Gone Vintage and the El Rancho Hotel

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There is nothing like the excitement of going on holiday.  I love the lists of things to remember and dreaming of places to come.  My friend, Mindy gave me one of these suitcases and the other I inherited from my Grandma.  To me, they represent the golden era of travel with sleek, hard covers, ready to take on the world.  Since we are taking a road trip, the cases fit nicely in Fernando the Fiat.  The beautiful landscape of New Mexico flies by the window.  Clouds that seem painted on the flat, domed sky.  Red rocks and Creator-made walls of horizontal color schemes.  Breathtaking country.

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Just under ten hours into our trip, down the historic Route 66, we arrived at El Rancho Hotel in Gallup, New Mexico.  It was such a pleasant surprise.  You don’t always know what you are booking on the internet and this place is just too fun.  Dozens and dozens of old, autographed head shots and photographs from movies being filmed here line the walls.  Some of my favorites.  Some of the greats, Jimmy Stewart, Lucille Ball, Doris Day, Humphrey Bogart.

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The hotel is still like it was in 1936.  A historical beacon carefully crafted to impress the Hollywood set of the era.  The décor is rugged southwest.  Stone and Pendleton and wood.

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We waited in the elevator for the attendant.  The original elevator takes some skill to travel exactly to the correct floor.

 

Memorabilia of a bustling time remain set around the lobby.  A player piano, a place to get your shoes shined, a cigarette machine, and stamps at a fraction of the current rate.

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My vintage looking hat cocked to the side and my beloved old turquoise pleases me as I stand atop the curved wood staircase with red carpet or sit in the lobby with a cocktail imagining the comings and goings of the movie elite and the glamorous upper set with suitcases and sunglasses and perfect 1940’s hair.  A cigarette confidently smoking between fingers and laughter and parties.  I would have loved to have seen it.

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There is rich history in this state that I love and there is more where we are going.  Today we head off to Arizona.

(El Rancho Hotel and Motel, 1000 East Highway 66, Gallup, New Mexico)

 

 

A Field Trip to the Denver Art Museum

Daniel Libeskind Architect, Studio Libeskind and Davis Partnership

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We have a lovely art museum in Denver.  The architecture is modern meets medieval and the exhibits change regularly.  Floors of ancient and new art serve to inspire and educate.  The museum makes sure that there are things to keep the children busy as well.  Pads of paper and boards with things to look for are set up in stations around the museum to encourage children to be mindful and alert and to express their own innate creativity.

My daughters and I and my two granddaughters were originally headed to the Denver Zoo but due to the mass amount of people (and I shall save you the tirade about what marijuana legalization will do to your state) we had to find other activities.  Maryjane was less than thrilled about trading elephants for fourteenth century art but we made it a game where she was to find every dog and horse in the paintings and sculptures.

It is really something to stand before a painting that was carefully drawn over five hundred years ago.  It is really inspiring to see the spirits of people captured on canvas- ordinary moments in life stopped in time.  The colors, the shadows, the stories…

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Rosina Ferrara, Head of a Capri Girl by John Singer Sargent

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I enjoyed this exhibit the most this time.  Jordan Casteel is a Denver native and I love how she portrays every day moments.

I haven’t painted in a year but I think it is time to gather some canvases.

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My painting- “Native Inside,” acrylic on canvas, 24×36

DenverArtMuseum.org

Field Trip to an Animal Sanctuary (and saving chicks)

We loaded up the cat kennel in the Fiat (our urban farm vehicle) and headed hours north.  Through our old county, our old town, past our old farmhouse, and down the Kiowa-Bennett road.  The prairie is breathtaking even in winter.  Golden strands peek through layers of snow as the sun glistens across the vast expanse of country.  The western sky a watery blue stretching far and wide.  Singing to country music on the radio and a good feeling in our hearts, we drove towards Danzig’s Roost, a rooster and animal Sanctuary in Bennett, Colorado.

