Six Years of Farmgirl School (and the adventure continues)

1005625_697090816973051_350125397_nSix years ago today I sat down and wrote my first blog post.  I had just recently heard of blogging.  I was writing regular columns in a few local newspapers but I was excited to take my words onto a bigger scene.  Even if I didn’t get any followers, I would enjoy typing away in the morning while watching out my window, holding a cup of coffee and watching the chickens play.  We were still fairly novice at everything from chickens to growing lettuce so the blog has chronicled our vast and adventurous journey and the life of a family, and inadvertently has become a comprehensive site to find out how to do everything from making witch hazel to milking goats.  My “How to Make Chokecherry Wine” has had thousands of views over the years.  Tomorrow, we will bottle homemade mead.

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This photo was used in an article in the Washington Post about our family.

I remember seeing a blog that had five hundred followers.  I could not believe it.  500!  I wondered what that would be like.  This morning I have one thousand, one hundred, and two followers.  Over 142,000 people have read my blog since I began this journaling journey six years ago in a rented farmhouse with nary an idea of how much to water crops.  We’ve come a long way!

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Maryjane
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Ayla

Six years ago I was preparing for my first granddaughter to arrive.  Today my second granddaughter is twelve days old.  Many people watched as we moved to what we thought was our forever farm, only to become homeless.  You cheered us on as we got back on our feet and purchased a home of our own with a third of an acre and a chicken coop.  You have watched me make friends, mourned over deaths with me, read as we created new businesses, patted us on the back as they closed, shared holidays with us. laughed with me, and befriended me.

Turns out that folks don’t keep blogs going for very long, maybe just a few years.  I love blogging.  Anyone who enjoys writing ought to start a blog.  It is easy and so restorative.  I just want to thank all the readers out there right now for giving me an ear, a place to be, for following along on this Farmgirl adventure.  It is far more fun to write for an audience.

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I read through the November posts from 2012.  The first ones.  Man, that’s some funny stuff.  Typos and all.  (Amazing how much one can edit and still overlook typos!)  Thanks for purchasing my books. (AuthorKatieSanders.com) I have seven, but Farmgirl School; Homesteading 101, which covered our first few years and my memoir, The Making of a Medicine Woman are near and dear.  I will have a second Farmgirl School book out by the end of next year.  We have much to discuss about urban farming and lots of projects to do!  (Let us turn the back porch into a greenhouse.  Should we get ducks?  Let’s make a walk-through arbor with pumpkins and twinkly lights!)  Oh friends, six years later, we are just getting started.  Thanks for coming along for the ride.

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Sleepover with a newborn goat at Grammie’s house.

If you have been a follower since the beginning please make a comment.  Here’s to another six years of living the good life.

The Farm Sanctuary

20171019_132845I can’t find anything written about it but word from the farmgirls in town is that we can now have two goats or sheep and up to twelve chickens.  Being such a farming community I was surprised that the town was so behind Colorado Springs and Denver when it came to legalizing farm animals in town.

Now this new news may not mean anything to our immediate future.  First and foremost we must pay off our debt.  I have a pretty lofty goal of paying off everything but the house this year.  Fifty grand is not easy to come by but I am determined to scrape and save and send farewell payments to our student loans.  Debt is most certainly a jailor and it is keeping us from our dreams.

And that dream might just be a farm sanctuary.  Years ago, huddled in the cold basement of a friend’s house who was letting us live there until we could get back on our feet, we drew out an elaborate plan one cool autumn night.  A farm.  The only thing we have ever wanted.  Rented farms were fun and disastrous.  Not having money made it difficult as well.  We imagined and created a farm that was a non-profit.  Something folks could get behind.  Our family-run farm would be complete with large vegetable, herb, and perennial gardens.  There would be a building to teach classes like homesteading arts, gardening, art, writing, cooking, herbalism, and preserving.  A place to serve meals and a place to house interns.   A general store would sell preserves and tinctures and produce.

The animals we accumulated on our past farms were never to eat.  At the end we had twenty-four chickens, two sheep for wool and entertainment, two goats for milking, and four ducks for eggs and laughs.  This time around we wouldn’t have the milking goats.  Cashew milk tastes pretty good.  But there are plenty of little boy goats that may need rescuing.  A wethered (neutered) goat is just like a puppy.  I eat the eggs of my beautiful chickens because, honest to god, they don’t care.  Eggs from the store-even organic, free range- come from horrid, cruel environments.  But my hens are named, snuggled, and live out their whole life with me.

If the animals are in a safe, happy environment and people can come to a farm and have a great vegan meal and play with farm animals and see the souls, personalities, and life behind each individual, that could make a profound difference.  To show folks that one person can make a tremendous impact on the environment, saving endangered species, save the lives of thousands of animals over their lifetime, and completely restore their own health would be the best possible work for me.

I know this is a big dream.  (Add to it that we want it in a warmer climate like southern California) I don’t usually dream quite this big.  It probably will not start this complete but will manifest and grow into itself.  We have been learning and preparing for this dream for the past ten years.  Here on this little urban sanctuary I have room for a few more rescued chickens.  Perhaps some ducks.  Maybe a wether.  Really, not much more if even that.

