Farmgirl School Part 3 (cottages, mountains, and Permaculture)

Doug holding one of the cows we were treating

Farmgirl School began while looking out the French doors onto a barren back yard in a small town.  Two dogs slept behind me as I set up the WordPress site.  What to name it?  It seemed perfect.  I needed a school!  Things that we were not taught growing up in the city were difficult to learn, we often did it the hard way, and the adventures were funny and informative to write about.  Our first garden there was short and compact.  We didn’t water enough.  By the third summer there we were quite a spectacle when folks drove down the main road in front of our house.  There we were among honey bees, watering the expansive pumpkin patches along with all the other vegetables that had taken over the yard.  The corn field in the driveway, the raised beds, the chicken in the front yard that wasn’t supposed to be there, the goats in the back yard.  The ducks playing in their pool.  It was quite a blissful place there in town.

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Last fall we moved to a homestead without heat, without any luxuries, and made our way chopping wood, hauling water, taking care of sheep, goats, and chickens.  We worked and toiled through hail and cold to put in a half an acre garden, and donned our accomplishments with peace and pride.  So the delusional insinuations and the suddenly suburb-same rent was a blessing, it turns out. (As these things always do.)  The most we lost was all of our money and a tiny piece of our sanity.  As I write a looming picture comes to view, a futuresque, Tim Burton style Holland appears all across the horizon, and amazingly close to this property, a windmill farm threatens my beautiful owls and the equilibrium of the occupants in this area.  Well, the lessons we learned here were great.  We realize that nature provides.  A willow tree can provide food at its base, water nearby, medicine in its branches, and shelter from storms.  And it turns out we didn’t need so much stuff!  The owners of this property will be gifted with the lovely wood stove we put in and a half an acre of food.  I hope it blesses them and that they will find happiness.

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And now we are off to Part 3 of Farmgirl school.  I felt suddenly saddened that I may not have anything else to write about, that our farming, homesteading, living sustainably, poetical outlet was finished.  This blog seems to be a bit of a life force for me.  I so look forward to waking with the sun to write about our adventures, to teach, to learn from readers, to ignite friendships around the world.  And I am so pleased to announce our next step of this adventure.

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Remember in January when the house was forty-five degrees and we could see our breath because the wood cook stove in the kitchen didn’t actually heat the house?  We escaped to the Indian Hot Springs that day in the mountains and soaked in the warm pool.  There were two girls there that just seemed like light filled spirits and I had to go tell them how lovely they were.  One of the ladies, Jillian, contacted me a few months later and signed up for the herbalism course.  Each week I see her and when it was apparent we had to leave here she had a brilliant idea that she and her husband, Chris, pitched to me and Doug over drinks on a patio of a historic hotel at the base of Pikes Peak.  A co-homestead.

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They close on a bed and breakfast in Manitou Springs in three weeks.  The beautiful old inn is a smiling Victorian in town with a wee cottage in back.  One room will be available through Air B&B on weekends.  They will inhabit the upstairs and most of the downstairs.  A large area with a classroom is being set up for our respective classes.  We can see a large blackboard with that week’s specials on it that Jillian and I lovingly prepare en masse once a week in the larger kitchen.  She is a baker and a great cook.  You all already know my obsessions with great food and cooking techniques.  Perhaps I will finish that Sommelier Certification.  We have great plans for feeding our families.  A large root cellar and pantry downstairs will hold our hundreds of preserved foods and root cellared items.  We will don our aprons and create sustenance for winter.

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The men are heading to a cobb making workshop Thursday to learn to build an outdoor kitchen, bread oven, and hobbit style chicken coop.  They are planning the infrastructure of the new urban farm.  Chris is planning a party where the local experts on Permaculture and sustainable gardening come and mingle and note where things might work well in the new garden to be.  The large u-shaped driveway will become a meandering, lush oasis of food and teaching.  We can glean knowledge from these folks that have done this before and then take our own ideas and create this garden complete with a greenhouse (and possibly a solar heated hot tub within!).  The three of us have taken Permaculture classes but need to just put it into place with our hands.  They have learned more than I and I am excited to have new teachers all around me.

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The cottage is three hundred square feet.  It is, um, quaint.  And enchanting, and challenging, and cozy.  A Snow White cottage in the middle of town surrounded by trees and lilacs.  It’s pink, and has shutters, and window boxes.  It is the playhouse I always wanted!

Half a block away is the main strip of shops and restaurants in this historic town that nestles at the base of our favorite mountain.  My great, great, great uncle was Zebulon Pike and my adventurous spirit comes from the lines of pioneers before me!

We will be warm this winter.  We will be visiting farmer’s markets, preserving food, getting honey bees, creating a Permaculture garden, ponds, and a greenhouse.  We’ll have an outdoor kitchen, a traditional horno, chickens, ducks, and herb gardens galore.  We will be co-homesteading, proving that it can work, sharing the load, and creating an oasis here that will inspire and sustain.  Their sweet daughter, Ahna, can enjoy the security and serenity of this place, and Maryjane will be with me two or three days a week where she will be doted on and taught by a whole new family of people.

