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.

Pumpkin Hollow Farm Homesteading Supplies and Classes (a shop is born)

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Wednesday: The idea came swift and clear as a starry night.  Or perhaps it resurfaced.  Or perhaps it was whispered in my ear by the homesteading spirits before me.  Either way, it has been seven days since then and we are already planning our grand opening.

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Thursday: I ran the idea by my youngest daughter to see if she wanted to be a part of it.  She was in.  We went for a long hike and discussed why we wanted to start a farmgirl store.  I did not want to start something rashly with just money in mind.  It needed to be meaningful and enjoyable.  We came up with a list of why the homesteading lifestyle is important to us.

  • Helps environment
  • Healthier
  • Creates better mental health
  • Satisfying
  • Affordable
  • Homesteading creates more family time
  • Great for children
  • Creates community

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It was five and a half years ago that we stood in Nancy’s kitchen making goat’s milk soap, creating label ideas, going through seed catalogs and beginning “The Five Farmgirls.”  Emily held a few-month old Maryjane on her hip as she and Nancy’s daughter, Faleena came up with product names.  We laughed as we sarcastically came up with our own catch phrase, “It’s Farmgirl Good!” as we shook the cold milk trying to turn it into butter for two hours.  Our friend, Lisa came over to help make soap and we sat outside on an early spring day and had a picnic lunch.  A year later Nancy would suddenly and quietly cross over the veil.

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Saturday: Doug and I had lunch with Lisa and Lance Saturday and I told her my idea.  They raise humane meat on their ranch and we could have a pick up point at our shop.  We could do the same for milk.  We laughed and talked for three hours and discussed ideas.  Still, with not a lot of dollars and no idea where to get an affordable retail space, it still felt far off.

So certain that this was going to take off, Emily and I started picking up usable antiques (that are sturdier and still work better than modern versions!) and items for our store.  I bought material to make aprons and farmgirl style pillows.  We came up with a name, Pumpkin Hollow Farm (of course); Homesteading Supplies and Classes.

Sunday: Doug and I drove around and gathered phone numbers for retail spaces.  None of them were quite right.  They also were way out of our price range.  I wanted an old space that looked like a general store.  And it had to be ridiculously affordable.  (They are cleaning it up…I’m keeping the piano for the shop!)

Monday: I call on a shop that people had said would be hard to get.  Many people had inquired on this space and had either been turned down or never called back.  The manager picks up, says she will call the owner and call me back.  Five minutes later she calls me back, the owner loves my idea.  She will rent to me.  For a ridiculously affordable price.  Ten minutes later I am at the shop to see it.  The building is over a hundred years old and it sure looks like a general store.  It is in a great location.

Tuesday: Dad brings a box to my apothecary that says my name on it.  “Mom wanted you to have these,” he says wistfully as he hands me a large bag along with the box.  My friends Kat and Rod are like parents to me and Kat died almost exactly two years ago.  I have a collection of her grandmother’s things.  Hilda is alive and well in my home.  A box and bag of homesteading items and china were the new gifts to me to carry on.  A whisper from above that there are many friends helping this come together.

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Wednesday: Yesterday morning we signed a lease and shook hands.  A private loan came through.  I registered my name.  We have held on to our beloved name since our early farm.  Our farm and homesteading school took a devastating turn a little over three years ago when we had to suddenly leave our rented farm and all of my beautiful homesteading items and our lifestyle was lost.  In a twist of irony, as I searched for my name in the Secretary of State, the name expired three years ago to the day that I re-registered it.

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Mission Statement: To increase happiness, health, and well being for people and Mother Earth by offering quality, second hand, homemade or sustainable objects that bring back the charm of an old fashioned, simple life.

Pumpkin Hollow Farm Homesteading Supplies and Classes coming in early September!

“It’s Farmgirl Good!”

 

 

My Mom’s Cheese Stuffed Peppers Recipe

 

20171011_084241My mom was a Farmgirl before I knew what a Farmgirl was.  She loves the Little House on the Prairie books as much as I do.  She always has an apron on if in the kitchen.  She was unabashedly a housewife; our house always clean, supper always on the table.  As soon as they could my parents bought land east of Denver and created a homestead of chickens, a very windy garden, bees, and at one point goats and horses.  My dad built them a darling farmhouse with his own two hands.

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It is funny how taste can transport you back to childhood.  For me the flavor of my mom’s green peppers is one of my favorites.  There are no stuffed peppers like these.  The combination of toasted almonds and juicy raisins plumped in rich tomato sauce has a flavor you will fall in love with!

