Our Farmstead Goes Solar

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Our farm began in an old house on two-thirds of an acre backing to the fairgrounds in a small, country town that will remain beloved to us for all time.  There on our rented mini-farm we watched goats, chickens, alpacas, and ducks play in the back yard, grew so many pumpkins in the front yard that people speeding down the street slammed on their brakes to take a better look, and we farmed the rest of the driveway.  We fell in love with oil lamps in that house.  The sweet glow of old fashioned light as we read in the evenings.  The gentle tick-tocking from the cuckoo clock on the wall letting us know the time as the stars came out and the moon rose.

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The landlords were losing the house but we found an amazing farm on ten acres where we would live in a late eighteen-hundred’s homestead on the property near the owner’s own house.  We had a wood cook stove to heat the house and cook on.  For a few months in the warm autumn of that year the world looked enchanted indeed.  We plotted a large garden, and gathered three cords of wood.  The chickens and goats were far from the house and we missed seeing them.  That winter we mastered the art of starting a fire while the house was thirty-seven degrees.  We quickly realized that the small firebox was not going to help and put in a large wood stove with our own money.  Of course, many of you know the ending of that dreadful tale.  We were forced to leave after putting every penny into that farm.

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So from friend’s house to friend’s house we went until we had enough saved to get into a beautiful, decidedly on-grid apartment.  That year was fun using a switch to turn on the fireplace, turning the heat up, basking in a large tub.  But the cement gets to a Farmgirl and it was time to see what was next.  Agricultural land was out of the question with the loan we qualified for.

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We found our homestead on the south side of a big-small town.  It’s big, but everywhere you go you see folks you know and I have never met friendlier people than here in Pueblo.  One third of an acre, an adobe shed with seven foot fencing made a fine chicken yard, wood floors for easy cleanup on what we knew would be our urban farm, and a wood stove held prominent position in the main room.  A root cellar holds hundreds of jars and the climate here allows for prolific gardening.  And dreaming.

The large grandfather clock keeps time, ticking regally and alerting us to each quarter hour and moon cycle.  The wood stove heats the house well, save for the back bedrooms.  We are constantly looking for ways to increase our sustainability.  How can we use less?  How can we spend less?  How can we show the beautiful earth that we are grateful?  And in return for our simplicity we find a peaceful existence of health and quiet joy.

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In the city, it is nearly impossible to be off the grid.  One can easily find one’s home condemned if attempted.  Composting toilets are against code.  City water is a given.  But there are still things we can do.  For us, the next step was solar power.  On that first farm, it would have been impossibly expensive (particularly for a rented home), but here on our very own home and in this time, it is absolutely practical and affordable. In fact, it cost us nothing.

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The solar company comes out and surveys your property, sees about light hitting the roof, and local zoning.  With a credit score of 650+ you get a loan for the amount of the solar panels, which was about $10,000.  $3000 is rebated back to you on your taxes.  We put nothing down.  The loan amount is the very same that we pay for electric every month so there is no change for us.  My neighbor’s electric bill is three times higher than ours, so she would save much, much more.  We pay a slight $8 charge to our utility company to “manage” our electricity.  Once the panels are paid off, we only pay the $8.  Our home value goes up as well.  The solar panels are flat against the roof and hardly noticeable at all.

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I have written many times how all of us really need to use less.  Wind energy is so destructive.  Obviously the power we have been creating with fracking and coal is detrimental.  Solar panels never decompose.  We can’t keep going on about the government and big oil.  We cannot stand around with our “Save the Earth” signs and not do something ourselves.  Solar was a great way for us to use considerably less resources, save thousands of trees, the equivalent of taking thousands of cars off the road, and using Father Sun for our power “needs.”  (I guess refrigeration and internet are fun.)  And it is completely accessible.

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If you are in Colorado, call Peak View Solar.  Everyone was so friendly and easy to work with.  Elisa Harrelson, 719-387-7232.  They have a referral program so mention us when you call!  It will help me get my greenhouse going!

