lungwort sprang to life in my garden. And knowing that we would be sore this time of year with all the work spring brings, cleaning, planting, birthing, mucking, building, the willow bark, cottonwood barks, and pine needles stood at the ready for relief. Ready for salves and tinctures.
Along with the medicines that were available, the herb garden was put in yesterday morning. It looks quaint now but by July the bed will be raucous with life, bees, butterflies, hummingbirds, riotous herbs reaching their hands up and color splashes worthy of any palette. Antibiotic herbs mixed with digestive herbs mixed with herbs for risotto. It is close to the kitchen and will create a lovely backdrop to outdoor cooking. The ducklings became all of a sudden quite brave and marched past me and my helper and took a ginormous bite out of a basil plant! I shall have to locate some small fencing.
After the pantry began to empty its contents in wintery meals I became quite disenchanted with green beans, and carrots, and beets, and the like. Lord, I need variety. This year I spread my wings and planted new items for us like parsnips and rutabagas. Okra, arugula, mustard. Other interesting food crops like scorzonera joined the masses. A carrot-like tap root with medicinal flowers. Yesterday I made a large batch of Ragu and will can the rest of what we didn’t eat. Food is everywhere, I just need to be mindful to find it in the wild, try new things, and not let things go to waste!
I am thankful for this lifestyle. We are fiercely in tune with weather patterns, beautiful natural events, and the seasons of life here. More and more fear disappears as I look out on all the food and medicine the Creator provided for us. May 1st was Beltane. A lovely agricultural celebration of the renewal of life and of Mother Earth. And may we all find renewal and peace as well.
My book is out! I sold several copies over the weekend. It is filled with articles about pursuing your dreams, living a simpler life with less bills (so less work), and breathing in every day, along with everything you need to know about creating your own grocery store (preserving), gardening, soap making, candle making, medicine making, gift making, starting a farm, getting farm animals, and SO much more. It is a hoot to see it in print.
There are some things I learned while compiling articles from the last two and a half years of blogging and editing the final book. I was horrified to find that there is at least one typo in every post. I shall not be so hard on writers while reading books any longer.
I also learned that I have repeated myself often over the years and at times contradicted myself….or maybe just changed my mind….or maybe found a way to do it better!
I learned that we have learned so much in such a relatively short amount of time and that it is never too late to chase that dream and learn new skills.
The universe always conspires to make dreams and goals come to fruition.
We have had a great time practice farming and look forward to being full time farmers and teachers now. If you are interested in receiving my book, just send $22 plus $6 shipping to Katie Sanders, 7080 Calhan Road South, house 2, Calhan, CO, 80808. I am so excited to share with you all that we have learned. I can’t wait to see what we learn this year!
There are many fabulous lifestyles out there but I am so grateful that Doug and I live the one we have. We prayed, worked, and planned out this life and we were gifted the life of a farmer. There are others out there who are enamored by this lifestyle as well. Young or old, city or country, there are people out there who would like to be homesteaders. Or at least see if it is the life for them.
Last year I was surprised when an email came across my screen from a young man in New York. He and his girlfriend wanted to come across the country in their RV and intern with us. At first I didn’t think there would be much to do. I mean, we pretty well have a routine, but as I started to look around I realized I had so much to teach them! Farming, canning, herbalism, farmer’s markets, animal care, cheese making, anything they wanted to learn before embarking on their own farm adventure could be taught in my small kitchen and plot of land. The thought was sound, the timing was lousy.
I had just lost one of my best friends as well as a handful of other friends and beloved animals. We were in limbo not knowing if we had to move. They were struggling in their relationship and wondering what they should do. We were all watching every penny. They were distracted, I was distraught. We fought like new roommates. But, what I did love was when we got into a groove and were able to just work and talk and enjoy each other’s company. Movie nights in the living room trading off meal making and enjoying a bottle of wine. We will be in touch with them forever, I am sure. A moment in time that we shared our lives together.