But first things first.  Create a written plan.  Learn how to start a non-profit.  Pay off debt.  Dream big.  Enjoy the present.

Wintertide

It is about now that I start wanting my house guest to leave.

“Winter,” I say, “Old Chap, is there anywhere else you need to be soon?”

He shakes his head through gales of frost.

I put on another cup of coffee.  Put another log on the fire.

The cold crops go in the ground in six or seven short weeks.  We will have bustling to do to get the new garden fenced and the soil ready.  We will devour the warm days as they come.  Spring will surely rise from the frozen ground.  I appreciate the rest, the rest for the plants and trees, the water, the blah, blah, blah.

‘Tis about the mid of January that I am ever ready for blessed warmth and activity.  Yet Jack Frost rarely hauls out slow so I must welcome the guest awhile longer.

The snow lightly covers the landscape as the golden sun arises and sends glitter across the lawn.  My winter puppy is in love with the season and leads his walk outdoors by mouthing up big gulps of icy snow.  I found a small, fallen branch.  Abandoned after falling out of yonder tree.  The sap still slightly sticky.  I brought it home.  It is the flower of winter, the conifer bough, and it sits proudly in its vase upon the stove.  (The only place the kitties can’t get it.)  It hearkens the beauty of winter-all of its reds and greens and glittered snow and great open blue sky-and reminds me to walk upon its icy tread, to breathe fresh air and not yet make the spring to-do list, but to visit geese and winter ducks and welcome the winter time.

For a few more months anyway….

 

Farmgirl School; Homesteading 101 (now available on Amazon!)

Homestead 101 Cover

I never guessed back in 2012 what this would become.  I set out to chronicle our adventures in homesteading.  To create a template and how-to that we wish we had.  We weren’t able to find information on how to farm high altitude, or how to bottle feed a goat, or how to do any of the hundreds of things we did by trial and error on Pumpkin Hollow Farm.

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Those years on the homestead were some of the best times of our lives.  Re-reading the manuscript was like reading about an old friend.  I laughed and recollected.  I finished the book with a smile.  As if I had read it for the first time.

Our Lady of the Goats

This book is priceless, I tell you, it has everything a new homesteader could possibly need to get started on their journey.  Organic gardening, high altitude farming, canning, dehydrating, root cellaring, freezing produce, back yard chickens, bottle feeding goats, taking care of ducks, candle making, soap making, herbal remedies, recipes, homemade gifts….goodness, the list goes on.  The textbook we needed, but in a humorous storytelling method.

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I am so excited to see this book in print!  It is now available on Amazon in paperback and for Kindle.  https://www.amazon.com/dp/152077494X?ref_=pe_870760_150889320

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Wishing you many blessings on your homesteading journey.  See you ’round the farm!

Chicken Mama

I simply cannot wait to hold those babies in my hand.  Those little balls of fluff.

As we were losing our rented farm and needing to find someone to live with, we had to give away everything.  I stood outside and watched those chickens be placed head first into crates.  My chickens.  Laverne, Luisa, Ginger, and twenty-two of their named sisters…the ducks too.  I kind of lost myself there for awhile and as Doug helped them pack up my chickens, I stood screaming.  Screaming.  Losing my animals was worse than losing my antiques.  Worse than losing my three cords of wood, my newly planted garden, my homesteading school, my dreams.  Our chickens made us farmers when we first started out.  Our little house in town where our children would spend hours in the coop kissing and cuddling each chick.  Chickens took us to the next level.  In four weeks we will have chickens again.

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Doug and Maryjane drove to the feed store to order chicks and picked out two Salmon Faverolles who lay pinkish eggs, have slippered feet, and who are docile and good layers.  They are also very pretty.  We do love pretty chickens.

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Two Marans joined their order, those beautiful dark chocolate eggs and pretty feathers.  This is a picture of me holding one of our Marans.  It was used in an article that was written about our family in the Huffington Post.

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Four Jersey Giants, our favorite.  One of our Giants, Shirley used to sit in the lawn chair and read magazines with me.  They were among our friendliest chickens.

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My friend is raising Javas.  They have pink eggs, are a little conceited, but they are pretty enough to warrant it.  We are getting four of them.

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To complete our order, after much begging from me and Maryjane, Doug chose two blue Runner ducks.  My heart is full.

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In four weeks I will be a chicken mama again.  I know I keep saying it, but it sure is good to be back.

The Littlest Farmgirl Strikes Again (and choosing backyard chickens)

How does a nearly four year old remember life on a farm so vividly two years ago?

“We need to get goats,” she says casually.

“We can’t have goats here,” I replied, “but guess what we are getting?”

“A cow?”

“Uh, no.”

“How will we get milk?” she exclaims!

“We are getting sheep though.” she continues.

“Uh, we can’t have sheep here.”

She sighed as if mustering patience for me.  “But I love sheep!” she exclaims again.

“We are getting chickens!” I said brightly.

