Creating a Life to Help You Really Live

There is a peacefulness here in the mornings. The sun shines hopeful light over the mountain sides and the breezes are light. The changes in season are obvious and there is a certain beauty to the washed out pallor of late autumn. During this season, I feel very thankful for everything in my life. Truly, honestly, thankful. For my husband, my children, grandchildren, friends, animals, nature, health, comfort, and this lovely piece of land where the hearth fires burn. We purposely build a life that feeds us, inspires us, and fuels us. A homesteading life.

A homesteading life looks different in different situations with correlating bonds. We have chosen that I be a housewife. I make a little off of book royalties, and herbs, and this and that, but my place is in creating a home. We used to think that homesteading required two people at home. But we learned the hard way that to homestead in the state we were born in, one of us had to get a full time job. Many farmers and homesteaders do. In many cases, both parties work outside the homestead.

Having and pursuing a trade is a wonderful way to work towards self sufficiency. (A note on self sufficiency: it truly takes a community to sustain, but we will use the phrase to denote taking care of ourselves and others to our full ability.) If you can do something well, and it is a needed skill, then you can often support, or help support, your family with it. It is important that we begin to encourage as many folks to go to trade schools as college. The next generation will be stronger for it.

How does one get started homesteading? There are a few gals at my husband’s work that want to come down to our farm and learn to make cheese. I will be happy to teach them. It won’t be long before they begin to bake bread. Or make their own candles. Pretty soon, they have goats and a small dairy. Homesteading grows. You see something you would like to do yourself; sewing, crocheting, gardening, baking, cheese making, soap making, candle making, wood working, raising farm animals, wine making, herbalism, and decide to learn how to do it. You incorporate that into your life. Look at your grocery list, what can you learn to make? Do you need to buy all of the packaged boxes of junk or can you learn to make granola bars, cookies, and bread? Can you make cream of celery soup? Can you make gravy? Spaghetti sauce? Can you grow the tomatoes for it? Oh, then you are really going. Pretty soon you have a full out farmstead.

My granddaughters, Ayla and Maryjane, wearing the dresses I made them.

The peace of mind and pride is profound in this lifestyle. Do it yourself. Even if it isn’t perfect, you did it! The peace of mind of knowing you can heat your house if the power goes out. Feed your family for awhile if there is a natural disaster. Take care of yourself if an economical collapse occurs. There is peace of mind in knowing what you eat and what you drink were grown by you, prepared by you, and there are no crazy chemicals in your cupboard. Your cleaning products are truly clean, your muscles toned from doing everything by hand, your heart light at watching the fruit of your labors expand. This lifestyle is filled with planning, hard work, and life and death, but it is truly living. Being in the midst of it all. Purposely creating a good life filled with sustenance. A good life that feeds you, inspires you, and fuels you. A homesteading life. Start today. What would you like to learn?

Starting a Farm and Homestead (Pumpkin Hollow Farm adventures continue)

“And just like that, we are homesteading again!” Doug said as he walked into the house after work. Two pressure canners were sputtering on the stove, twelve quarts of homemade chicken broth within. The house smelled wonderful. I was in the process of making cheese. We ate tortellini en brodo alfresco while pointing out where we should put our Pumpkin Hollow Farm sign. Yes, just like that, we will be farming again too.

The first real homestead we had was gradual; first a garden, then chickens, then goats, we learned one thing at a time. The next thing we knew we were practically living off grid and cooking on a wood cook stove! We have learned a lot over the past decade. I waited to see if Doug wanted to homestead and farm. I didn’t want to just jump into it. After all, it is an expensive adventure to start and it is a lot of work. He keeps talking about breeds of goats, and wethered sheep, and plotting the grazing section and where to put our vineyard…we went and picked up fencing for goats and sheep. We’re in. Homesteading isn’t just a job or a lifestyle, it becomes a very part of you.

I couldn’t remember how much it cost to have farm animals (besides chickens), it has been four years since we have had goats and sheep (that is how long it has taken us to get back to the country). This blog holds, not only my memoir within it, but so much information that I constantly resort back to. I looked up “How Much Does it Cost to Have A Farm Animal” from the first year I started this blog. I was pleasantly surprised to see that prices have only increased about 20%. I did expect higher. We should still be well in our budget to feed some more furry kids that give milk and fiber.

