Farm Days (goats, sheep, chickens, ducks, and trucks)

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Our little snow globe over here is thick with fog and freezing drizzle this morning.  Hopefully it will burn off soon.  We have a very large space of pasture that we are fencing in.  It has five rows of barbed wire around it, it just needs to be sectioned off from the rest of the ten acres but this goat and sheep mama is rather paranoid.  Coyotes!  Lambs and goat kids escaping!  It wouldn’t be hard.  My old greyhound will skirt under the wires if he feels the need to run five miles.  So pasture fencing will surround the space giving the adorable ruminants room to spread out and more grass to eat.

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feeding time

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This is the last week that the babies get bottles.  I am not sure who will be more devastated, the lambs or Maryjane!  She considers it her farm work.  As soon as we pull into the drive, scarcely awake from her groggy nap down fifty minutes of country roads, she jumps down and starts jabbering away about lambs and milk and bottles.  Nothing the untrained ear would understand, but I can see her excitement.  We may have a new baby next week from our friend’s farm, our own goats are due here in a few weeks and there will be plenty more bottle feeding opportunities for our mini-farmgirl!

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We are getting ducklings this week and today we pick up our farm truck.  Good thing since we need fencing!  This fog makes me want to join the cats though.

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Time to throw back another cup of joe and get to my farm chores.  I leave you with a lovely quote and a wish for a joyous day!

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How to Become a Homesteader-Part 3-Old Fashioned Items

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There was good reason for many of the items that we now view as quaint or wonder what they were for in antique shops.  There are some items that will make your life much easier in your homestead.  Some new, some not so new.

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1. Oil Lamps– Oil lamps are functional and beautiful.  In our effort to dramatically decrease our electricity use, we enjoy reading by these light sources.  We have one large one on each end table and Doug bought me two that hang on the wall, one either side of our pillows.  We have one on each table in the house and a few smaller ones that can be moved about.  Lamp oil is fairly inexpensive and the lights give a soft glow to the homestead.

There was one evening when the electricity went out in the entire neighborhood at our last house.  Doug and I did not even know until we got up and realized how dark it was outside!  We just kept on reading.

The softer light also signals the body that it is time to settle down.  Bright lights, LED lights, and blinking lights all act as stimulants for the body.  It’s no wonder there are so many sleeping issues out there!

You can pick up oil lamps at Walmart, at thrift stores, or new at Lehmans.com

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2. Aprons– I may have about thirty-two of them but I am always on the hunt for more and love receiving them as gifts.  I also make them but it is more fun to wear one that a nice great-grandma would have worn at one time.  It honors those that came before us to wear something used with love.

The reason for aprons was simple.  The girls had a only a few dresses and rather than mess them up every day and have ever more laundry (some chores never change) they wore an apron over the dress.  This kept the dress clean and it was easier to wash an apron then a long dress.  I wear my aprons out.  I wear them cooking, cleaning, doing farm chores, gardening, at farmer’s markets, and sometimes just out.  I like to keep a tissue, a bit of cash, my phone, and a pocket knife in the pocket.  I don’t have to lug around the suitcase of a purse I have!

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3. Pocket Knife– Doug and I got each other lovely turquoise knives.  But a good old fashioned Swiss would do nicely as well.  I have walked around with a steak knife in my pocket before getting a pocket knife.  A pocket knife folds up, y’all.  Just get one.  You can easily cut fresh greens, snip the twine off a bale of hay, or any number of other things that come up.  Cut open an apple, get one with a wine cork on it…instant picnic!  But really, yesterday I went to feed the goats forgetting that it was a new bale and pulling and pushing around the hay bale doesn’t get it undone.  I forgot my knife in the house.  Back in my apron pocket it goes.

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4. Work Gloves– It took us awhile but it wasn’t long before we figured out that we needed some work gloves.  We had several lying around but we keep them by the door now.  From mending fences, to digging fresh soil, from picking up a sick chicken, to bringing in firewood, gloves are imperative.

Even Maryjane has her own pair thanks to her Grandma Dawn!

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5. Cast Iron Pans– I spent a good many years buying those cheap Teflon pans in lovely colors only to get Teflon in my eggs and needing new pans.  We have a nice collection of cast iron now (always on the lookout for a new piece) and they will be passed down to our children’s children’s children!  They stay in great shape, can be whipped into shape if they have been neglected too long, can go from fire to stovetop, and are great for cooking.

