Visiting Small Towns (a fun day away just down the road)

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We meandered through jewelry and antique stores.  We stopped for a cup of coffee.  We walked through art galleries and stared in awe at the buildings.  We walked hand-in-hand idly down the sidewalks.  We stopped and talked to a grandmother who has lived in Trinidad her whole life and listened as she recalled memories.

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They don’t build like this anymore.  The intricate details of each cornerstone and inset lettering.  The grandness of a small town.

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One can learn a lot from the art and sculptures set throughout a place.  This was a town of coal miners and of ranchers.

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Can you hear the sound of the horses pulling carriages down the Main street?  The eruptions in the saloon?  The sound of a bustling small town on a Saturday night?  Ghosts of people and activity over the past hundred and fifty years swarms by in my imagination and the sense of place captures me.

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I wonder what the street looked like when people lined up at the grand Opera house.  Or what the lights looked like as kids lined up at the movie theater on a Friday night.  The roller rink must have been great fun at the time that I used to roller skate in the 70’s and 80’s.

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There are new cafes to visit and bookstores and side streets, but alas, we started our journey down Main street too late in the day and everyone is closing up shop.

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Just like the small museums I wrote about yesterday, there are probably small towns all around you, other cities, other places a half hour, an hour, maybe an hour and a half away that hold history, and art, and a different life.  There are books to look at and coffee to sip, and elders to engage in conversation with.  There are new parks to soak up the sun in, and places to see.  Perhaps this Saturday you will head out to a new town to explore, enjoy, and get inspired.  These little day trips are good for the spirit- a change of scenery and the exploration of something new.

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A Walk Through History (visiting your local museums)

My daughter, Shyanne and her boyfriend were recalling one evening to each other memories of the family vacations of their youth.  His family takes daring, exotic vacations that sound thrilling.  They took Shyanne with them to go zip-lining in Costa Rica and they went deep sea fishing in the Florida Keys.  Shyanne described to him the streets around the Plaza and the views across New Mexico.  And the museums.  Our kids went to museums on family vacations.  Art, history, children’s, aquatic, zoos, outdoor sculpture parks.  We love them.  We seek them out.  But you don’t have to go on vacation to go to museums.

In your town or a town near you there will be hidden a gem of history, of art, of culture.  An inexpensive place to explore.  To be enriched.  To be inspired.

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I was asked to speak at the Trinidad History Museum this last weekend on indigenous plants and remedies for the opening of their exhibit, Borderlands of Southern Colorado; Remedios, Medicine and Health.  Trinidad is an hour south of us and we enjoyed seeing a new place and a new museum.

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We adore old houses.  The architecture, the story, the ghosts that live within, the décor; it all speaks to us.  We learn the history of a place, the hopes and dreams of its settlers, the story behind sepia faces in old photographs.

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We get decorating ideas.  We imagine what life would be like back then.  We walk from room to room imagining life a hundred years or two hundred years ago.  The Bloom mansion was built in 1882.  It is a spectacular home and living exhibit.

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We walked through the gardens to the adobe building that houses the gift shop and the current exhibits.  The beautiful dancers from Folklorico spun and tapped and smiled as they entertained the crowd.

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Inside, we walked past faces from the past- miners and cattlemen, Native Americans and Scots.  Artifacts, tools, Catholicism, remedies, furniture all set up in a way to help us understand and imagine life in a small western town just north of the border.  How people lived.  How people survived.  How people thrived.

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Kit Carson’s intricately embroidered coat is on display.  Documents and historical pieces that bring to life old stories and articles.  That make these images tangible and teach us about human nature and about ourselves.

The Baca house was a real treat.  It is closed for restoration but we were able to walk through and get a glimpse.  This adobe house was built in 1873 by Felipe and Dolores Baca.  They traded 22,000 pounds of wool to have it built.  That is a lot of wool!

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The affluence of the family can be felt in the details.  There is a widow’s walk, Victorian and Greek architectural additions and furniture.  Felipe died rather young and Dolores dressed in black the rest of her days there.  A love story behind the intricate details a home with cracking mud walls.

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Museums like the Trinidad History Museum on the Historic Santa Fe Trail often offer children’s programs, community events, and learning opportunities.  You can find my books and many other wonderful literary works and children’s books in the gift shop, as well as unique gifts and art.

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So, perhaps this weekend, you might seek out a nearby museum.  Walk through its gardens, its gates, its doorways.  Listen to the whispers of another time and let it change you, influence you, inspire you, educate you.

