Posted in Our Family

A Magical December Day

‘Twas all very strange, really. Something out of a sci-fi movie, perhaps. A thin Santa Claus wearing a mask, shielding half of his face, sitting behind a sheet of plexiglass. All the children in line did not think much about it. We took photos in front of the ho ho ho’ing Santa behind glass.

My granddaughters looked adorable. Beautiful in their holiday attire and excitement to see Santa. Intoxicated by a day with their mama, auntie, and Grammie. We then all sat down and took a group shot with our beloved Santa. The spell was broken when my two year old, Ayla, peeked behind the glass, looked at Santa seriously, and stated, “Bike!” Then gave him her bright, elfish smile. May children always teach us to find magic in the strange and mundane.

We five girls then went to find a place to have lunch but found that indoor eating had been banned. Among shuttered restaurants, we finally found a place open for take out and picnicked in the back of my truck. In the middle of a parking lot, our faces to the sun, we sat in the truck bed dining on crisp salads and chattering non-stop in our way. Dancing and laughing and eating and sunning on a beautiful, magical December day together.

This year may have frustrated me, angered me, confused me, but it has also clarified and prioritized. My close family unit of friends and children has only strengthened. We have spent many precious moments together this year. My home is my sanctuary. My husband and I have spent more blessed time together. I have enjoyed new experiences, met new people, and found solace in books by the fire. This year has amplified emotions to their peak and settled them into joy, gratitude, and empathy. It has showed us glimpses of simplifying and true family and the greatness of living.

I will oft think of the sun shining down warm on the faces of the daughters and granddaughters that hold my heart and the simple and powerful memory of a picnic in a truck bed. May we all notice the magic that surrounds us during this season of hope.

Posted in Homestead

Sweet Homestead Days

The wood stove comes alive, savage and hot. The whirl of orange and red feel so comforting, so primal, so homelike. The living room will be warm soon. I prepare my coffee and watch through the picture window as the sky slowly begins to lighten with dawn. A new day is upon us.

The kitten walked by me on a mission, head focused, tail out, looking to murder a hair tie or catnip mouse. As she passed, I made kissy sounds towards her, which made her tail flutter straight up as she gave me a cute sideways glance, all sass and adorableness. Life with cats is lovely.

One of my favorite sounds in all this beautiful world is the calling of geese. I hear them before I see them, then watch them, uniform and village-like floating overhead in a hurry to get to their vacation home. Then I hear them later in reverse passage, all chattering noisily. So much to say as their caravan marches back across the skies. They sound like home, like season’s changing, like joy.

The three day weekend of fair weather helped us get some projects finally finished on the homestead. Field fencing is complete, leading from what will be one of my huge gardens and the back porch to nearly a third of an acre section for my fluff of a Great Pyrenees and his future charges. The gate is open, freedom is granted to Gandalf, and he laid back down. “Maybe he thinks he will get in trouble!” our daughter, Shyanne, speculated. He is quite happy on the couch on the porch and has no desire to be gallivanting around open pastures. He is only two, not an old man in the least. We always get the odd ones around here.

She is blind and runs into doors and leans against my leg. She was supposedly one years old when she was brought to me, but I know very few animals with cataracts at the age of one. How old is this chicken? I wonder. It matters not, for she is the sweetest feathered girl. Our granddaughter, Maryjane, flits out to the coop. “Good morning!” she sings to the chickens, “Good morning, Heihei!” I pick our docile chicken up and hand her to my beautiful farmgirl. Heihei snuggles into her coat and is content. Each one of our chickens has a vastly different personality than the others. We have Yogi, who believes herself to be a rooster. We have Esther, the quintessential pretty snob. And Eloise, who is quite sassy, but not so much right now, as she is molting and looks like a decrepit turkey. Our one year old granddaughter sees a lovely blue egg in the coop, grabs it, and will not let it go.