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6. Cuckoo Clocks and Wind Up Clocks– Same reason as the oil lamps, should the power go out you wouldn’t even know!  We keep our clocks wound and love the gentle ticking.  The bird that appears thrills our granddaughter and visiting children (and many adults).  We don’t have any clocks with that dreadful LED light up display.  The last one was discretely placed in the giveaway pile.  I like the feel of a vacation home.  That I live in a vacation home.  Plenty of things to read and do, not a lot of electric stimulation, just gentle lighting and sounds.

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There are many nice things to have on a homestead; seeds, tools, books, board games, matches, coffee, a man…but these six things will get you started!

Winter Storm on a Homestead

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The season’s first storm blew upon the land.  Racing winds howled across the prairie.  The sounds both ominous and exhilarating.  The house shook, the wood stove crackled, cats snuggled close.  The midnight sky showed only coal black.

This morning the house read forty-five degrees.  Our breath showing in threads in the main room.  In the kitchen the little wood stove-that-could chugs along trying to keep up with the frosty chill.  A gentle snow is falling.

Horses escaped their pasture to the north and came galloping across our pasture.  A dozen majestic creatures stirring the snow and playing freely as they made their dawn run.

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The howling prairie now calm and peaceful, it is eleven degrees with the holiday snow flitting down.  The kitchen is warming, the coffee is hot, and the day ahead seems best spent beneath a warm comforter watching holiday movies!

But first chores need to be done.  Bundled up and braving the cold we need to check on chickens, break their icy water, give them food to warm themselves.  The goats are still away.

There is a great peace here.  A silent solace that calms the spirit.

Three cords of wood stacked high, a fire in the kitchen where we rub our hands together to keep warm…such is a homesteader’s life.

A Peek at the Typical Week of a Farmsteader

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Some folks envy us.  Some folks think we are crazy.  Some of our relatives wonder if we work.  Some people come from all over to learn what we do.  If you ever wondered what life on a farmstead looks like, particularly for an entrepreneur, here is a small peek into a typical week.  If you are interested in farmsteading, we will teach you everything you need to know to make small steps towards basic self sufficiency and regaining your freedom by making your own schedule.  Just check out the Homesteading School link on the menu.  We also have a Certified Herbalist and Master’s Herbalist program to help you learn everything you need to know to care for yourself, your family, and the animals that will share your farmstead.

Monday: Farm day

Up just before 7:00.  Doug goes outside to tend to the animals.  It could be a heavenly sixty five degrees or a miserable twenty below, it makes no difference.  Isabelle must be milked!   I make coffee and when Doug comes in after milking the goat I strain the warm milk from the bucket and prepare him a cup of coffee with fresh goat’s milk and a bit of sugar while he feeds and lets out the chickens and ducks.  We then spend some time writing, reading, paying bills, relaxing, and planning the day.

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After breakfast we begin our work.  Farm day is also canning day.  Any harvesting that needs to be done is completed in the morning before the plants go limp from the heat.  If I needed a boost in produce I would have bought a box of tomatoes or something from my friends at Miller Farms Sunday at the market.  We have to be diligent with canning.  Our winter food source is our root cellar/basement and freezer.  Yesterday a flat of tomatoes became six quarts of ruby colored pasta sauce.  We have been out of sauce since March to my utmost dismay and I will be canning a lot more this year.  We will double the eighteen jars we put up last year.

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A large pot of chicken broth was also in the works.  I saved in a freezer bag all chicken bones and odds and ends of carrots, onions, and celery over the past month and threw them all in the pot covered with water.  I added large handfuls of herbs and a bit of salt and pepper and let it simmer for an hour and a half.  This was pressure canned to make easy quarts of ready made broth.  This is a chore we do all year.

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Large bowls of green beans have been coming out of our garden and as quickly as we can process them, there are a bunch more ready.  It has been such a gift to be able to eat and preserve produce from my own gardens.

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Farm day includes any and all planting, weeding, mulching, harvesting, bee hive checking, fence fixing, coop and goat pen cleaning, lawn mowing,  and transplanting.

We fall in bed exhausted.

Tuesday: Class and Cooking Day

Anyone who wanted to learn to can would come on Monday to help.  Folks that want to learn specific skills like soap making out of fresh goat’s milk, candle making in containers with handles so that you can use it as guiding light at night, cheese making with delicious goat’s milk and fresh herbs, etc. come on Tuesday.  Each week I teach something new and also stock up for our own family.

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Tuesday is when I bake bread for the week and make a batch of hard cheese to start aging to enjoy in the winter.  I also plan the menus for the week and start preparing what I am packing (breakfast and lunch) to take to the markets.