I think it is important to share our lives, our skills, our passions. Let folks try it out before they cancel cable television and spend their paycheck on seeds! Give them free classes in exchange for help. We are only two people. Our daughter, Emily, and her daughter, Maryjane will come to stay here every Thursday and help me get ready for the market Friday. We will get our medicines filled and harvests ready to take to market bright and early Friday morning in Woodland Park. Doug will be doing the Thursday market in Colorado Springs by himself because one of us has to be here to milk in the morning. We’ll milk early Saturdays and do that market in Elizabeth together. I have classes planned for all day Sundays. Doug works at the coffee shop Monday and Tuesday. We have a large farm to care for this year and more animals along with our bustling Apothecary and all the preserving we do. Our little dairy is growing too.
I suppose if anyone wants to intern and learn to live this way, I will welcome them with open arms and a bottle of wine!
We try to learn two new skills each year. There are some skills that are imperative to the survival of a homesteader. Actually, not just for homesteaders, anyone who is trying to live as simply and on as few funds as possibly (less work for a paycheck=more freedom to live life how you want). It is nice to have more than one person living on a homestead (doesn’t have to be a spouse) because generally what one person can’t do, or doesn’t care to do, the other can. And for the things that neither are very good at, bartering with someone that has that skill set is invaluable. Here is a rough list of important skills to learn to be a homesteader.
1. Cooking– I have been cooking since I was quite small and Doug was a bachelor for some time before we got married so we both know how to cook. That doesn’t mean that restaurants weren’t our worst vice! We haven’t sworn off restaurants completely and we do go out more than our other homesteading friends. I do, however, cook the vast majority of our meals. And if I am too tired to cook in the morning Doug will fry up a delicious hash (fried potatoes, onions, garlic, eggs, and any vegetables or fish we have).
Cooking is not only obviously important to the modest budget required in a homestead, but it is better for you as well. You need to stay strong while doing farm chores! It is also much more ecologically friendly. You can decide how many pesticides to put in your body, how many miles your food travelled, and how many boxes you put in the landfill.
We rarely buy anything in a box. We use whole ingredients and in bulk if possible. Grains, fresh vegetables fruits, or the ones we canned or froze, fish, legumes, eggs, milk, and cheese, make up our various meals along with a lot of great spices and flavor. It is easy to put together meals with so much selection. And because they weren’t in boxes, but rather larger bags or serve yourself, they were cheaper too. I can add my own flavorings without all the additives.
2. Gardening– Being able to grow your own food is a wondrous thing. The cost of seeds is much less than the cost of groceries with the added benefit of being in the sunshine, knowing where your food came from, having all the nutrients still available, and helping out the bees.
One can successfully garden in a plot, the front yard, in five gallon buckets on the porch, anywhere really! I combine all of these to get enough space!
3. Canning– After World War II, women wanted a different life. Canning, cleaning, country living, many normal ways of life were shunned in favor of city living, jobs, packaged food, cleaning ladies, and the earlier ways of living were thought of as mundane and peasant, if you will.
Canning is a great way to survive on a fixed income. By putting up all the produce the summer brings (even if that means buying a bushel from a nearby farm) we don’t let all that glorious produce go to waste and come winter we scarcely ever need to go to the grocery store! Just look in the pantry!
Canning is enjoyable as well. It is a great sound when those jars click shut. It is particularly fun with margaritas and other women to help!
4. Fencing– This was one of the first things Doug had to learn and quick. Come two squirrely, runaway goat kids, we had to learn to reinforce and put up good fencing on the cheap. We have found that T-posts and pasture fencing are affordable options and moveable if necessary. We will easily be able to fence in a large area off of the current goat pen for the goats and new arrivals.
5. Building and Fixing– I grew up in a home where my mom taught us girls how to do every domestic chore. I am grateful for that. I have never pushed a lawn mower or changed my own oil though. My dad built their house by hand. He can fix anything, my brother can too, but I was not taught these things. Doug grew up in a house where if something broke, they called someone in. So, when we first got together and something would break, I’d say, “Aren’t you going to fix that?” and he would look at me like I was crazy. We spent a lot of money on hiring people over the years and we needed to learn how to build and fix things. This is a skill we will work on more this year. This is one that we barter classes or computer support for. I traded a class for a fabulous cold frame. We would like a better milking shed too. Neither of us even know where to start! That is where knowing how to barter comes in handy. But we also need to learn for ourselves.