I have been visiting local vineyards. Grapes grow very well here and I would love to start my own winery. Even if it is just for me and my friends to start. A lot of folks focus on one thing, maybe beef, or chickens, or vegetables. They aren’t all over the map like I am. I want to have a vineyard, use my own plants to dye my own fiber from my sheep, create beautiful crocheted and sewn pieces to sell, have a huge pumpkin patch, a large garden, have milking goats, and still leave land to be wild and a safe place for bunnies. (Gandalf loves bunnies. They are as delicious as the chickens, apparently.) I love to have variety. That way, I always have what we need and my creative expressions can change as well. I am not going to get burnt out having sheep if I only have two!

When plotting your homestead, first write out what you would like. Garden? Chickens? Ducks? Remember that poultry will consume everything in their path, so they have to be separate from the garden. Goats? They will eat trees down to nothing so the orchard (did you want an orchard?) has to be fenced away from the cute ruminants. Do you have a niche you want to focus on? Don’t think of money while you are writing down your list. What do you want to do? Then draw out your land (even if it is a quarter acre or in the city) and sketch in where you will put everything. Decide on priorities based on money and time to get things started.

Then note where you might make extra money from your homesteading adventures but always have a back up plan. That is the most valuable lesson we learned over the past ten years. Pumpkin Hollow Farm continues on! Our family is excited.

Where are you at in your homesteading adventures? My granddaughter, Maryjane, has loved our farms and has made so many memories. I want to have Grammie and Pa’s farm for her and her sister. So, it’s not all serious here. Homesteading and farming should be fun.

Hope and Nino

Some things have been going on over here that have been raising red flags and I can only hope that we do not have to move again.  I must learn to take one day at a time and not try to foresee the future, jump to conclusions, or panic.  Today.

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We sat down to dinner last night and bowed our heads to say grace.  We thanked the Lord for our meal, prayed that everything would work out alright, and for hope.  Doug went out to milk and came running back in to get me outside.  Elsa was in labor!  Our first time mama was having her baby a week earlier than we expected.  A little boy came out fairly easily.  One baby for Isabelle, one for Elsa.  Odd that there were no multiples.  But, we are thankful for a healthy and quick labor and delivery.  An adorable baby boy with red hair came into the world.  He looks like his mom, a Saanen, the waddles under his chin, but with red hair.  He loves to snuggle and is so cute!  Hope is all around us.

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Doug named him Nino Bonito for beautiful boy but also he was born in what seemed like El Nino!  A horrible storm raged on outside the lean to.

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The Kitchen Counter Cheese Cave

I was pleasantly surprised last year that not only did I enjoy making cheese, it also turned out amazing.  I usually do not enjoy tedious tasks that take a long time, but I rather enjoyed the process and definitely the result!  The problem is finding a place to store the wheels of cheese where they can properly age and develop flavors without being eaten by mice or molding.

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The proper temperature for aging cheese is 55 degrees with a bit of humidity.  I thought our old coal chute in the basement in the last house would be good but it was very dusty, had mice, and was sixty-five degrees all summer. I read that one could use a mini-fridge and I borrowed my friend’s.  The problem was that by keeping it on the highest setting to attain fifty-five degrees, the small freezer part kept leaking on the cheese.

I found a refrigerator on Craigslist that was cheap because it didn’t cool any lower than fifty degrees.  Jack pot!  After placing a bowl of water in there with the cheese I created quite a nice environment.  Then we moved.  The jostling of the fridge on the trailer made it begin to work!  It froze the cheese.  When it defrosted,  it began to mold something awful and the chickens were gifted wheels of really stinky cheese.

We tried a cooler with an ice pack.  We tried the back guest room.  No where was quite right.

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I thought about it all winter.  Fifty-five degrees.  What keeps its temperature at fifty-five degrees?  And then I recalled the wine fridge that sat atop the counter at our friends’ house.  Fifty-five degrees for good red wine.  Holy smokes, I was excited.  Wine and cheese at the ready all summer.

We found one at the hardware store on sale, no less.  I am borrowing another cheese press this summer to make more cheese.  I’ll have two going at a at time.  Manchego, a light Italian cheese, Parmesan, sharp Cheddar….oh my.  I’ve missed my own cheese.  Purchasing it in the store is sadly lacking.  The girls are due in four weeks!  Fresh milk is on the way!