She told me all about chickens and how we get their eggs and take care of the chicks and feed them.  The sunny opening of the soon-to-be shed beckons and I can nearly see the ladies pecking the ground in the sunlight, rolling in the dirt, and having their lively conversations.  Today we go to the feed store and reserve our chicks.  Two of our favorite breeds were our originals, Golden Buffs and Jersey Giants.  Neither breed is very interested in flying the coop and they are dang near cuddly.  They are also great layers.

Trying to appease the child I said, “Well, I think we can have ducks…”

“Oh good!  We’ll get a little swimming pool for them again..” Maryjane told me how we will care for them and did some quacking for good measure.  My goodness, what a memory.

Once a Farmgirl, always a Farmgirl.

The Return of Farmgirl School

That’s right, Folks.  From small town urban farm to prairie homestead to friend’s houses to apartment living while farm dreaming to….our own homestead.  One that we own.  As we approach the four year anniversary of Farmgirl School, how fitting to start it off with a bang.  A new farm.  An urban farm.  Watch as we search, find, purchase, decorate, and turn an ordinary place into a beautiful and inspiring homestead.  Farmgirl School is back.

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The New Notebook

The pink leather notebook, fresh and empty of ideas, lay open upon the wooden breakfast table near the wood stove. Ideas flourished and manifested across the pages. The intensely planted garden of organic produce, the small dairy, the ducks, the chickens, the sheep, the goats, the bees, the homesteading school, the farmgirl classes, the herbal classes, […]

via The New Notebook — Medicine Wolf

Farm City

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Novella Carpenter has captured me.  I am having trouble leaving the book alone long enough to get my work done!  I am busy dreaming up crazy ideas, nodding and crying with her, smiling at her triumphs, comparing them to my own.  “Farm City; The Education of an Urban Farmer” is a great book.

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It makes us think of an option we have long looked at.  Would we enjoy an urban farm?  The cons we always looked at were the finite amount of garden space, the limited farm animals, the close neighbors, the noise, pollution, city water, and limited wood burning.  But this book brings to light the marvelous perks that appeal to us.  My great friend, Ethan, who was my farm intern a few years ago, texted me something to the gist of, “Read Farm City!  It will make you want to take over empty lots and garden.”

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Yesterday, my truck wouldn’t start.  It seems to be on strike.  I lasted about four hours in my apartment then jumped on my bike and ran errands around town stopping in between to sit on random benches and soak up the sun, answer business calls, and eventually ended up at Purgatory Winery where I devoured a few more chapters and a cool glass of Chardonnay.

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Even out on our little homestead on the prairie surrounded by peace and quiet and astounding natural beauty, we would be tending the fire, finishing chores, then would suddenly drive forty-five minutes to town to pick up one thing from the store.  Call it stir-crazy, attention deficit disorder, or cabin fever, Doug and I don’t stay put.  We also love the freedom of jumping on a bus, a bike trail, or walking to wherever we need.  Perhaps that comes from our long string of unreliable vehicles.

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We love restaurants.  For fifteen years we keep saying we are going to give them up!  Expensive, unhealthy, waste of time…ooh look, a new Indian place.  Our friends that never go out to eat, frequenting restaurants for special occasions only are amazing to us.  But, we know we aren’t giving up eating out a few times a week and that is that.

Where neighbors are a con to city living, they can also be a pro.  Good neighbors are family.  Local music, karaoke, coffee shops, book stores, we want it all.  So, a farm in the city makes quite a bit of sense to us.

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My passion is farming, sharing farming, food security, children knowing where their food and medicine can come from.  If I have a magnificent large country farm, who will see it?  Only school groups and locals will be inspired.  It is easy to grow on a large plot in the country, the real inspiration is given to those rounding the corner on a city street and coming across a veritable Eden in the middle of town.

Still a year away, but the ideas are swirling.  Pick up “Farm City” by Novella Carpenter.  See what crazy ideas you come up with!

 

Ebb and Flow of Farm Life

The ebb and flow, the life and death, the frequency changes and seasons all so crisply clear when one lives on a farm.

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The ducklings do not fail to bring smiles.  Frolicking in their playpen in a casserole dish turned pond.

The farm dog lays under freshly mounded soil by the empty bee hive.  Bumble passed away in the night.  The quiet house without his tick-tick-ticking and the sight of him this morning haunts me still.  Dumping the pile of dead bees in the compost.  A weight pulls my heart.  The dead chicken with suspicious slobber on her feathers.  Death is real and constant.

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The monastery of frogs chant from the pond beneath the full moon.  The baby red winged black birds chirp madly in the greenhouse.  The kittens play.  The seedlings stretch to the sky, the sun on their limbs.  The breeze brings on it blossoms from trees and the scent of dampened soil.  Elsa’s side grows.  Twelve more days until she kids.  Bundles of fluff, lambs who think they are dogs, greet me with kisses and lean against my legs.

Relationships start.  Unexpected, journeys change.  Paths bring second thoughts, perhaps regrets.  Marriages strengthen.  Friends offer embraces.  Words of wisdom and love over the telephone far away.

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The Creator waits for our prayers of thanksgiving as we busy ourselves with endless internal chatter.

Wading through and finding peace in the respectfulness of death, the joy of birth and spring, and my spirit shall join the frogs in their meditation of all that is.  Take a breath.

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Spring is here and the journey continues.