Trinidad History Museum

312 East Main Trinidad, Trinidad, CO, 81082

719-846-7217

https://www.historycolorado.org/trinidad-history-museum

Talks, Events, and Big News

We are in the midst of Spring here, warm and breezy, and filled with bright sun.  Everything is coming to life and there are lots of events I want to share with you!

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Talk on Remedios, Medicine, and Healing at the Trinidad History Museum will take place on Saturday, May 4th at noon.  I am honored to be speaking at the opening of the museum’s newest exhibit, Borderlands.  It is fascinating exhibit showcasing art and artifacts which tell the history of southern Colorado and northern New Mexico.  I will be speaking on indigenous plants as medicine in their new medicine garden.  Free!  The museum is hosting fun, free activities the whole day to celebrate the exhibit opening.

Trinidad History Museum link

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Herb Walk around the Riverwalk for El Pueblo History Museum in Pueblo, Colorado.  I will be leading an herb walk around the Riverwalk as a part of the Modern Homesteading series put on by the El Pueblo History Museum on Monday, June 10th at 11:00.  Tickets are $10 and are available through the museum.

El Pueblo History Museum link

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Urban Farm-to-Table Dinner

My daughter, Emily, and I will be hosting a pop-up dinner party Saturday, June 15th at 6:00 on our mini-farm in Pueblo, Colorado.  Four courses, all fresh from the gardens, wine pairings, and tours of our homestead.  Visit Bob the rooster, see how our solar works, check out the root cellar, walk through the medicine gardens, and enjoy a beautiful evening with great food and fun.  Tickets are $45 and are available through me.  Katie@PumpkinHollowFarm.net

Pumpkin Hollow Farm link

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Master Certified Herbalism Course- Autumn Session

I will be teaching a 12 week Master Herbalist course at our farm every Saturday beginning August 24th at 10:00.  Autumn is the best time to take the herbalism course because all of the plants are still in bloom and identifying and herb walks are much more helpful.  Learn dozens and dozens of medicinal herbs, their uses, identification, many ways to turn them into medicine, practitioner training, animal medicine, and the traditional treatments of every common ailment known today.  This comprehensive class is only $650 (plus $30 for the text book if you do not have it)  Sign up today!  Class size is very limited.  Katie@PumpkinHollowFarm.net for a registration form.

Class info link

Certified Herbalist Correspondence Course available for $250 plus text book.

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We are busy around here and life is just spectacular.  I have very exciting news to share with you!  Our daughter, Emily, and her long time boyfriend, Reed, are engaged to be married this summer!  Our beautiful family just gets bigger and more bonded and what an amazing blessing it all is.

 

Making Your Own Chili Powder and Cornmeal (from seed to plant to pantry)

Drying staples is a way to preserve the harvest and has been done, presumably, since the beginning of time.  Come autumn, at just about the moment that I think I cannot possibly water one more plant or can one more thing, frost is at the doorstep.  I gather in baskets the remaining produce and carry it to the still-warm kitchen.  There will be peppers.  And there will be corn that I purposely left too long on the stalk.

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The corn came in a humble seed package at the farmer’s market.  Aztec blue corn.  I love crowing Indian corn and usually it is for popcorn, but this one is specifically for, essentially, growing blue corn meal.  I pulled the husks over their heads, removed most of the silk, and hung them up to dry on a hook in the kitchen.

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If you have been following me for any number of years y’all know that my heart belongs to New Mexico.  The terroir is so familiar to me that I can identify a New Mexican wine or chile in a blind taste test.  My friend brought me back two large ristras from Taos, New Mexico to adorn our front porch when we first moved in.

I learned that the winds out here are fierce in the spring and Mother Nature likes to trim trees and clear out debris (like lawn chairs and stuff).  She got a hold of my ristras and shook ’em like nobody’s business.  Now, I have had a notoriously difficult time of growing peppers over the years.  But there in my paths, window boxes, and in rogue spots of the garden amongst herbs and zucchini were thriving pepper plants that she had planted from seed.  “Show off,” I muttered under my breath.  I sit there tending to each seed with exact care, squinting to read the backs of seed packets, and still failing and there goes Mother Earth, flinging seeds into the barren soil seven weeks before the last frost and coming out with amazing results.  I could learn a thing or two from her.