Get Your Goat! (a love story)

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Remember near the beginning of this blog when we were kind of afraid to get goats?  We loved goats after meeting one at a petting zoo while we still lived in the city.  After being butted and bruised and bullied by our friend’s goats while pet sitting we questioned whether we still wanted goats.  Her goats were rescues, males, had horns, and were not neutered.  We looked like good candidates for wresting, apparently.  So, we thought maybe all big goats were like that and wanted as small as ones as we could find.

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We met babies at Nancy’s for the first time and fell in love.  Then we were directed to Jill who had the smallest, most adorable baby goats.  They were Nigerian Dwarves.  We gave in to our long time hopes for goats.

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She gave us two goats that were half Dwarf.  They were a huge hit at the farmer’s market.  An adorable addition to our farm, but they were little escape artists and loved to prance under the storming feet of the horses in the fairgrounds, or nose around our neighbor’s garage for spilt chemicals.  We sadly gave them back to Jill before they could get hurt.

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Then she gave us two more dwarves, each pregnant, the younger one was the sweetest animal you can imagine.  The older one had her baby, who we sold to our friends, and then the mom went to live with a family in Colorado Springs because she liked them better than us.  The younger one died in child birth and broke our hearts.

Do you have anything to eat?

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Jill, in her unending generosity gave me yet another goat.  Elsa Maria, who went to schools with me when I spoke, went to the library, the coffee shop, and Walmart.  Who loved to snuggle and sit on my lap (I think she would still like that, but now it would be like a Rottweiler sitting on me!  But more wiggly.) and brightened our home.  Jill had to move and gave me Elsa’s mother, Isabelle, who patiently let us learn to milk her and was a great companion to Elsa.

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We boarded four goats.  We have visited countless caprines and I must say, we are definitely goat people.

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Now we just have Isabelle and Elsa (who are Saanens, one of the largest breeds), who are each expecting and will increase our little herd by trading one of their doelings for a newborn Nubien that our friend is expecting.  We loved having goat milk shares available, making our own cheese, and having these sweet, gentle creatures as companions.  Goats do make a farm.

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Five Reasons to Get Your Goat

1. Farm Pets- These animals are like having an outdoor puppy all the time.  Any time you can give is most welcome for snuggling, petting, getting them wound up and watching them hop around, and for treats.  You could pull up a lawn chair and watch the comedy show if you liked.  Goats are ever the comedians.  You can add a little happiness to the farm.  Goats are becoming more and more welcome across the country.  Big cities, including Denver and Colorado Springs, welcome small breeds of goats.  Many places with HOA’s don’t.  Don’t move there, folks.  It’s not worth it.

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Farm Products– In the spirit of everyone must pull their weight, goats are excellent at doing so.  There are fiber goats that can give the farmer lovely threads, dairy goats that produce delicious milk (and cheese, yogurt, ice cream…), and, well, here on this little farm we have no meat animals, but let it be said that there are goats bred for meat too.  Male goats can be used for breeding, or wethers can be used for companionship or protection of the herd.  Babies can be used in place of Prozac.

Farm money can be made from selling said fibers, milk, dairy products, or babies.

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3. Easy to Care For– Goats don’t require too much in the way of care.  They like a couple flakes of hay a day, some minerals and baking soda in a dish, and sweet feed during milking.  Fresh water and bedding.  A good fence.  The adage goes though, “If a goat isn’t happy, nothing will keep it in.”  So, keep your girls happy and they should stay put but a good field fence is wise.  They need their toenails trimmed and some good herbal medicines at the ready if needed but outside of that, they require not much more than a few hugs.

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4. Lawn Mowers– Goats do love a good bite to eat (don’t we all?) and they would like to eat whatever you place them on.  They will not eat everything as the rumors would say but they like grasses and weeds.  Oh, and trees.  Don’t let them near the trees you want to keep unless it is large and quite established!  They will mow down an area so that you don’t have to.

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5. Shock and Smile Factor– Have you ever walked down the street with a goat on a leash?  No?!  Oh my, you don’t know what you are missing.  Traffic slows or stops, people point, take second looks, question slowly if it is a dog, and it brings countless smiles to stranger’s faces.

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Goats=Happiness