I had some fresh green peppers and tomatoes in the garden that needed eating before the frost came so I emailed my mom (again) for the recipe.  I had put up plenty of spaghetti sauce.  I used my own homemade broth as well.  The directions are easy and in no time at all you will have a scrumptious dinner on the table!

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Recipe

Thanks Mom!

The Happy Cheese Maker

IMG_20170917_102206We made arrangements to go see Sherry’s farm to pick up our first share of fresh, raw goat’s milk.  Roughly twelve minutes of driving and we were there.  I had no idea that we were so close to the farms in this area.  Goats frolicked here and there as her livestock dog barked.  Our new goat girl’s granddaughter skipped among the Alpines and La Manchas.  Piglets ran around in an enclosure in the back.  Chickens and ducks freely marched about.  Their wild vegetable garden looked prolific and baby goats looked for someone to give them a bottle.  We went home with two and a half gallons of delicious, frothy milk after lots of goat hugs.

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20170920_160636It has been two and a half years since I have made cheese.  I used to turn our own goat’s milk into a rich Gouda,  sharp cheddar, creamy chevre, and many other wheels of wonderful cheese.  I was surprised how quickly it all came back to me as I slowly stirred the curds.  A two pound wheel of cheddar is drying on the counter.

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We may not be able to have goats in the city but we can certainly help out another Farmgirl and get all the cheese we want in the process!

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Here are a few links to my blog posts about making cheese;

Soft cheese and Hard Cheese

Thanks for reading and helping me keep this blog alive and thriving.  Happy Autumn!

How a Farmgirl got Her Groove Back

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It seems a very long time ago that I stood outside on our prairie farm screaming.  I watched the last of the chickens be swooped up and driven away by other farmers who didn’t rent their farms.  The sheep were gone.  The goats were gone.  My dog had died.  I continued to give away or sell my precious antiques for next to nothing, all of my homesteading items, my life.  We moved into our friend’s guest bedroom.  And the landlords continued their scam on other people.  Ah well, that was a long time ago.  Two years.  A lot can happen in two years.

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We would have never studied under Native American elders that became great friends.  We would have never opened our Apothecary, White Wolf Medicine.  We would have never thought to move to Pueblo.  We OWN our own home now.  The American dream is still very much alive.

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Odd looking pumpkin!

 

I certainly didn’t plan on moving to the city.  I am a country girl through and through but the great Unknown knew darn well that if I wanted people coming to me for medicines and teas, they weren’t going to drive out to the middle of nowhere.  This central location in town sure keeps me busy.  People know where to find me.  I am so blessed.

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We could have easily fallen into a city lifestyle.  We sold our truck.  Bought a Fiat.  Doug has an IT job.  But the shed was so easy to make into a chicken coop.  The yard quickly became gardens.  The back is planned as an orchard.  Hundreds of jars of preserves are already lining the shelves of the root cellar.  The clothes line does just fine.  The dishwasher is wasting space.  The cuckoo clock tells the time.  The light from the oil lamp is soothing.  Suddenly I look up and I am a Farmgirl again.

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I guess Pumpkin Hollow Farm never really went away.

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

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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!

Dealing with a Broken Refrigerator Farmgirl Style

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Fifty-five degrees.  Well, that’s not good.  The refrigerator should probably be colder than that.

We do not presently have the money for a new one.  I slurp my lukewarm milk from my bowl of cereal.  I panic.

I go outside, sit down, face to the sun, feet on the ground and quiet down.  Then I laughed.  Do I not speak for entire weekends about this type of thing?  Am I not nicknamed the Farmgirl?  At the last show we were at, more people recognized me as the Farmgirl then White Wolf.  Have I not read every homesteading and pioneering history book I can get my hands on?  Are my ancestors laughing right now?  If anyone can handle this, it ought to me. Don’t I pride myself on knowing how live simply and without much electricity?  I have been in the city for a year…I’m rusty.

Okay, first things first.  Calm down and get another cup of coffee!  We are alright!

Two.  Defrost the meats in the freezer (before the refrigerator dies completely) and can them.  I found some good blog sites on canning hamburger.

I can preserve most things in the fridge and freezer.  Cheese doesn’t mind 55 degrees, that is the temperature I aged mine at when we had our little dairy.  The milk…not so much.

Invest in a cooler!  I wish there were ice trucks still.  I wish I had added Ice House to my house hunting criteria!  Get ice from the store.  Switch to non-dairy milks that do not go off so quickly.

Now from there, perhaps it is an easy fix and it might be worth it to call a repair man?  In the meantime, stop panicking and bring out my inner pioneer!  We can do this.  But, let’s do it before food poisoning tries to take over, shall we?

