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?

Homestead, Hobby Farm, or Commercial Farm?

“And sometimes I dream of things very, very fine,

but then realize a love of simple things is mine.”

-Katie Lynn

So you are ready to start something; growing food, raising animals, starting a new hobby. You have a bit of land or a plot in the city. You have checked zoning, read every homesteading and farming memoir in the library system, have been following my blog, and have a little bit of money to put towards an agricultural endeavor. Now, do you want a homestead, a hobby farm, or a commercial farm?

We have been homesteading for seven years now. Splitting logs if we have a wood stove, starting a small commercial farm with wool, eggs, milk, vegetables, and herbal medicines. Before that we had a small hobby farm where everything almost paid for itself but not much more. And we have lived on a “regular” paycheck and used homesteading as a means to save money and have a better life.

We have found ourselves in the most wonderful of circumstances; we are now the proud owners of a 1.1 acre lot zoned AG in the country. There are restrictions on how many animals one can have per acre. I do not have irrigation or water rights (the city water is from up the road from the reservoir and it’s quite good and not too expensive). My husband works full time and the children live over an hour away so I will be doing most of the work on this new farm. Land and houses are expensive in Colorado so our mortgage is high and will take a lot of our budget. All things to consider.

Homesteading: Homesteading is a a great way to live a simple, healthy, pretty self sufficient life. It generally includes a garden (anything from a community garden to a huge plot of land counts), avid preserving (120 pints of tomatoes…check!), a few farm animals (maybe a few chickens for eggs, ducks for laughs, goats for milk, and moving up from there), and a great respect for the lifestyles of our ancestors. There is nothing quite like gathering around the fire at night, the oil lamps lit, knitting on your lap, laughter in the air, time as a family sacred.

I will definitely be getting a homestead back in place here over the next year. Already, I miss my garden and harvesting what I want to eat. Popping open a jar of preserves without having to read the ingredients. Installing a wood stove and gathering kindling. Start milking goats again. I have homemade presents in mind for Christmas this year and new inspirations for crafts.

Homesteading generally saves money but it does take a lot of time so a stay at home wife or someone that can work their own hours can excel at this.

Hobby Farm: A hobby farm tries to pay for itself. The goats start to produce milk and you have excess, so sell the rest or make cheese and other products. Sell the extra eggs. Everyone pulls their own weight. The goats pay for their own feed, so do the chickens. A lot of people raise meat on their farms. Meat chickens grow to market weight in 6-8 weeks. Set up a U-pick or CSA or set up at a farmer’s market to sell extra produce.

An outside paycheck generally covers the costs of living expenses and the farm covers itself. Always make sure you have enough to live on plus enough to take care of animal feed in case the goats dry up, the chickens stop laying, or the garden gets destroyed by hail! Taking care of a farm is a year round chore but it is all seasonal. Planning for the down times takes a lot of stress away.

Commercial Farm: Oh, but you have a really great idea! Lots and lots of vegetables, specialty mushrooms, lamb, wool, flowers, etc. You have the land, you have the start up. You can get your name registered with Secretary of State and get a website. You can claim profits and losses on your taxes. You can qualify for grants and live your dream full time! Find some interns, and go for it!

We wouldn’t mind going this route. Our farm is named Pumpkin Hollow Farm and I have lots of ideas for pumpkin festivals and private tours and lunches at our farm. Farm to table dinners and homesteading classes.

A few things to keep in mind when pursuing a commercial farm.

  1. You could trigger an audit. With the ever booming hobby farm craze, folks from all over starting taking deep losses on their taxes. I know a lot of small farms that have been audited so keep your books and receipts in order!
  2. Have some money put aside for unexpected expenses or losses.
  3. Don’t put your eggs all in one basket! Create lots of ways to make money on your farm. Classes, festivals, different animals, different vegetables, crafts, etc. will help balance the budget out year to year.
  4. Don’t forget to stop and smell the roses. What a gift to have a farm. Don’t forget to grab a beer and sit on the back porch watching the chicken antics and the view around you.

Maybe you start as a homestead and work your way up or maybe you jump right into farming. Whatever you choose, have fun and be willing to be flexible and creative. A simple life is always a good life.

The Farmgirl School Milestone

Over a thousand blog followers.  I could not believe it as I lifted my coffee cup to my lips, the steam rising in the cooler morning air, and saw that number.  136,555 hits to my writings.  My most popular blog by far (by thousands) was How to Make Chokecherry Wine!  I want to share that with you again along with a few of my favorite blog posts.

What a chronicle this has become!  I use it nearly daily.  How do you can beans?  I look up my blog!  I am teaching a canning class today and I couldn’t remember how long to can pickled beets and eggs.  It’s right here.

We had a lovely visit with our friends, Lisa and Lance yesterday at Bristol brewery that resides inside a hundred year old school.  They have been on the same journey as we have all these years.  We have watched our children grow up and grandchildren come.  They have worked hard and own a ranch with their family out east. ( https://rafterwranch.net/) We talk about her cows, my chickens, our plans, our kids, this lifestyle.  We have some very big changes and great plans coming up so I bounce ideas off of Lisa and we talk about ways to make my new business idea work (oh, the suspense, I can’t tell you yet!) and how to use our house to buy a farm in the future.  In almost six years so much has changed for both of us, yet there sipping a macchiato on a summer day we may as well have been in her kitchen years ago plotting our next farming move.  Like minded friends are gold, folks.