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Doug works on miscellaneous things pertaining to business.  Paperwork, filling orders, errands, and anything else I give him in the form of a to-do list is on Doug’s agenda.  Every other Tuesday evening he shoots pool and I quilt in the evening or we might opt to take a walk or watch a funny show.

We fall in bed exhausted.

Wednesday: Apothecary Day

This is the day we get all of our product filled for the farmer’s markets that week.  We make lotion, fill bottles, combine teas, and get the car packed for Thursday’s market.  People seek me out all week for help and call at all hours of the day.  We work with them immediately but the farmer’s markets not only help us bring in more income, but also helps us meet infinitely more folks than we would from our farm.  We are able to help many more people and interest people in classes.

I also teach a Master’s class in herbalism on Wednesdays.

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Wednesday is also the day that I make extracts.  I harvest herbs that are ready to be cut and place them in jars.  All of my new recipes are made with fresh herbs straight from the gardens and prepared on the spot where they will brew until this fall.

Thursday: Market Day

Doug milks early and we head off to Colorado Springs (a 45 minute drive) at 6:30.  We set up our tent, our tables, our wares, and talk, help, and promote until 3:00.  We then break down and reload the car and sleepily drive home, arriving back at the farm at 4:30.  A quick dinner is all I can come up and the rest of the day is slower.

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We watch our granddaughter, Maryjane, the light of our life, four days a week while her mother is at work.  We are the only grandparents that do not have a nine to five job and dad is still in school so we get the great opportunity of playing with our baby most days.  Even though she wears us out, she adds a light and an energy to this place that I never take for granted.  She is a great gift to us.

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In the evenings, every single day, at around 7:00, Doug heads back in to milk Isabelle.  Twice a day, no matter the weather or our plans, Isabelle must be milked.  It is nice to have a set schedule.  It also saves us money.  Every time we make plans to gallivant about, we remember that we need to be home at seven!

Friday: House Day and Prepare for Markets

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Friday we deep clean our house.  All laundry should be done by this day.  We fill product that we sold the day before in preparation for the markets and get the meals packed for the next few days.  We even may have the opportunity to go out to eat with friends or just sit under the elm tree with a book.

Saturday: Market Day and Class

We head to the local farmer’s market on Saturdays.  It is close to home and ends early so it is obviously my favorite one!  We see lots of folks that used to visit our store and friends from around town come by to say hello.

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Our herbalist classes are on Saturdays.  People drive from all over to take my course and learn how to turn weeds into medicine that can heal up broken ankles or get rid of a nasty infection.  The classes are always eclectic, filled with interesting and fascinating students.  The coming semester promises to be full and two of the students came all the way from New York.  Ethan and Stephanie drove an RV here to Colorado to stay and work with me on everything from homesteading, to farming, to being my apprentices in herbalism.  They are a tremendous help and lovely company.

In the winter and spring we trade off dinner at our house, Kat and Rod’s, or Rodney and Pat’s.  We call it family dinner even though Doug and I are not related but rather adopted into their family.  We miss them in the summer!  We do not see much of our families either and try to find times to call.  Summers here on a farmstead are very busy!  In the winter we are less busy.  We just keep up with all the housework and cooking, the filling orders and classes.  But we stay fairly close to home in order to take care of our animals.

Sunday: Big Market Day

This is our biggest market day and we pack more medicines and products in the car to cover what we sold Saturday.  We get up at 4:45 to milk and head out by 5:30 to secure our spot at the market.  The markets are non-stop talking on hot pavement and really wear us out but they are imperative to our survival as herbalists and homesteaders.

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We run our errands in town after the market on our way home.  The library or health food store might be visits we need to make.  We then go home and relax before dinner needs to be made and the animals cared for.

We again fall in bed exhausted.  There is no need for sleep medicine in this house.

Making Our Own Schedule

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We make our own schedule.  It is freeing and satisfying.  We work very, very hard but we also have the option to say, “You know what?  The floors aren’t getting swept today.  Let’s go hiking.”  Yesterday was one such day.  While Doug and Ethan ran errands in Denver, Stephanie, Emily, Maryjane and I took a beautiful hike.  I still got the canning done (finishing early this morning).  Last night Ethan and Stephanie came in from their RV and we all enjoyed dinner in front of a recorded “Last Comic Standing”.  Wine and laughter poured freely and we ended the night later than usual under the stars admiring the Milky Way and shooting stars.

This is why we farmstead.