 

Sometimes the carefully protected public get glimpses inside factory farms.  What we consider family, humane, free range, and all the other marketing words that help sell meat is all a façade of chicken houses crammed with suffering birds and sometimes people are able to get a peek at those and the whole operation is exposed.  The huge chick rescue in northern Colorado this month made the news and raised thousands for resourceful sanctuaries.  But then so often apathy returns and people continue their habits.  Sad that animals are suffering, but unwilling to omit them from their plate.

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We were on our way to take home some of those rescued birds.  Chickens are snuggly, sweet, and have all different personalities.  One of the chicks we brought home is tiny, fluffy, and sings day and night like she is singing her songs of thanks to the heavens.  She doesn’t like to be put down.  As it happens, we went to get between four and six birds and ended up with seven, soft, white babies.  They are in the guest room.  They have every disease you can think of from parasites, E coli, to upper respiratory infections.  That is what is in meat.  I am treating them with my herbs.  So far they are thriving.  These lucky few were saved and will live their life here on Pumpkin Hollow Farm dust bathing, getting treats, and sitting in the sun or on our laps.

We are only allowed poultry in Pueblo but one day we will have land where we can take in more animals, save more lives, do what we can.  But every life counts.

Jewel Straightedge runs the sanctuary that we picked the chicks up from.  She has, what looks to be, hundreds of roosters that she has rescued.  Two calves with big, heartbreaking eyes are from the dairy down the road.  The little girl fights to live.  Darling sheep and goats and geese that clearly know the friend that rescued them all add to the raucous singing of the farm.  Turkeys strut about.  The wind picks up and turns cold and we hasten our tour.

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Jewel and her team rescued over six hundred chicks from the thousands and thousands that were being inhumanely killed and dying without food and water.  With the swift turn in weather, we help her chase hundreds of chicks trying to get them back into their warm enclosure.  It is every bit as hilarious as it sounds.  We are happy as we head back towards home.

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(Note: the chickens we rescued ended up dying anyway because they are meat chickens. We still had a bit to learn about that breed! This experience reinforced in us the desire to buy from friends who have small farms or raise our own.)

The Botanique (a beautiful weekend)

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A large neighborhood lake was on the left, children playing with intertubes, and the day was warm and sweet with autumn tinged air.  We turned right into the parking area of what once was a school in 1919.  But it certainly wasn’t your typical school of that era, it felt more like we entered Italy.  All marble and wood floors and magazine inspiration.

 

I am making the tinctures for my cousin’s new line of medicines that she is releasing along with her already well known body products.  H2a is the company she and her daughter, Sierra created years ago. Their products have been previewed in Vogue and can be found in spas and retail stores.  Heather’s new project is The Botanique in Fort Collins.  An event space, a class space, a retreat, an Air B&B, a respite, I was drawn in instantly to the serenity and sheer beauty.  A beauty that makes you feel beautiful just witnessing it all.

The chicken yard was built off of an old adobe outbuilding, its fresh wood and chicken wire a lovely contrast to the old structure.  We do love chickens so Doug and I immediately got out of our car and walked over to see what breeds she has.  As they pecked around in the sweet dirt, we admired the back of the property, that below the dirt lies quietly an asphalt playground of old.  Heather plans to build up with beds and create a lavender madala and rose arches.  Doug pointed to a spot perfect by the adobe wall and curved door for farm-to-table dinners.

Years ago, when all of our children were quite small, the grown cousins would all choose a name to buy a gift for at Hanukkah.  When Heather was still married to Doug’s cousin, I would always hope that she picked me, as our style is almost identical. Her sense of vintage and practical with elements of joy have always been drawn out perfectly through her design work, her homes, and now The Botanique.  I wanted to stay in our darling room with the large bath she created for days.  Walk in showers and bath spaces are being created throughout the resort for ancient bathing rituals and cleansing.  A space to heal.  A space to restore.  A space to feel beautiful.

The property is filled with raised beds that a friend of Heather’s runs a volunteer program with.  She teaches and works with youth to grow many varieties of produce and then sell them in CSAs.

