Pumpkin Hollow Farm (a possible beginning?)

Our children are coming for the weekend and Doug and I zoomed around in our convertible looking to see what farms near us would be open that we could take them to.  Our kids and grand-kids love farms and who doesn’t love a good apple fresh off the tree and a bumpy hay ride?

We moved to the country.  To land of our own- not rented- that is zoned for agriculture.  We are surrounded by the friendliest folks you can imagine and surrounded by majestic views.  Walking through the farms, we laughed at the chickens, talked weather and crops with the farmers, and found ourselves at home here.  We live in a place now where we will be able to grow pumpkins really well.  We live in a place where tourists arrive from all over the state to pick and purchase produce.  Wineries, farm stands, and orchards abound.

After nearly seven years of pursuing farming (and often feeling like a failure), I think we are finally at the farm we dreamed of!  Blank slate for sure, but here we are.  We can see the baby goats playing with our dog in our minds, the chickens free ranging near the garden, the apple trees in bloom, the kids picking out their own pumpkins, the homesteading classes in my kitchen, women with wine glasses laughing while making cheese.  By god, we might be sitting on our dream. We are not done yet.  Looks like Pumpkin Hollow Farm (and Farmgirl School) are just beginning.

How to Calm a Farmgirl

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Maryjane’s mama had to work late last night.  She was getting to that two year old too tired to stay awake hysteria.  So how do you calm a born farmgirl?  Hand her a farming magazine.

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There was a picture of a child milking a goat that she was enthralled with.  Photos of sheep.  Yesterday at the store she pretended she had sheep there.  She put them to bed, made them medicine, made them go outside, and loaded them into the truck when we left.  I need to get a farm again.  I am missing it so much I can hardly breathe, and I do not want the little farmgirl to forget.  Long live the farm dream.

The Homestead Pinafore (Mennonite treasures)

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Over two years ago a fellow blogger, Eileen, and I sewed aprons for one another and sent them across the country to each other.  I made her a half apron with beautiful fabric with a chicken towel sewed on as pockets.  She sent me a Mennonite style apron since she lives near a large community.  She wanted to make me something that I wouldn’t have and indeed this apron was a great gift to me and one that I have never seen replicated.

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It reminds me of the pinafore on the front of Raggedy Ann’s dress and pinafores were always a pretty accessory to the occasional dress I had growing up.  I wondered what the difference was between a pinafore and an apron.  A pinafore comes from “pin a fore” or pin the apron to the front of the dress such as the Amish do.  Then it came to be understood as an apron that had two arm holes and covered a large part of the dress.  It turns out a pinafore is another form of an apron.  So, I naturally love it.

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I’ve touted it before, aprons are an important accessory for any farmgirl.  They can make an ordinary outfit look different every time one wears it.  They keep one’s dress clean so one doesn’t have to do laundry as often (yea!).  There are pockets so that one can find their keys, pocket knife, tissue, phone, gardening trowel, small toys, clothes pins, and eggs from the coop.  (Just remember to take the eggs out when you get in to the house!)

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I probably strike folks as a bit different with my long skirts and aprons but fashion should hint at one’s personality and passions, not on what companies want to sell that season.  I get many compliments about my aprons from adults and I overhear young people whispering to their friends that they love the way I dress.  Yesterday at the farmer’s market a vendor said that she had seen more people with aprons on.  Fabulous!

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My beautiful apron that Eileen had given me had seen child’s tears, gardening dirt, held a dying chicken, was stained with goat placenta, had been covered in flour, had been worn around our homestead, then to our new temporary one, to now.  I asked Eileen if she would sew me a few more.  Apparently Eileen hates to sew.  She had a solution though!  I sent an extremely fair price to her to give her Mennonite neighbor who had loaned her the pattern in the first place and her daughters made me five of the most beautiful aprons/pinafores I have ever seen.

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A gift beyond measure.  I cannot wait to wear them on my next homestead! (and today….I’ll wear one today!)

Reader Survey

I love writing this blog.  I love expressing and teaching and making friends around the world.  Writers need readers and I am grateful for those of you that take the time to read my work, my ramblings, my ideas.  Now, I want to hear from you!

Why do you read my blog?

What are your favorite topics that I write about?

What would you like to see written about?

If you are one of the readers that reads every one of my posts, what draws you to my blog each day?

What are your thoughts on the blog, photography, or anything else?

I plan on writing this blog for many years to come.  Thank you for taking the time to comment.  Thank you for taking the time to check into Farmgirl School!  Have a beautiful, inspired day!