And so, here’s to a 1000 more readers and a great many more tales to tell.

chokecherry

How to Make Chokecherry Wine

amish

A Visit to an Amish Home

baby girl

And a Child Was Born

 

 

The Motley Crew of Pumpkin Hollow

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I need this sign!

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Gandalf is over a hundred pounds now at seven months old.  He is adorable.  His crazy brother, Merlin is eight months old and thinks he is a jaguar.  Or a dog.  That boy is a little special.  Each morning my husband emails me from work and asks, “How are you and zoo?”

DSC_6169My three old kitties, that we had hand raised almost thirteen years ago, came home after being at the shop for over two years.  Let’s just say they don’t love Merlin.  Gandalf is loud and furry and naughty too.  I didn’t get chicks this year.  I think eight cats, a giant polar bear, and seven chickens will do me just fine for now.  But I tell you what, this zoo makes me laugh. Every. Single. Day.  It’s a motley crew over here on Pumpkin Hollow Farm!

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Trusting Intuition and Plant Medicines

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My kitten was very sick.  Five months ago I picked Merlin and his brother up at the feed mill where they had been found the eve before.  They were not even a day old yet and their mother was gone.  Merlin survived on dropper-fulls of milk delivered every two hours.  He spent his first six weeks, first in my bra, then in my apron top.  He went everywhere with us because of his feedings.  He is a feisty, furry, sweet little boy and I naturally have a very strong attachment to him.

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Last week I noticed that when he ran (which he seems to always be doing) streams of diarrhea were following him.  It wouldn’t stop.  He also has chronic allergies.  I had cancelled his appointment to get neutered at the “in-and-out-neuter clinic because they wouldn’t listen to me that they would have to be alert to his breathing.

I haven’t been to a vet in over a decade.  Same with the doctor.  I make my own medicines with 100% success and my full faith is in these plants.  If they don’t need to be spayed/neutered or humanely euthanized at the end of life, I don’t take them.  I know as well as I know my name what herbs do what.  I had been faithfully giving Merlin the antibiotic and the super immunity allergy medicine and these keep his sniffles in check.  He had two days worth of tummy trouble medicine that I make specifically for cats (chamomile, mint, mullein, lemon balm).  But fear makes us doubt.  It makes us panic.  And I made an appointment with the vet.

Doug recalled his trip with Merlin and as I read the line by line charges I realized the vet is no different than it was twenty years ago when I was a vet tech.  God love them but most vets (and doctors) are trained on a script, a pharmaceutical drug, and a bill.  She did a fecal sample.  I knew he didn’t have parasites because he had already taken my anti-parasite.  He didn’t but she de-wormed him anyway.  With a chemical.  That made him so bad that night that diarrhea was flying everywhere in large puddles as he screamed and literally climbed the walls.  Then they sold him some “special” food (I cannot believe after all this time they are still pushing that Science Diet stuff as healthy).  Tried to push vaccinations on him (even though he was clearly not feeling well).  Over a hundred dollars later we had a diagnoses.  Diarrhea.

I was furious that my Merlin was worse.  I was furious that I had not trusted my instincts, my intuition, my plants.  The next day, his third day of tummy medicine that I make, he was a hundred percent well.  One more dose and we would have had it.

How many times did I panic when the kids were little (before I was an herbalist) and rush Andy to the emergency room for pink eye (in 2 hours it is better with my recipe), or Shyanne with a headache (feverfew and willow), or Emily with seborrhea dermatitis (she was allergic to her earrings)?

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In our household and with thousands of clients over the years and students’ medicines made and the people they help and so forth, I have seen plants heal everything.  I beseech you to learn herbal medicines for your homestead.  I have saved my own flock of chickens, helped relieve pain in goats, de-wormed sheep, healed cats, saved dogs, and kept our family healthy and well.  The plants were made for this!

They are burying one of my son’s friends this week.  Oxycodone.

I have classes, I have an online store and shop, others across the world have the same.  Seek out wisdom in library books, with teachers, or if you have no desire to turn your basement into a full apothecary, find a real herbalist.  Not a health food store.  A working, breathing, passionate herbalist.

http://whitewolfherbs.com

Maybe 2018 is the year we all go back to the plants.

(By the way, Merlin is doing great!)

 

 

The New Farmdog

20170924_071821On Mabon, the eve of equinox, I smudged the house with oils and Doug carved on a candle a few things we wanted to manifest.  “Dog” was one of them.

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The next morning my friend, Alli, sent me a picture by text message of a litter of puppies.  Her husband was fixing equipment on a ranch and the pure-bred puppies were only fifty-dollars.  He could bring one home for me.  I looked up at the sky and said, “Dang, that was fast!”

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He ended up bringing one home for Alli and for one of their other friends as well.  Eight week old Heelers are pretty dang cute.