I walked out of our bedroom early, glorious in good sleep, and headed to the kitchen.  Through the wide double doors of my dream kitchen I could see my lovely cousin in a warm sweater, her blond hair messily put up and a cup of coffee steaming from her hands as she walked softly through the filtered light of morning rays streaming through the large windows.

The Botanique is a place to ignite one’s senses, restore one’s soul, and is incredibly accessible and not far from home. https://www.thebotaniquefortcollins.com/

 

A Trip to the North Pole

When my son, Andy, was very little he wanted a wolf from Santa.  He wrote him a letter and sent it to the North Pole.  There was a very convincing (and very likely the real) Santa at the mall.  I was able to whisper a few things in that old Santa’s ear before Andy climbed on the jolly man’s lap.  Andy’s little eyes grew big and he was filled with wonder as Santa told him that he had received his letter and would get him a wolf if he was a very good boy.  Christmas morning came and the howling stuffed animal wolf sat next to the Christmas tree.  The next summer as we perused the shops at Santa’s Workshop at the North Pole, we saw the very same wolf!  It made my little boy a believer.  Our family believes in Santa.

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Maryjane and I waiting to go inside Santa’s Village!

Seven of us traversed the hilly paths of Santa’s Workshop in Cascade, Colorado.  My granddaughter, Maryjane sat on Santa’s lap and relayed her greatest wish, that the elves would make her a penguin.

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I wanted a visit with Santa too!

Santa’s Workshop opened in 1956 in the mountains of Colorado just west of Colorado Springs.  They started their herd of reindeers and dozens greeted us and nibbled feed from our hands.

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My daughter, Shyanne, and her boyfriend, Jacob enjoying the baby reindeer.

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Rides, large and small, dotted the village.  Maryjane was very brave and rode just about all of them.  We adults had a plenty good time on the kid’s roller coaster and teacups and many other rides!  My Andy and his girlfriend, Bree, had to work but we recalled the story of Andy’s wolf while waiting in line to see Santa.

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The carousel is a must ride!

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Me and Pa riding the zipline sleigh!

If you have a chance to go to Santa’s Workshop in Cascade, don’t miss it!  You can whisper in Santa’s ear what you want for Christmas.

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Ready for Santa’s train to depart!

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Maryjane and Emily catching a ride up a hill with her boyfriend, Reed.

It might be time for Halloween, but Christmas and making family memories, is always in our hearts.

http://northpolecolorado.com

A Spring Herb Walk with Sacred Owl School of Original Medicine

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Sunday was bright and just the right amount of warm.  We were like school girls tripping down the trail stopping every few minutes to look at new growth, smelling and tasting plants, and looking for snakes.  Laughter and stories fell around the group as we made our way down the meandering and winding path.

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Scrub oak is used in place of witch hazel for its astringency.

One of the classes from my school, Sacred Owl School of Original Medicine, went on a herb walk to Castlewood Canyon.  There weren’t a lot of things popping up this early but the spring tonics were showy and beautiful.  Some things that we tried to identify were small in their early spring infancy and we scoured the pages of the guide I brought.  A lot we couldn’t be sure, but promises of coming again later in the season, the fresh air, and the cold drinks and herb truffles the students had made, and resting at the end of the path made for a lovely day out of the classroom.

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Young yarrow leaves promise lots of beautiful white yarrow for circulatory, heart, and wound use.

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Dandelion may seem ordinary, or even obnoxious, but it is one of the best liver cleansers available.

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Currants, along with all berries, are very good for the kidneys, and the leaves are demulcent making them great for tummies, and uteruses!

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Dock (curly, burdock, or yellow) are all amazing medicines for cancer use, blood cleansing, and immunity.

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I highly recommend getting a nice, colorful guide for plants for your area and heading out onto a hiking trail.  That is medicine in itself!

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Class of Spring 2016!