Farmgirl School Part 3 (cottages, mountains, and Permaculture)

Doug holding one of the cows we were treating

Farmgirl School began while looking out the French doors onto a barren back yard in a small town.  Two dogs slept behind me as I set up the WordPress site.  What to name it?  It seemed perfect.  I needed a school!  Things that we were not taught growing up in the city were difficult to learn, we often did it the hard way, and the adventures were funny and informative to write about.  Our first garden there was short and compact.  We didn’t water enough.  By the third summer there we were quite a spectacle when folks drove down the main road in front of our house.  There we were among honey bees, watering the expansive pumpkin patches along with all the other vegetables that had taken over the yard.  The corn field in the driveway, the raised beds, the chicken in the front yard that wasn’t supposed to be there, the goats in the back yard.  The ducks playing in their pool.  It was quite a blissful place there in town.

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Last fall we moved to a homestead without heat, without any luxuries, and made our way chopping wood, hauling water, taking care of sheep, goats, and chickens.  We worked and toiled through hail and cold to put in a half an acre garden, and donned our accomplishments with peace and pride.  So the delusional insinuations and the suddenly suburb-same rent was a blessing, it turns out. (As these things always do.)  The most we lost was all of our money and a tiny piece of our sanity.  As I write a looming picture comes to view, a futuresque, Tim Burton style Holland appears all across the horizon, and amazingly close to this property, a windmill farm threatens my beautiful owls and the equilibrium of the occupants in this area.  Well, the lessons we learned here were great.  We realize that nature provides.  A willow tree can provide food at its base, water nearby, medicine in its branches, and shelter from storms.  And it turns out we didn’t need so much stuff!  The owners of this property will be gifted with the lovely wood stove we put in and a half an acre of food.  I hope it blesses them and that they will find happiness.

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And now we are off to Part 3 of Farmgirl school.  I felt suddenly saddened that I may not have anything else to write about, that our farming, homesteading, living sustainably, poetical outlet was finished.  This blog seems to be a bit of a life force for me.  I so look forward to waking with the sun to write about our adventures, to teach, to learn from readers, to ignite friendships around the world.  And I am so pleased to announce our next step of this adventure.

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Remember in January when the house was forty-five degrees and we could see our breath because the wood cook stove in the kitchen didn’t actually heat the house?  We escaped to the Indian Hot Springs that day in the mountains and soaked in the warm pool.  There were two girls there that just seemed like light filled spirits and I had to go tell them how lovely they were.  One of the ladies, Jillian, contacted me a few months later and signed up for the herbalism course.  Each week I see her and when it was apparent we had to leave here she had a brilliant idea that she and her husband, Chris, pitched to me and Doug over drinks on a patio of a historic hotel at the base of Pikes Peak.  A co-homestead.

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They close on a bed and breakfast in Manitou Springs in three weeks.  The beautiful old inn is a smiling Victorian in town with a wee cottage in back.  One room will be available through Air B&B on weekends.  They will inhabit the upstairs and most of the downstairs.  A large area with a classroom is being set up for our respective classes.  We can see a large blackboard with that week’s specials on it that Jillian and I lovingly prepare en masse once a week in the larger kitchen.  She is a baker and a great cook.  You all already know my obsessions with great food and cooking techniques.  Perhaps I will finish that Sommelier Certification.  We have great plans for feeding our families.  A large root cellar and pantry downstairs will hold our hundreds of preserved foods and root cellared items.  We will don our aprons and create sustenance for winter.

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The men are heading to a cobb making workshop Thursday to learn to build an outdoor kitchen, bread oven, and hobbit style chicken coop.  They are planning the infrastructure of the new urban farm.  Chris is planning a party where the local experts on Permaculture and sustainable gardening come and mingle and note where things might work well in the new garden to be.  The large u-shaped driveway will become a meandering, lush oasis of food and teaching.  We can glean knowledge from these folks that have done this before and then take our own ideas and create this garden complete with a greenhouse (and possibly a solar heated hot tub within!).  The three of us have taken Permaculture classes but need to just put it into place with our hands.  They have learned more than I and I am excited to have new teachers all around me.

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The cottage is three hundred square feet.  It is, um, quaint.  And enchanting, and challenging, and cozy.  A Snow White cottage in the middle of town surrounded by trees and lilacs.  It’s pink, and has shutters, and window boxes.  It is the playhouse I always wanted!

Half a block away is the main strip of shops and restaurants in this historic town that nestles at the base of our favorite mountain.  My great, great, great uncle was Zebulon Pike and my adventurous spirit comes from the lines of pioneers before me!

We will be warm this winter.  We will be visiting farmer’s markets, preserving food, getting honey bees, creating a Permaculture garden, ponds, and a greenhouse.  We’ll have an outdoor kitchen, a traditional horno, chickens, ducks, and herb gardens galore.  We will be co-homesteading, proving that it can work, sharing the load, and creating an oasis here that will inspire and sustain.  Their sweet daughter, Ahna, can enjoy the security and serenity of this place, and Maryjane will be with me two or three days a week where she will be doted on and taught by a whole new family of people.