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I changed the name of my herbal school to Sacred Owl School of Original Medicine and will teach classes there.  I’ll tell you more about that later.  We are brimming with ideas and excitement for this new venture.  Even though this place is incredibly breathtakingly beautiful, it seems to always be in a fog, always windy, colder than town, and not really our home after all.

I raise my coffee cup to you, here’s to new adventures on the journey ahead.  Thanks for reading and I can’t wait to see what we will all learn next in Farmgirl School!

Being Set Free (a thrilling week long adventure)

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We are strong believers in karma, whatever you put out will come back, usually ten fold, and we watch ourselves pretty closely.  We really try to put out only positive and happy vibes.  So this came as such a shock to us.  We were so friendly, put so much work and money here, why did we lose so much?  It’s laughably ironic that I write about and that we went from so close to self reliance to completely reliant.  Completely.  Reliant.

As each thing leaves the house I am saddened as it feels that the memory is lost with it too.  Our trip to California, that sweet Christmas gift, antique shopping in Evergreen, our friendships, all walking out the door for practically nothing.  Of course those memories and people are still with me, in the literal or spiritual sense and as we unburden our existence with so many material things, we feel lighter.

And I wonder if the karma coming to us is not bad, it’s a gift.  It’s good.  I have written about our day in the life of a homesteader, and our businesses, and our to-do lists.  They exhaust my friends just reading them.  We are being set free from ourselves!

I am daring to imagine an existence where my morning starts the same, with coffee on the porch with my cat, and writing, but then doesn’t turn into a frenzy of trying to keep up.  In this little cottage we do not need 500+ preserved food items to be put up.  We do not need to chop 4 cords of wood.  We do not have to milk twice a day.  We do not have to make enough money to feed all the hungry farm animals.  We do not have to make cheese and soap and lotion and try to find the strength to do yet another farmer’s market.  We are being set free.  So long have Doug and I worked sun up to sun down with businesses, committees, children, and homesteading.  We love it, but the idea of something different does intrigue us.  If I want to do those some of those things, I can.  If I don’t, then we can walk around town and find ourselves listening to live music in the park on Tuesday nights.  We are being set free.

We will be working on building a tiny house.  We will be co-creating beautiful, practically maintenance-free gardens, we will be teaching, but we will be doing it slowly and methodically in the middle of a town where we can find new teachers and friends and find each other in our honeymoon cottage.  What a gift.

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This week on this blog I would like to write about various ways to set ourselves free.  How to find a closer connection to Creator, mental and emotional releases, herbal teas for spiritual use, easy ways to strengthen the body, to bring back health, to bring on inspiration and to make some dreams start coming true, and just setting ourselves free from anything that weighs us down.  I hope you’ll join me!  It’s going to be a freeing week!

Co-Homesteading and Urban Farms

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I am a writer. Beyond being a gardener, mom, grandma, wife, teacher, or anything else, I am a writer.  This means that all of my business and my family’s business is generally open for all to read.  If I had to keep it to myself, I would fall into the depths of despair or be too giddy with unspoken news.  Sometimes I may give too much information.  Sometimes the information changes daily as I know it.  Sometimes the reader may feel that they are on a rollercoaster if they don’t read the posts in order.  But I don’t mind sharing my life with you.  It is an extraordinary, ordinary life that most people can identify with.  Readers can identify with our losses, heartaches, successes, passions, and emotions.  We have so many cheerleaders out there.  I have been touched by all the letters, messages, and calls to help.  My friends send me Craigslist ads for rentals, folks have offered for us to stay with them, people are buying our things to help us out.  Thank you.

Our income was wrapped up in this farm.  The goats are gone.  I watched the sheep leave.  The chickens left yesterday and I cried and cried.  Our income right now is from selling off everything.  We needed a miracle.  I don’t want to jinx it, but it seems we may have gotten just such a miracle.

Kindred friends buying a piece of property.  A place longing to be an expansive urban farm created through Permaculture.  We see a chicken coop and duck coop rising up near a greenhouse, raised beds filled with delicious foods.  Outlines of perennials and herbs, of fruit trees, and bushes.  Wildlife is abundant in this little town.  We were surprised to see a raccoon walking by and noted to make a stronger coop after we heard of bears.  It is interesting to me that over the years I have written about co-homesteading, sharing the load, creating an oasis that benefits a group and a community.  The urban farming posts are numerous on my blog.  It is almost like I manifested where I am right now and that this was just a lovely, scenic stop on the way.  A way to make us appreciate a much smaller space, a way to make us handle cold better, and help make us appreciate little comforts.

We are long past being able to find a place that allows our animals, finding the money for a deposit, first month’s rent, transfer the cable and internet, hire a moving van, and hope we can stay there for awhile.  We are stepping out of the status quo and the norm and entering a community ideal that is quite different but that I have envisioned for a long time.  It is not a new idea though.  A place where expenses are shared and knowledge is shared and each person brings an important skill set to create such oasis.  A place where no one has to do it on their own anymore.  Where the chores are shared and the gardens are shared and building sustenance for all is shared.  This place is surrounded by really eclectic and talented urban homesteaders and farmers, Permaculture experts, and vibrant people.  Well, from the outside they are called hippies.  Sign me up.

So, here we go.  We are standing on a cliff, armed with my favorite cast iron frying pans, some clothes, and our cats, and are ready to jump off.  Are you with me?