6. Animal Care– Animals are an important part of a homestead. For many they are a source of meat, but for this vegetarian farm, they are a source of food, fiber, and comedy shows. We love our chickens and their eggs. We love our goats, their milk, and the dairy products that we make from the milk. We can sell their kids and milk shares to help cover costs of feed. We are looking forward to our new sheep and their fleece as well as the new alpaca, Buddy the Cotton-headed-ninny-muggins.
We have needed to learn how to trim their feet, and how to know when they are sick, and what to give them. How to put an animal out of its misery (still working on that one, we are getting a revolver this year), and how to house and feed them. In my opinion, animals make the homestead. Sharing your life with other creatures makes things more complete.
7. Fire starting– We heat our house with wood and a propane heater. We got the bill for the propane. Next month we are putting in another wood stove that our friend found us so no more propane! We have a lot of wood stacked up and Doug learned to wield an axe. It keeps him in shape, helps him blow off steam, and keeps us in wood. But it took us a bit to figure out how to get the fire started easily! We weren’t scouts and we never needed to do much else but throw one of those ready to burn logs into an outdoor fireplace at a party. We learned quick!
8. Sewing– Being able to mend old clothes or turn too old of clothes into quilts and projects saves you from having to purchase it at the store. Remember, anything we currently purchase at the store we want to learn to do ourselves! I can make the baby dresses, sew a semi-decent quilt, and mend but I would like to learn this year how to sew more elaborate clothing, like men’s shirts and dresses for myself.
9. Fiber Arts– Being able to knit a pair of warm socks is high on my list of skills I would like to master this year. Along with animal shearing, carding, spinning, and dying yarn.
10. Learning to Entertain Oneself– Being able to not be bored easily. To be able to rest and entertain oneself is high in importance. We can’t very well run off to see a stage production downtown anymore or away for a week in New Mexico. We also don’t have a big cable package or media entertainment. We read, write, draw, walk, have folks over, visit others, play with the baby, and sit outside in the sun.
Being a homesteader doesn’t mean that one does less work. Nay, you might end up doing doubled! All of these skills take time. Time is what you will have and it is much nicer to be doing what you would like on your own time and schedule wherever you please. It is all good, pleasant work. And learning to rest and play is important as well. This is a great lifestyle. I highly recommend it if you are thinking of living this way! A good skill set makes it all the easier.
The sun is shining brightly on this lovely New Year’s morn as a feeling of hope and aspiration overcomes us. We release the last year, accept its many lessons, rejoice that we are here this morning to breathe and revel in unstoppable dreams and goals.
What is in store for Farmgirl School this year? My lists are brimming.
This year we will completely immerse ourselves in permaculture (Doug and I are already busy reading books and listening to lectures on the subject…such a foreign concept to us as we have been gardening the same way for so long but are excited to completely change for the better our way of farming.) and create an oasis here on our new homestead with fruit and nut trees, berry bushes, perennials, annuals, container gardening, cold frames, green house?…lots of big ideas. Join us as we grow mushrooms this year and more herbs too. Let’s learn to hunt wild foods and eat weeds.
Let me show you how to make medicines with wild herbs and many ways to administer them. There is lots of wacky information out there on herbal medicine, let me just teach you how easy and effective it is. We’ll make our homesteading and herbalist school a great success and meet lots of folks from all over on the way.
Let’s get some more farm animals maybe, and learn many more skills. I will teach you how to make hard cheeses. Let’s eat our way around the world and learn more ethnic cooking. Who knows what else we will learn in our journey this year!
I love the idea of the proverbial clean slate ahead of me. Unwritten days and new attitudes, memories, and experiences at hand. As always, thank you for following us on this journey. Last year we found the homestead that we dreamed of and learned many valuable lessons that will be pivotal to our experiences this year. I love receiving your letters. Should you like to correspond please drop me a line via snail mail. Mrs. Katie Sanders, 7080 Calhan Rd So, #2, Calhan, CO, 80808 or if you are in Elizabeth on Mondays, come by Grumpy’s coffee shop and sit a spell with me. I love seeing who is reading my writings and learning from each other.
So, here we come 2015, we embrace you with open arms. Who’s with me?