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I changed the name of my herbal school to Sacred Owl School of Original Medicine and will teach classes there.  I’ll tell you more about that later.  We are brimming with ideas and excitement for this new venture.  Even though this place is incredibly breathtakingly beautiful, it seems to always be in a fog, always windy, colder than town, and not really our home after all.

I raise my coffee cup to you, here’s to new adventures on the journey ahead.  Thanks for reading and I can’t wait to see what we will all learn next in Farmgirl School!

Homesteader’s Espresso (off grid ready and fuel for chores)

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We are trying to purchase any desired or needed items to be off-grid ready, non-electric, and well made.  Doug works at a coffee shop in the winter, we enjoy really good coffee, and I do like an occasional espresso in the afternoons.  I researched non-electric espresso makers.  They were pricey and the concept was the same as our non-electric French Press.  Just pour boiling water over coffee grounds!  The containers were smaller and made a more compact, stronger cup, but essentially it was the same.  I poured roughly one cup of water over 4 Tablespoons of good coffee grounds and let it sit for four minutes or so.  Perfect espresso!

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My friend, Nancy (dang, I miss that woman!), taught me to use lemon peel.  She learned it in Italy.  She rubbed the lemon peel on the lip of the cup before taking a sip of the dark, rich drink.  It didn’t sound like it would be a good pairing but it was. A burst of sweet and tart and rich and earthy in one small, timeless sip.  This is best enjoyed on a patio, or under a tree, or with friends.  A little pick-me-up before the second round of farm chores.

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I have been enjoying it on rainy afternoons since the rain just won’t let up, but the past two days it has been sunny during the day and rainy at night, a perfect combination!  Look at how beautiful everything is turning in its electric green and soils filled with life.

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Perhaps summer is coming after all!

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Farmicure (the newest look in fashion)

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Back when I was a full time model I always had my nails done in a stylish and versatile French manicure.  My face was covered with foundation to even out my skin tone (freckles) and I always had my hair done.  That seems like a different life ago!

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It wasn’t that terribly long ago (okay it was a little while ago), I still look pretty close to the same, am the same size, but now I call myself a Grandma, spend time putzing around the farm instead of a runway, cut my nails short to play the guitar, and have a new manicure.  Dirt under my nails nine months of the year!  The occasional eye makeup put on should my diva side appear but mostly I am au natural.  This is my natural hair color.  Rather boring after all the years of red, but it is what it is.  Freckles, laugh lines, life has been good.  I like this new look.

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Photo Glimpse of Farm, Family, Life

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We went and visited our friends, Lisa, Lance, Brandon, and Brett, on their homestead.  Maryjane is such a little animal lover and horse whisperer already.  Her friend, Tuvia (Lisa and Lance’s grandson) was there to play with her and together they visited with cows, chickens, horses, and dogs.  A farm girl in the works!

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The aftermath of the cold was sobering but not surprising.  Everything in the cold frame was gone.  I just received this cold frame as a barter for a class so I am still new to it.  Should I have packed it with straw?  Covered it with a blanket?  Brought everything in?

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The bees activity couldn’t help but remind me of Monty Python’s “The Holy Grail”.  “Bring out your dead…” kept ringing in my mind as the bees studiously brought out dozens of dead bees, one still moving.  “I’m not dead yet!”

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We went to a lovely birthday celebration for my future son-in-law and Maryjane’s daddy, Bret.  It was his 18th birthday.  This young man is just wonderful.  He is a devoted partner to my youngest daughter, Emily, and a doting father, who I rather fear is going to spoil that little girl rotten (if Grammie and Papa don’t beat him to it!).  He is finishing high school and going to college full time to be a diesel mechanic.  Very proud of the family they have become.  It was fun getting together with his rather large family at a nice restaurant and celebrating.

Doug and Bret

Doug and Bret

Bret and Maryjane

Bret and Maryjane

Me and Emily

Me and Emily

Lots of family

Lots of family

Bret's brother, Bailey and I try out taking a selfie.

Bret’s brother, Bailey and I try to take a selfie.

My girls

My girls

Cutie petutie.

Cutie petutie.

Outdoors temperatures have rose to the thirties and forties and it feels like a heat wave!  I sat outside for a moment with my face to the sun taking in the warmth and the light.  I love the sun.  The animals are cuddling together to keep the warmth and all is well and peaceful at our little farm.