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We named him Arthur to match Merlin, our ten week old kitten.  Those two are running around this place like little bats out of hell until they fall into one of their many naps.  It’s pretty cute around here.

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Well, here he is folks, meet Arthur.

Compassion For Even the Smallest

 

tinyTiny Timothina had a bad day.  When we returned from our show last night we thought she was dead.  The other chicks were running over her.  Her wing and one leg were stretched out.  “Mama, I think we lost the runt,” Doug said sadly.  We saw her move though and there was life and hope.

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She was smaller than the other chicks and just wasn’t thriving.  We put her in her own small box with mini bowls of food and water and turned the light on her.  The next morning she was still alive though still laying on her side.  I put her in my shirt and rocked her as I had my coffee and checked emails.

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When we came home from our show tonight she was laying in her water dish and not well.  I held her again until she died.

That happens, it is hit or miss with chicks.  They are hatched then shipped all over the nation within twenty-four hours and sometimes for no reason we find that the chick (or grown chicken) has died of Sudden Chickie Death Syndrome (we made that up, don’t google it).

Each and every animal that comes through our farms is precious to us.  A live spirit.  A soul that came from the same universal energy source we did.  Their life is important.  Many an experienced farmer might just throw the chick away or put them in another box and walk away.  But we have brought many a chick back from the brink of death.  Ginger was practically decapitated when we found her, various chicks brought back by sitting on my lap watching television lived long lives.

So, do not give up hope on your weakened animals.  They may die, but you can hold them as their spirit is released.  We send love to each and every creature we have the honor of being around.  And this returns to us.

Chick Days Are Here Again

 

DSC_4911Is there anything sweeter than chick days?  They are little and adorable.  There is bird song in our home all hours of the day.  Gentle, joyous chirping from the closed guest room door.  Their personalities begin to emerge.  Namaste is sweet and content to stay in my hand.  Yoga likes to sit and watch me do yoga.  Buttercup is dead set on escape.  And Bobbi and Chi Chi (Maryjane named them) are frantic.  The unnamed Marans and the owl-like Araucana just follow the crowd.

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The grass is growing higher in their chicken yard and a huge pile of old compost waits for their sing song clucking and digging.  I can see them in my mind, rolling, gossiping, kicking up dirt in their luxurious dust baths.  The sounds of an urban farm are soothing against the traffic.  And inside the warm guest room with its red light glow holds little souls new here and joy in every new feather.

 

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The Southern Colorado Outdoor Living and Sustainability Fair was outstanding.  We caught up with some of the folks we knew in the sustainability world and met many new ones, farmers and young beginners alike.

I pep talked myself the whole way there, “I will not be sad.  I will not be sad.”  Seeing the homesteading and farming folks, chickens being demonstrated, chicks in troughs (Doug and I snuck over there early and gave the chicks kisses), a goat running by after being milked, I was afraid the whole scene would make me very sad.  But it didn’t.  In fact, it just served to fire us up again.  “Anything we have talked about is back on the table,” Doug said.  Do we want to move to Old Colorado City and have a funky urban farm?  We can.  Do we want to buy land in Elizabeth and go all out?  Then we can do it.  We have a year to get our act together financially and then go for it.  And there we will stay!

We are so sure of this venture (put your dreams in motion and watch them start manifesting) that we struck a deal with the Expo for next year.  We will return and with us will be a few farm animals.  I will be promoted as the Farmgirl and will be on their seminar lists and advertising.  I know my stuff about homesteading, farming, and herbs.  So does Doug, and we love sharing it with the world.

 

Can Cats Be on a Board of Directors?

chicken paint

“So what is your plan?” the advisor asked.  She had a bit of dizziness so I handed her a tincture of something to help her that I had made.  She took it and inquired upon my school.  There I sat in her school trying to think of what my plan was.

“English because I think that will be the easiest way to get a teaching degree for me.  I want to help homeschool parents and be an evaluator.”  She handed me two more sheets of requirements that I would need to take.

“I want to take Native studies, and botany, and…”  None of these are on the required classes so they would be electives.

“What is your plan?”  she says again.

“I want a farm that has programs for youth and holistic healing and organic vegetables, and internships, and animals, and supports the homesteading and homeschooling community, and…I know this isn’t making any sense,” I mention.  “I think I need a teacher’s license to make it all work together or to afford it.”

She wondered, too.  She also wondered if my own customized degree would work.

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Doug and I spent the rest of the day wandering around our grand downtown.  We took in the lights and had a meal, some coffee, perused a book store, held hands, wandered.

At home in bed we wrote down exactly what our plan would be.  And do you know what our plan would be?  The same dang thing we wrote down in detail this time last year!  A piece of land, a small house, a barn, greenhouse, hoop houses, an acre garden, a homesteading school, our herbal school, a holistic retreat, a spiritual retreat, an artist and writer’s retreat, youth programs and internships, farm animals, self reliance, food for the community, education, a place to do weddings and events.  Both of us have the exact same ideas and dream.

I ran through the classes offered at Metro while I waited for my password to be fixed and there on the screen was a very interesting idea.  Grant writing.  Non-profit.  And our world and conversation just got livelier.