For more information on my Master Herbalism program and my school, check out www.SacredOwlSchool.com

 

Walking the Labyrinth

lab·y·rinth
ˈlab(ə)ˌrinTH/
noun
noun: labyrinth; plural noun: labyrinths
  1. 1.
    a complicated irregular network of passages or paths in which it is difficult to find one’s way; a maze.
    a labyrinth of passages and secret chambers”
    synonyms: maze, warren, network, complex, web, entanglement

    “a labyrinth of little streets”
    2.
    Anatomy
    a complex structure in the inner ear that contains the organs of hearing and balance. It consists of bony cavities (the bony labyrinth ) filled with fluid and lined with sensitive membranes (the membranous labyrinth ).
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    I like these descriptions of a labyrinth; a difficult passage and a means of hearing and balance.
    This lovely labyrinth is on the corner of 136 and Pine Ridge in Elizabeth next to the community gardens.  (Take Elizabeth street to the end where it makes you turn left, it is one block down on your left.)  There are no dead ends, it is not a maze, per se, but a lovely curving, rounding, focused trek to the center which is placed strategically upon an energy vortex (which is scientific and geological).

If one stands at the entrance with a question (for all answers are within us already) or intention, one will find as they make your way quietly, contemplatively, through the winding paths that the answer or clarity will be startlingly clear in the center.  Peacefulness surrounds and the day is started much nicer or ended even nicer still by walking the labyrinth.

Wishing you a peaceful day!

The Winery at Holy Cross Abbey (a field trip)

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Sometimes one needs to run away, to have a change of scenery, and to put the day to day chaos away and perhaps have a glass of wine!  A change of place can create calm in thought and help bring on new ideas.  We haven’t had a field trip to a winery in some time, so Doug and I with our friends, Rodney and Pat, headed up to Canyon City to explore one in our own back yard.

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The Holy Cross Abbey is a beautiful gothic structure that used to house monks and a boarding school, but as it declined the grounds were left to a viticulturist and the abbey now rests while the winery does the work now.

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We enjoyed the VIP tasting (surprisingly affordable) which included eleven pours to taste most of the wines produced there, from a luscious Petit Sirah to a sweet Apple wine made from local apples.  As we walked outside to the place that the tasting would be held we immediately took in the quaint picnic table set for four with wine glasses.  The vineyard directly behind buzzing with life.  The perfect early autumn air and the smell of nearby mountains and flowers made the event seem as if it were written out of a magazine.

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Our delightful hostess, Elise, was a charming addition to the tasting as we compared stories of herbalism, homesteading, and future dreams.  Her aspirations include starting a community organization that brings like minded people together and turning her parents’ property into a lively homestead for them.  We took to her sweet spirit and enthusiasm immediately.

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It was a day of laughter, good weather, friends, and wine.  We sat in the sun, enjoyed a meal together afterwards, and sang karaoke into the night.  The perfect day.

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If you are in the area the Holy Cross Winery is a lovely place to stop. http://abbeywinery.com

Plans, God’s Laughter, and Ghosts in Utah

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I really need to stop making plans.  For some reason the universe has something magnificent planned for us and apparently none of my plans are fitting into that scheme.  I must follow my gut feeling.  That I have learned.  I must listen to Doug’s too.  There aren’t really any details to share, just that at the end of next week we will officially be vagabonds (aka homeless).  I forgot what plan we were on…plan M or something?  I just know plan A, B, C, D and so on fell treacherously to fate.  Doug always says the old phrase, “If you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans.”  My school will still be alive and well as it follows me.  But I hate to utter that for fear the universe hears I have a plan!

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We are grateful, for it could be much worse.  Neither of us are ill, no cancers, no injuries.  Our children are great and healthy and alive.  We will be able to keep our cats for the time being.  And we are blessed with many, many great friends.  We are just going to have to take this one day at a time.  There will be many delightful adventures to write about!