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I hope this finds you, dear reader, safe and warm and healthy in your own homestead.  And with less than a week before Thanksgiving, I ought to turn off the Christmas music, and start preparing for the Thanksgiving meal.  I am blessed to have friends and a few of the kids joining us this year.  We all have much to be thankful for.

What are you thankful for?

 

Four Star Farmgirl (meal planning and movie stars)

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We celebrated our anniversary this weekend with a stay at a four star hotel in downtown Denver.  It is a very old building with excellent service and two four star restaurants and lush surroundings.  We were standing in the foyer the other night looking at one of the menus.  A gentleman sat to our right.  He had passed us walking down the street earlier and now sat near us.  Doug whispers (probably a bit too loud), “Don’t you think that guy looks like a mix of Clay Aiken and Martin Short?”  He looked right at us.  I said, “No…maybe a little like Martin Short.”  Of course it turned out that it was Martin Short!  The weekend was accentuated by fancy restaurants with dime sized danishes for seven dollars, two ravioli for fifteen (a steal, I am sure), and very loud traffic, screaming homeless people, giggling drunk girls, and ongoing construction through paper-thin windows.  We did enjoy all the mouth-watering food, never having to open a door, delicious twelve foot windows to look out while sipping coffee and three days of doing nothing or whatever we pleased.  A fabulous weekend all together.  I type this in our beautiful hotel room as we prepare to go back to the country.  Back to peace and quiet.  I will have to start opening my own doors though once I get back.  I could be waiting on the porch for a long time.

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After weeks of celebrations and eating out and spending near fortunes (all worth it for fabulous food and company) it is time to get back to being a proper farmgirl.  And proper farmgirls meal plan.  Not meal plan like when I was first out on my own when it was imperative to do so because I was so broke.  Monday- Mac and Cheese, Tuesday- Hamburger Helper, Wednesday- Ramen Noodles.  Lord, how did we ever survive our twenties on meals like that?!  Now we meal plan because of health, finances, and because we desire good food!  No matter how good the food was at Cru or Kevin Taylor, it was probably genetically modified, not organic, and who knows where it came from.  I like to know what I am putting on the table!  Fresh, organic, grew it myself maybe (in the years to come, that will increase dramatically), homemade.  I love to eat like I am in a four star restaurant and I think for a hundred and twenty dollars I could have put on a better feast!  Infused oils, fine salts, fresh herbs, brightly colored produce, and homestyle cooking make life very nice indeed.  Add to that a glass of great wine (for less than twenty-five dollars a glass) and you are in business!

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However, after a long day of cleaning house, tending to business, taking care of animals, running errands, and a short attention span, if I don’t have a menu planned out, forget it…we’ll be eating Chinese food.   And I don’t really like Chinese food. I would much rather have my own cooking, I just need a bit of preparation.  I tried meal planning a week of meals in advance.  Beautiful, but by day eight if we didn’t get to the store we were out to eat.  I tried meal planning for three weeks.  Lost interest after two weeks.  So, two weeks of meals seems to be the magic number.  I have to drive to town to the health food store to obtain ingredients so every two weeks works for me.

I have begun checking out two library cookbooks each week and making my meals from there.  Mind you, I never follow recipes.  I can’t.  Too many variations and ways to make it better!  But I get fabulous ideas and general guidelines and each week is a new theme or book.  Cowboy cooking and slow cookers this week.  One pot meals and fresh Tex-Mex next plus plenty of personal inspiration.  Little House on the Prairie cookbook and Farmer’s Market Cooking the next.  I am determined for the next several weeks (okay, except the night we go to Evergreen for Doug’s birthday with our dear friends, Monte and Erik, for a ‘could die of happiness, the food is so freakin’ good’ meal) to make and stick to meal plans, eating at home every single night of the week, plus lunches and breakfasts at the table as well!  We will feel better, will not be overly full, will have lots of extra money to put into the homestead fund, dinner will always be available to children passing through or drop-in friends, and evenings at home are marvelous and fine.

Remember when you are meal planning to take some things into consideration: If you need to pack a lunch or dinner, make it picnic food.  If you know you will have a terribly busy day, plan for the slow cooker.  Have a nice mix of leisurely dinners like homemade pasta, and quick dinners like potato soup so that you are prepared.  Have plenty of ideas and ingredients to make impromptu dinners if you couldn’t get to the store after two weeks.  Eat plenty of colors even in the winter.  Kale, cabbage, carrots, potatoes, sweet potatoes, salads, squash, beets…beans of all sorts and lots of garlic.  Soup is fast and easy!  Leftovers are your friends for lunches.  Above all, enjoy the sensory and tactile experience of foods.  Enjoy the process of making it, serving it, eating it whether with others or alone.  Perfect the art of making sauce.  Sauce makes everything special.  Candlelight and good music a must!