Other things you can do to help save resources:

Eliminate animal products from your diet.

Grow a huge garden, community garden, or support local farmers.

Buy organic.

Drive less- get a bicycle!

Don’t buy crap. You know you don’t need that.  Put it back and save the money for seeds!

A wood stove is carbon neutral.

Preserve your own food.

Go for a walk.  The more you are in nature, the more inclined you will be to not hurt her.

Be grateful for life.  Indeed we are lucky to be alive this day.  Happy farming!

How to Make a Rich Skin Salve for Super Dry Skin

I have told you before; it is dry here.  Not just dry, like you might need some lotion and lip balm, it’s eczema, skin itching, nose bleed dry here in Colorado.  I love to travel places with humidity.  But, my home is here.  In the winter, lotion doesn’t cut it, even though I make the most fabulous lotion, I need something stronger in the cold, dry months of furnace and wood stove and zero percent humidity.  Last year I showed you how to heat infuse herb oils in the crock pot to keep in the bathroom for after you shower.  This year I want to show you how to make a really great thick skin salve that can be used on cracked heels, finger tips, dry patches, or if you live in the desert, all over your body!

It’s quite simple, really.  In a wide mouth quart jar add 2 Tablespoons each of calendula flowers and comfrey leaves and 1 Tablespoon of lavender and/or roses. (Try online at mountainroseherbs.com or at your local health food store.  Next year grow them!)

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Now pour in 2 cups of olive or sunflower oil.

Put jar in saucepan and pour water in pan to half way up jar.  Bring to boil.  Make sure no water jumps in the quart jar.  Double boil the jar of oil for 45 minutes.  (You could place it in a sauce pan directly and heat on medium low for 20 minutes, stirring often,  but you really risk burning it.)  I like to use a chop stick to stir every five minutes or so.  Keep an eye on your water level!

When the oil is infused, strain the herbs out through a fine sieve and put oil in a clean, dry, wide mouth pint jar.  Add 1.5 ounces of beeswax, emulsifying, or candelilla wax to oil.  Heat in double boiler again until wax is melted.  Stir with a chop stick often.

When completely melted, you can add 30 drops of lavender essential oil, or leave it as is.  Stir with chop stick once more and let cool on a towel on the counter until set.  Do not cover until set.

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The salve lasts for years but you will use it up in a month if you live in Colorado!  Wishing you warm cups of tea and perfectly moisturized skin this holiday season, my Friends.

You can find many recipes for salves and herbal medicines in my book, The Homesteader’s Pharmacy. 

Or just make it easy on yourself and order from our family apothecary, WhiteWolfHerbs.com

 

Chilies and Adobe; Pueblo’s Fall Festival

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

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

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

The Botanique (a beautiful weekend)

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A large neighborhood lake was on the left, children playing with intertubes, and the day was warm and sweet with autumn tinged air.  We turned right into the parking area of what once was a school in 1919.  But it certainly wasn’t your typical school of that era, it felt more like we entered Italy.  All marble and wood floors and magazine inspiration.

 

I am making the tinctures for my cousin’s new line of medicines that she is releasing along with her already well known body products.  H2a is the company she and her daughter, Sierra created years ago. Their products have been previewed in Vogue and can be found in spas and retail stores.  Heather’s new project is The Botanique in Fort Collins.  An event space, a class space, a retreat, an Air B&B, a respite, I was drawn in instantly to the serenity and sheer beauty.  A beauty that makes you feel beautiful just witnessing it all.

The chicken yard was built off of an old adobe outbuilding, its fresh wood and chicken wire a lovely contrast to the old structure.  We do love chickens so Doug and I immediately got out of our car and walked over to see what breeds she has.  As they pecked around in the sweet dirt, we admired the back of the property, that below the dirt lies quietly an asphalt playground of old.  Heather plans to build up with beds and create a lavender madala and rose arches.  Doug pointed to a spot perfect by the adobe wall and curved door for farm-to-table dinners.