Several times this year I had us (meaning myself and you readers) all write down dreams, goals, things we want to change in our lives, things that we are holding onto, things that we need to start in order to get our dreams to unfold before us. For anything you desire or wish for will come to fruition. Once you put it out there and start planning, it is a done deal. For us, we longed for a place with more land. We had truly run out of space at our adorable rental house in town on two-thirds of an acre. We even dug up the driveway last year to plant more corn and herbs! Our goats yelling at people walking by and the veritable farm right there in the middle of town was definitely a show-stopper and amazingly fun but we were ready for the next step of our journey. We prayed and planned though we had no idea how it would even be possible. We had no money and no credit but we needed a bigger farm and a smaller, quaint homestead with more off grid possibility, and a place where we could use the homesteading skills we had acquired over the years on our practice farms.
A brief, out of nowhere call from our landlords telling us they needed to sell the house (it looks to be going into foreclosure though) and a trip down Craigslist way and bam we were staring at our dream home. A tiny hundred-plus year old homestead filled with memories and history on ten acres for rent complete with goat pens and chicken coop, fenced garden, clothes line, wood cook stove, and views for miles. Nothing is impossible with God indeed! All for half the price we were paying in bills at the old place.
There is one more piece to this dream we have concocted. A school. I have taught Certified Herbalist Courses for about five years now. For two years I have taught sporadic homesteading classes in our cramped kitchen. Soap making, cheese making, fun skills like that. I enjoy making medicines, but the retail side of it needs to stay small and intimate, helping people directly, so it’s not enough to get us through financially. That, and teachers must teach. We go crazy if we don’t!
Before now I have just offered homesteading classes here and there and have not really promoted them properly but I am now in my place where I can really make this dream come true. So, I looked at the coming year’s calendar and made a schedule. I had already written down sometime this year all of the classes and event we could offer. I proceeded to take a leap of faith and make this dream come to life. I guess you will see along with me what transpires!
There is a tab on the menu above that reads “Homesteading School”, all classes and events are posted there. They are also posted on my website http://gardenfairyapothecary.com and there is a place to pay for and sign up for classes. I am really excited about this! Perhaps I will be able to meet some of my readers at a farm event or class.
What dreams are you working on this year?
I really enjoy my time with other homesteaders. I find comfort in how much we have in common. We don’t get to see our country friends too much because we are all so darn busy but now that things are settling down we’ll possibly have time for impromptu visits. Yesterday our friend and neighbor from ten miles down the road came by to visit. He didn’t call (country friends rarely do) and I was frazzled that the house was in such disarray. We had the baby all day and I could either do dishes and clean or play with the baby. I spent too many years cleaning and doing dishes while my children grew up without me playing with them so I opted to play. She had just fallen asleep when Jim came by. We had a nice chat in the sunny living room in front of the Christmas tree and talked about the snow coming, work slowing down for both of us, the holidays, he lost his dad and how sad he was, what medicines we were making (he was one of my students), and laundry. Yes, laundry. You can tell the weather out here by the clothes lines. The day before a cold front comes in we all do our laundry so it will be dry by time the cold hits. He had a load in the washer so couldn’t stay long. I did too. We had a pleasant chat and agreed to get together for cards soon.
I am very content. Despite the cold (which we can handle and are hoping to put in another stove) we have just the life we want out here. As the new year approaches though I find myself pondering what I could do better, what more I want in my life, and how I want to improve as a person. Maybe you are too. Instead of calling these things resolutions, let’s just call them new additions (or subtractions!) from our life and make a personalized plan for success! I have started them now. No reason to wait. Write these five things down on a piece of paper and start pondering them now. They can be easily implemented throughout the next year and help you become your best self.
1. Learn Something New
What would you like to learn in the new year? Let’s not forget that learning goes on our whole lives and that learning new things is great for the brain, the body, and spirit. I wanted to learn how to learn how to ride horses. Now, I have rode dozens of horses on trails that the horse knew by heart and they were already saddled up and ready to go for fifty dollars an hour. Or friend and family’s horses that were in a ring, and again, already to go. I put out on social media that I would like to learn how to ride horses and was willing to barter for lessons. I expected to learn western riding. I would love to get a horse or two in the future (the sooner the better!) and expect to be riding western style. But when one of my friends and past students offered me English riding lessons, I took it. She already knows how to make medicines so I bartered for my husband. His expertise anyway. I let him know he was helping her design a facebook and website for her upcoming business. He is a good sport.