But then happy day, I am growing New Mexican chilies!  It turns out that this very spot of land that I reside on is nearly exactly like the land in New Mexico.  The same altitude, the same soil, the same elements of the places there I love.  Not like the farmlands just east of me, nor like the dusty plains west of me.  Right here, I have a little New Mexico-in-Colorado oasis.

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I am getting better at growing peppers and last year I brought in quite a few.  Last year was not a good growing year though.  In the spring the temperatures rose to a hundred degrees and hovered there straight through till frost.  The inconsistent watering didn’t help, and I got some kind of rot on the bottom of the peppers.  But I still managed to save some.  They sat on my cutting board on the kitchen counter up until yesterday.  They had all turned a lovely, passionate red and were dry.  Once chilies are dried, they lose that volatile oil that burns the heck out of your skin when you touch them, but still take care not to get the chili powder in your face or under your nails.

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Chop off the very top stem and using a sharp paring knife pull out the seeds.  Keep these because we are planting them in a few months!

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Throw the chilies in a food processor, coffee grinder, or other grinding mechanism.  I used the grain pitcher with my Vitamix.  I like my chili powder nice and fine.

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Normally I keep the New Mexican chile separate from the others but some of them had rotted so I didn’t have a lot.  I blended the Pueblo chilies with poblanos and the red chilies from New Mexico.  The taste is spectacular.  Hints of tomato and earth, smoky, not too hot, and better because it was from my own garden.  I sprinkle it on potatoes and everything else under the sun.

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As for the corn, use your fingernail to easily dislodge each kernel, taking care not to pull too much chaff in with it.  I put the seeds in a strainer with bigger holes.  As you shake, blow gently on the kernels and the chaff will blow out.  Place corn in blender or food processor and grind to a fine powder.  That earthy, corn flavor is great.  I used it in my pizza crust last night blended with regular flour.  Save one ear for planting this year!

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Growing, harvesting, drying, grinding, cooking with, saving seeds, planting- all these beautiful, ancient practices connect us with our ancestors and help us feel connected to the earth and our food.  Soon we will be in the garden again!

Field Trip to an Animal Sanctuary (and saving chicks)

We loaded up the cat kennel in the Fiat (our urban farm vehicle) and headed hours north.  Through our old county, our old town, past our old farmhouse, and down the Kiowa-Bennett road.  The prairie is breathtaking even in winter.  Golden strands peek through layers of snow as the sun glistens across the vast expanse of country.  The western sky a watery blue stretching far and wide.  Singing to country music on the radio and a good feeling in our hearts, we drove towards Danzig’s Roost, a rooster and animal Sanctuary in Bennett, Colorado.

 

Sometimes the carefully protected public get glimpses inside factory farms.  What we consider family, humane, free range, and all the other marketing words that help sell meat is all a façade of chicken houses crammed with suffering birds and sometimes people are able to get a peek at those and the whole operation is exposed.  The huge chick rescue in northern Colorado this month made the news and raised thousands for resourceful sanctuaries.  But then so often apathy returns and people continue their habits.  Sad that animals are suffering, but unwilling to omit them from their plate.

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We were on our way to take home some of those rescued birds.  Chickens are snuggly, sweet, and have all different personalities.  One of the chicks we brought home is tiny, fluffy, and sings day and night like she is singing her songs of thanks to the heavens.  She doesn’t like to be put down.  As it happens, we went to get between four and six birds and ended up with seven, soft, white babies.  They are in the guest room.  They have every disease you can think of from parasites, E coli, to upper respiratory infections.  That is what is in meat.  I am treating them with my herbs.  So far they are thriving.  These lucky few were saved and will live their life here on Pumpkin Hollow Farm dust bathing, getting treats, and sitting in the sun or on our laps.

We are only allowed poultry in Pueblo but one day we will have land where we can take in more animals, save more lives, do what we can.  But every life counts.

Jewel Straightedge runs the sanctuary that we picked the chicks up from.  She has, what looks to be, hundreds of roosters that she has rescued.  Two calves with big, heartbreaking eyes are from the dairy down the road.  The little girl fights to live.  Darling sheep and goats and geese that clearly know the friend that rescued them all add to the raucous singing of the farm.  Turkeys strut about.  The wind picks up and turns cold and we hasten our tour.

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Jewel and her team rescued over six hundred chicks from the thousands and thousands that were being inhumanely killed and dying without food and water.  With the swift turn in weather, we help her chase hundreds of chicks trying to get them back into their warm enclosure.  It is every bit as hilarious as it sounds.  We are happy as we head back towards home.

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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