Years ago, when all of our children were quite small, the grown cousins would all choose a name to buy a gift for at Hanukkah.  When Heather was still married to Doug’s cousin, I would always hope that she picked me, as our style is almost identical. Her sense of vintage and practical with elements of joy have always been drawn out perfectly through her design work, her homes, and now The Botanique.  I wanted to stay in our darling room with the large bath she created for days.  Walk in showers and bath spaces are being created throughout the resort for ancient bathing rituals and cleansing.  A space to heal.  A space to restore.  A space to feel beautiful.

The property is filled with raised beds that a friend of Heather’s runs a volunteer program with.  She teaches and works with youth to grow many varieties of produce and then sell them in CSAs.

I walked out of our bedroom early, glorious in good sleep, and headed to the kitchen.  Through the wide double doors of my dream kitchen I could see my lovely cousin in a warm sweater, her blond hair messily put up and a cup of coffee steaming from her hands as she walked softly through the filtered light of morning rays streaming through the large windows.

The Botanique is a place to ignite one’s senses, restore one’s soul, and is incredibly accessible and not far from home. https://www.thebotaniquefortcollins.com/

 

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

Pumpkin Hollow Farm Homesteading Supplies and Classes (a shop is born)

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Wednesday: The idea came swift and clear as a starry night.  Or perhaps it resurfaced.  Or perhaps it was whispered in my ear by the homesteading spirits before me.  Either way, it has been seven days since then and we are already planning our grand opening.

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Thursday: I ran the idea by my youngest daughter to see if she wanted to be a part of it.  She was in.  We went for a long hike and discussed why we wanted to start a farmgirl store.  I did not want to start something rashly with just money in mind.  It needed to be meaningful and enjoyable.  We came up with a list of why the homesteading lifestyle is important to us.

  • Helps environment
  • Healthier
  • Creates better mental health
  • Satisfying
  • Affordable
  • Homesteading creates more family time
  • Great for children
  • Creates community

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It was five and a half years ago that we stood in Nancy’s kitchen making goat’s milk soap, creating label ideas, going through seed catalogs and beginning “The Five Farmgirls.”  Emily held a few-month old Maryjane on her hip as she and Nancy’s daughter, Faleena came up with product names.  We laughed as we sarcastically came up with our own catch phrase, “It’s Farmgirl Good!” as we shook the cold milk trying to turn it into butter for two hours.  Our friend, Lisa came over to help make soap and we sat outside on an early spring day and had a picnic lunch.  A year later Nancy would suddenly and quietly cross over the veil.

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Saturday: Doug and I had lunch with Lisa and Lance Saturday and I told her my idea.  They raise humane meat on their ranch and we could have a pick up point at our shop.  We could do the same for milk.  We laughed and talked for three hours and discussed ideas.  Still, with not a lot of dollars and no idea where to get an affordable retail space, it still felt far off.

So certain that this was going to take off, Emily and I started picking up usable antiques (that are sturdier and still work better than modern versions!) and items for our store.  I bought material to make aprons and farmgirl style pillows.  We came up with a name, Pumpkin Hollow Farm (of course); Homesteading Supplies and Classes.

Sunday: Doug and I drove around and gathered phone numbers for retail spaces.  None of them were quite right.  They also were way out of our price range.  I wanted an old space that looked like a general store.  And it had to be ridiculously affordable.  (They are cleaning it up…I’m keeping the piano for the shop!)

Monday: I call on a shop that people had said would be hard to get.  Many people had inquired on this space and had either been turned down or never called back.  The manager picks up, says she will call the owner and call me back.  Five minutes later she calls me back, the owner loves my idea.  She will rent to me.  For a ridiculously affordable price.  Ten minutes later I am at the shop to see it.  The building is over a hundred years old and it sure looks like a general store.  It is in a great location.

Tuesday: Dad brings a box to my apothecary that says my name on it.  “Mom wanted you to have these,” he says wistfully as he hands me a large bag along with the box.  My friends Kat and Rod are like parents to me and Kat died almost exactly two years ago.  I have a collection of her grandmother’s things.  Hilda is alive and well in my home.  A box and bag of homesteading items and china were the new gifts to me to carry on.  A whisper from above that there are many friends helping this come together.