You can find someone to teach you virtually anything and folks are happy to share what they know. You will easily be able to barter or find inexpensive classes. Or splurge and take up tap lessons or go to drawing school. Just learn something new.
What skill would you like to learn?
2. Take Care of Your Body
We can all do the things we love a lot easier if we feel good. Identifying and implementing what we need to feel our best is very important and shouldn’t be put off! We all have different needs and cannot just blindly follow the latest fad or phase. For me, I need to change the way I eat. A year ago, after twenty plus years of being a vegetarian, I decided to start eating meat again. The prairie lifestyle and the organic farms around me, not to mention being out of things to cook, inspired me to try it. It would be a more self sufficient way to eat as well since I could easily pack my freezers with friends’ harvests. In one year, I became depressed, my face showed more wear and tear, my stomach always hurt, I had heartburn every night for the first time in my life, and I was lethargic and tired all the time. My husband wasn’t faring much better. His acid reflux came back, chronic congestion, and breathing issues ensued. He gained weight and was also tired all the time. Enough was enough. I sold every bit of meat in the refrigerator. We are starting our mornings with a quart of green smoothies filled with spinach, aloe vera, frozen berries and rhubarb packed away earlier in the season. Apples, also from Aunt Donna’s, and bananas, pumpkin, spices, anything else I can find filled with antioxidants goes into the fabulous Vitamix and is already infusing our bodies with more nutrients than we have had for a long time. The hole in my stomach is healing and I can sleep now. All digestive ailments have gone away. Doug is detoxing pretty harshly but will feel better soon.
Instead of buying veggie meats (I was trying to get away from them because they have so many GMO’s in them and are owned by the big companies) I am experimenting with more ethnic foods. Dal, Curries, Mexican food, all different cuisines from other countries that don’t eat a lot of meat or have a wide variety of beans, legumes, vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, and spices. We are still eating and enjoying fish. Not only will be getting healthier again but I have opened up a whole other world of delicious recipes and foods. I will start checking out a different cookbook each week from the library. I can also grow most of these foods. I will increase my bean and lentil crops this year and pack in as many vegetables into my new garden as possible!
How will you make your body work better?
3. Take Care of Emotions
Our bodies are made up of emotions, spirit, and physical and they all need to be working well because they effect the rest of the systems. I avoid the news like the plague. No news is good news. But social media bothers me as well. I enjoy getting onto Facebook and seeing what my friends are up to or seeing pictures of my kids and granddaughter, but then there comes a point where I have to stop. Folks posting pictures of abused and neglected animals out in the snow, and posts of what Monsanto is doing, and what our government is doing, or complaints about various ailments, and this and that, I just can’t take it all in and process it without feeling saddened. Check it in the mornings while I am writing and returning emails then leave it.
How will you seek emotional health?
4. Take Care of Spirit
I love church, I really do. I find myself making it way too difficult. I do not like legalistic and superior feeling folks. I love the Catholic church, but stupid as it sounds, I cannot get down the new prayers and sayings and need to get the new booklet on the changes. I yell out the wrong thing. I also would need to meet all new people. I just want to go, sit in the back, and pray. I don’t want to be a part of a community. I am always disappointed in church communities when I do. I know I am expecting too much. I love the gathering every other Sunday downtown with my American Indian friends called Talking Circle. It is two hours from my house though. We pick up the baby at 11. So I don’t have time (so I say) to go to any of them! Excuses, excuses. What do I want? Go to Saturday evening mass, pick up the baby early and drive to Denver and go to Talking Circle and make a day in the city of it, or just go for a long walk and pray. There are many ways to connect to the Creator. Put it on my schedule and do it.
5. List What Makes You Happy
These are the things we need to do more of. We so often say at the beginning of the year, no more of this! No more of that! Change this! Change that! How about add this and that? It will make all the difference. For me, I love being home more. I do not like running errands and driving all over all the time. We have one more week of craft shows. I love just staying at home and working on my homestead. I love taking walks and being in nature. I love writing. I love reading magazines on the porch. I love being around my kids and around sweet Maryjane Rose. These are the types of things I should do more of.
Now write down yours!
From our farm to yours…wishing you a beautiful and prosperous year to come filled with good health and joy and many, many great memories! Feel free to respond with your goals for the new year. Let’s not wait until the 1st to feel great!