 

Farmgirl School Live!

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I would cordially like to invite you to the Colorado Springs Home and Landscaping Show this weekend, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.  If you love decorating, improving, gardening, and events as much as I do, you will love this show!  HGTV, inspiration, ideas, and of course, White Wolf Medicine will be there!  And yours truly is one of the guest speakers.  I will be speaking all weekend about how to create an Apothecary Garden, how to create a Tea Garden, and about High Altitude Farming; Tried and True Tips.

So, if you already know me and Doug, come out and say hello.  If you haven’t met us, come out and introduce yourself.  I would love to meet you.  Maryjane Rose will be there Friday and Saturday as well helping me spread Farmgirl cheer!

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Colorado Springs Event Center 3960 Palmer Park Boulevard at Academy with Free Parking!

Show dates, times, and ticket prices are as follows:

Colorado Springs Home & Landscaping Show:

Friday, January 20, 2017 1 pm – 7 pm
Saturday, January 21, 2017 10 am – 6 pm
Sunday, January 22, 2017 11 am – 4pm

Adults $6, Youth 16 & under free!

http://ColoradoSpringsHomeShow.com

Farmgirl Fashionista

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In a world of jeans and yoga pants I suppose I stand out a bit.  I think folks are both mesmerized and baffled by my attire.  I was at the library last month and a mom came up to me, big eyes, all excited, and asked, “Is there going to be story time?” Heck if I know.  I looked down at my layered skirts, apron, old fashioned boots, and remembered my Santa hat and realized she thought I was in costume!

Maryjane wears her apron around with me and it is not uncommon for us to be asked if were just in a parade or festival.  Do we bake?  Why on earth would we be parading around as such?  Well, let me explain.  Let’s go through the elements of the Farmgirl attire.

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#1 Long skirt- This is important because I am too tall to find jeans that fit right.  I never stop moving so jeans aren’t exactly comfortable.  A long skirt is comfortable and practical.  Ever since Maryjane was about twelve months old she hides under my skirts.  Her hands wrapped around my leg, she giggles thinking no one can see her, her little feet sticking out.  As she gets taller and older I know this is limited now and I relish feeling her cold hands on my leg, that giggling, her security from the world hidden next to my leg.  It is a very maternal feeling and I know all too well she will grow out of it soon.  (I buy my skirts at the Elizabeth Celtic Festival.  It is a rather simple pattern that uses elastic or string to cinch the waist.)

#2 Slips- In a world of too tight skirts and panty lines, I do still love the look of a beautiful cotton slip.  Mine has a long swath of eyelet around the bottom.  It is feminine and beautiful.  I also wear a full skirt under my regular skirt as well.  Why?  Well, I am cool in the summer with the layers, and warm in the winter with the layers.  It makes my dress swish.  It is lovely and modest and sexy all at the same time.  And at my age, I don’t care what the style is.  I like the old fashioned look.

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#3 Apron- If you do not wear an apron each day how do you find your phone and keys?  Mine would be lost in my purse, possibly forever.  I also can carry a tissue, my to-do list, and a few flowers I harvested.  The original reason for an apron was to cover a woman’s dress, for she probably only had two, one for every day and one for church.  The apron is easier to wash and keeps clothes cleaner, meaning if you haven’t traipsed through mud, you can hang your skirt back up. (Mine were made by an Amish woman and her daughters, a neighbor of a blog reader.  Some of mine I made, or were gifts, or hand me downs, and some really quite old that belonged to Kat’s grandmother.)

#4 Old fashioned boots- Stickers, weeds, rain, snow, cold or hot weather, farming, shoveling, and a cute addition to any farmgirl attire.  (I got mine at Big R.)

We farmgirls have lots to do, from taking care of the homestead, cooking for folks, farming, and for me, being the local folk healer, so wearing beautiful, comfortable clothes is just one perk of being a farmgirl.

It’s a Wonderful Life

 

This iconic scene from the great movie, It’s a Wonderful Life, probably looked a lot like us!  We had twenty people total helping move us from city to another.  Trucks strapped down with pots of rose bushes and rocking chairs.  Our children and friends all coming out to help us get into our home.  Rent?  Ha!  We finally own our own home.  The American Dream.  I appreciate it so much more than when I was younger.

Over the next few weeks I will share with you how to take a 92 year old drafty adobe home from stark, stained, rental white walls, scratched grey trim, and dark black curtains into a cozy home perfect for respite, family gatherings, and life.  Stay tuned!