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Wednesday: Yesterday morning we signed a lease and shook hands.  A private loan came through.  I registered my name.  We have held on to our beloved name since our early farm.  Our farm and homesteading school took a devastating turn a little over three years ago when we had to suddenly leave our rented farm and all of my beautiful homesteading items and our lifestyle was lost.  In a twist of irony, as I searched for my name in the Secretary of State, the name expired three years ago to the day that I re-registered it.

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Mission Statement: To increase happiness, health, and well being for people and Mother Earth by offering quality, second hand, homemade or sustainable objects that bring back the charm of an old fashioned, simple life.

Pumpkin Hollow Farm Homesteading Supplies and Classes coming in early September!

“It’s Farmgirl Good!”

 

 

Beautiful Pueblo

20180108_133406Our city has a bad reputation.  It has for as long as I remember growing up in Denver.  It was ranked one of the most dangerous cities to live in.  Some of the locals scratch their heads and wonder where they get their numbers from.  Some want to move to greener pastures…like California.  Because of the astonishing statistics here in Pueblo, we got a house for the price of a cardboard box in Denver.  There is an exciting revitalization going on here.  And as in most cases of any city, the crime seems to be concentrated in one area.  So, you don’t buy on the east side.  Unless you want a really cute old house for thirty thousand dollars.  Then go for it.  Because this is the city to be if you want to live in Colorado.

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One of my downfalls is that I am a homebody vagabond.  I want a home to create and decorate and garden and be cozy in but I am always looking for the next home.  The next city.  The next farm.  This drives my husband crazy.  But there are not two people on this earth more grateful for their own home than me and Doug.  So for the first time I am settling in.

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This town has everything Doug and I wanted.  And we wanted the impossible.  Can we be walking distance to Chinese food and the grocery store, a bike ride from the library and the coffee shop, live near a lake, have a view, be close to the mountains, live in a warmer climate, have an urban farm, be within practical driving distance from the kids and our work, live in a beautiful place, be near theater and fine dining but also be near farms and a quick jaunt to vacation spots?  Can we have it for next to nothing?

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$89,000 later and I need a bicycle because all of those things came to be in this small/big town of ours.  We tried to get our kids down here but the statistics still scare most folks off.  We haven’t heard of or seen anything that wouldn’t be happening in any other city.  We have found friendly folks, beautiful sunrises over lakes and hiking trails, flocks of geese, fine dining on the river, and home.  We have been here a year now.  What a lovely place to call home.

 

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Planning the Perfect Mini-Vacation

 

20171007_175451We started doing mini-vacations years ago while on a farm because it was easier to find someone to watch animals for one or two nights than for a week or more.  Longer vacations require time off of work, loss of pay, and are often quite exhausting.  Now don’t get me wrong, I will take a week long vacation if it’s offered!  A weekend away is often perfect to refresh the spirit, spend time with loved ones, and to relax.  It doesn’t have to be terribly expensive either to get the crew together.

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1) First, choose who you want to share your mini-vacation with.  We could have spent a weekend at Ojo Caliente, a lovely hot springs spa in New Mexico.  We could have jumped on a plane and visited one of our friends out of state.  But what I really wanted was a family vacation.

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2)  Look at schedules.  We typically like to go on trips during the week.  The prices are often cheaper and there are less crowds.  But, Doug’s job is an hourly paying one these days and we can’t afford to miss that much.  Don’t wait too long though.  Just book the time and everyone will figure out what they can do.

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3) Book a place using Air B&B or a place similar if you need multiple rooms.  Go to a Dude Ranch.  There are many fun things you can do.  I booked a four bedroom house in the mountains only a few minutes out of town.  It was pretty central for all of us.  We were able to bring one of our granddogs.  There was a stocked kitchen and plenty of towels and comfy seating.  It had amazing views, porches, and was a beautiful respite.  Everyone came when they could Friday.