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It has been awhile since we have gone on a field trip!  And you readers are going with us!  Our dear, dear friends that you either know or have read about here, Rodney and Pat, offered us a nearly free vacation this weekend.  We are all hitting the road tomorrow for Salt Lake City and you are coming with us!  So pack your bags, we have eating, window shopping, ghost hunting, and sight seeing through northern Colorado, Wyoming, and Utah to do.

We’ll move on to the next great adventure when we get back but this weekend is just for rest, play, and celebration of life and friends!

The Enchanting Urban Homestead (a field trip, class, and future)

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Farmgirl school is supposed to be uplifting, inspirational, and full of fun and hope.  It is also about our life so I suppose not everything can be as such but I inadvertently caused a storm of emotions for many people across the continent and beyond in empathy for us.  We want you to know that we just do not have the extra strength or energy it would take to rip out the wood stove, pipes, fittings and fix the ceiling at this point.  We have no emotional attachment to the stove.  Our hundreds of plants will feed the local wildlife and a lot of hungry girl scouts that are coming Monday to take home a transplant since they helped create the garden in the first place!  We are not sad over these things any longer.  With the encroaching wind mills and the negativity here we are more than ready to head out on our next journey.  So let’s get back to the inspiration and hope part of this blog!  Yesterday we visited a lovely urban homestead that was so enchanting and complete that I am ready to get back into the city.  We were there taking a cob building class to make outdoor structures.  Doug and Chris will be creating a chicken coop, bread oven, and who knows what else!  Tomorrow I will take you through our class to learn to make cob.  But today I want to take you through the enchanted homestead of my friend, Niko and his wife, Brandi at Folkways Farm.  

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It wasn’t very long ago that I wrote a blog post about Old Colorado City (which is a bike ride away from where we are going to live) and that is where we headed this fine evening.  I met Niko three years ago when Joel Salatin came to speak at a local farm.  He sat with me and Nancy and we talked all things homesteading, about his family, his work as a cobb builder, and we told him about our adventures in homesteading.  I later ran into him building a yurt with our friend when we went to visit the goat she bought from us, and then at the homesteading store, and then…well, you get the picture.  We were meant to meet.

His beautiful wife held their youngest daughter on her hip and spoke freely with the guests.  His middle daughter came up to me and took me with her on a tour of the “forest” where a silent cat lay secretly in the high weeds below trees.  They are easy people, barefoot, comfortable in their surroundings and self and I was instantly drawn to them.

They have created an oasis in town, a secret place of sustenance and wealth.  Herb gardens, Permaculture gardens of food, honey bees, goats, a shed-barn, and places to get lost and read or dream or be.  The plot of land is about the same size as the one we are moving to and I was so inspired and overwhelmed with ideas and joy.

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The cob structures look to be out of a fairy tale.  A sweet chicken coop stands off the back porch.  Another is a bit more elaborate and whimsical.  It is a chicken coop with a bread oven on the side.  One could start a fire in the cooking area to heat the coop on the coldest nights while making some delicious thin crust pizzas.  A door on the other side lets the chickens out to wander a closed in area that felt roomy and lush.  A towering apple tree above provided shade.

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The greenhouse built in the back yard was a structure of fine art and skill, a transporting place out of the cold.  A place for tea and books in autumn and a place to grow starts in the spring.  All made from reclaimed windows, mesh, wood, straw, clay, sand, water, manure, and painted with beautiful slips.  Niko is an artist above being a builder.

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One can meander from the front herb garden, past the vegetable gardens, visit the bees, duck under the apple tree, wade through weeds and medicinal herbs, follow a path past the goat yard, past bins of delicious compost, a pile of wood, the beautiful green house, wave to the chickens, pass the hemp plants growing tall for fiber, onto the back porch to sit a spell, and visit with the kind family that lives there.

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I spoke with Jillian at the end of the class.  She wanted to make sure that I considered our new venture to be our homestead. I asked what if we jumped forward fifty years and there we still were and her then much older daughter would mention to visitors that her crazy aunt lives in the back.  “That would be fine,” Jillian replied.

And so begins our urban farm adventure.