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4) Drop all expectations.  Some folks won’t be able to make it.  I know I tend to micromanage everything but this time I was going to let everything unfold!  Have a basic plan.  Looking at the weather we decided that visiting the North Pole in Cascade would be best on Saturday.  We all brought up different games, books, and things to do.  My son, Andy, and his girlfriend couldn’t get off work and then had a wedding to go to Saturday.  In the end the only thing they could do was meet us for lunch in Manitou Sunday.  And it was great.  It was fun having all nine of us.

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5) Prepare meals.  Each couple chose a meal they would prepare.  This saves a lot of money and time not having to find restaurants three times a day.  Doug and I made breakfasts.  Shyanne and Jacob made a mouthwatering linguine alfredo with breadsticks.  Emily and Reed made a comforting cheesy broccoli soup and croissants.  We all brought up plenty of drinks.  Shyanne surprised us all with caramel apple fixings.

20171007_17300120171007_2047356) Be in the moment.  We laughed while we played games.  We took turns snuggling the puppy.  Took little walks.  Drank coffee together on the balcony.  Did some yoga.  Listened to music.  Talked.  Caught up.  Walked the row of stores.  Played together.

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The key word here is “together”.  It was a perfect vacation.  I hope you will plan one for your own people soon.

A Trip to the North Pole

When my son, Andy, was very little he wanted a wolf from Santa.  He wrote him a letter and sent it to the North Pole.  There was a very convincing (and very likely the real) Santa at the mall.  I was able to whisper a few things in that old Santa’s ear before Andy climbed on the jolly man’s lap.  Andy’s little eyes grew big and he was filled with wonder as Santa told him that he had received his letter and would get him a wolf if he was a very good boy.  Christmas morning came and the howling stuffed animal wolf sat next to the Christmas tree.  The next summer as we perused the shops at Santa’s Workshop at the North Pole, we saw the very same wolf!  It made my little boy a believer.  Our family believes in Santa.

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Maryjane and I waiting to go inside Santa’s Village!

Seven of us traversed the hilly paths of Santa’s Workshop in Cascade, Colorado.  My granddaughter, Maryjane sat on Santa’s lap and relayed her greatest wish, that the elves would make her a penguin.

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I wanted a visit with Santa too!

Santa’s Workshop opened in 1956 in the mountains of Colorado just west of Colorado Springs.  They started their herd of reindeers and dozens greeted us and nibbled feed from our hands.

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My daughter, Shyanne, and her boyfriend, Jacob enjoying the baby reindeer.

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Rides, large and small, dotted the village.  Maryjane was very brave and rode just about all of them.  We adults had a plenty good time on the kid’s roller coaster and teacups and many other rides!  My Andy and his girlfriend, Bree, had to work but we recalled the story of Andy’s wolf while waiting in line to see Santa.

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The carousel is a must ride!

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Me and Pa riding the zipline sleigh!

If you have a chance to go to Santa’s Workshop in Cascade, don’t miss it!  You can whisper in Santa’s ear what you want for Christmas.

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Ready for Santa’s train to depart!

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Maryjane and Emily catching a ride up a hill with her boyfriend, Reed.

It might be time for Halloween, but Christmas and making family memories, is always in our hearts.

http://northpolecolorado.com

There’s Just Something About the Mountains

 

20171007_180402There’s just something about the lulling embrace of the mountains that cajoles my spirit into quiet.

There is a comfort wrapped in the songs of pines surrounding every side.

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A murder of crows sing raucously of encroachment.  A haunting and thrilling sound.

Two does jump airily by.

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There is just something about the West.  Sweeping desert valleys and climbing vistas of conifers and scrub oak in autumnal color.  The quaking aspen dances in the breeze.  Snow comes this eve.

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Perched on a balcony up high watching magpies caw as the sun crests the Colorado mountain ridge I breathe in the earthy pine air.  Pour another cup of coffee.  Wait for my family to wake up.  An hour from home, our weekend away to the mountains delightful and restorative in the fragrant woods of the West.