The oil lamps are cleaned with fresh wicks and are ready to fill. A half finished baby blanket is attached to the yarn weasel waiting for another skein. A few loads of wood ought to be brought in today. Granola bars, vegan cream cheese, and burger buns will be made in the homestead kitchen today. I choose a pretty apron to wear.

I have my seeds picked out. All heirlooms. I will begin saving seeds again. Soon, soon, my hands will be in the warm soil. My beautiful space here will be positively transformed. I do love the reaction folks have, how shocked they are at how quickly a farm can replace barren soil. I will leave a third wild. While I wait for spring, I get all the reading done I wish. Plan my sewing projects and mending. Clean out cupboards and closets and get the nerve to tackle the garage. I walk around my land and smile. Home. Home is certainly where the heart and animals are.

Posted in Animals/Chickens

Cuddlewell Mission

One day when we were quite a young couple, snuggling and giggling, I said to my husband, “You cuddle well!” He said, “That will be our last name!” And so it was. Mama and Daddy Cuddlewell.

Our children were told that their actual, secret last name was Cuddlewell, as we would snuggle them. Andy, Shyanne, and Emily Cuddlewell. Even today, that is our name.

Our animals carried the same family name, Ichabod Cuddlewell, Clara Cuddlewell, and so on. I recently told my granddaughter about her secret last name too. She laughed and wondered if I was serious. Maryjane and Ayla Cuddlewell. And so it goes on. Our secret family name. We cuddle well.

Many years ago, when were trying to come up with a name for our own land, should we ever get it, Doug nonchalantly said, “Cuddlewell Mission, of course.”

In our hearts, everywhere we have lived has been Cuddlewell Mission. We tend to rescue the animals that need us. The cross-eyed cat with the spinal injury, who lived and played and cuddled for thirteen years, Clara. The retired racing hound, Bumble Bear. The tiny, Siamese kitten that we are still bringing back to health, Taos Mouse. The blind chicken, Heihei. This is a sanctuary. We have always had a sanctuary.

We got off track, somewhere along the way, with books and studies and farmer friends. We went from friends aren’t food, to maybe we were wrong and that is how it is supposed to be, then to regret and heartfelt wisdom. Just because it is how has always been, doesn’t mean that it is how it should be moving forward. We also used to keep slaves, beat our children, and ate cockroaches. We humans can move forward and do things better when we see the error of our ways! We can create a new normal. A new this-is-how-it-should-be. We would never allow an assembly line of shelter dogs, swinging from one leg, having their neck sliced, then being cut open before they were dead, cut up and packaged and put in the store….what are we thinking? Cows and pigs and even chickens are sentient beings. Look into the eyes of any creature and see the life there.

I’m not here to convince you one way or another, I just wanted to tell you about Cuddlewell Mission and how we have arrived here. With land and places for animals. A sanctuary for people and animals. A safe place to commune with nature and not fear for one’s life, and if you are human, maybe have a cup of tea. Yes, this is a mission. We are home.

Posted in Holidays

The Magic of Yuletide and Wishes for You

Blessed Yuletide cometh soon. The light returns in just two moons. This morn is cast a cheery rose across melting snowy pastures, as the dawn awakens the world here on my little homestead. And I am content before the fire with a cup of strong coffee and kittens playing nearby.

I oft write about things to come and things to do and things to change, but rarely sit in wonder of a lit Yule tree and think of all those that love me. I have so many that I overwhelmingly adore. My life is filled with great love, and in that, I need nothing more. And yet, I write to you from stunning views of mountains at dawn and the warmth of the fire in the wood stove warms me as my heart warms in the winter light.

My homemade presents are nearly complete and I so loved creating sweet things for all. I have one more row of a scarf to complete and then wrapping of all gifts will commence. Nat King Cole croons sweetly from the kitchen, and my mind turns to Santa, who will be coming to my house once more. How I love being a Grammie.

My wish for you, my friends, is peace. Peace of spirit and peace of mind. Of decisions that make the world better and your own life better too. Time spent with those that love you. And that you love too. I wish you gratitude and seed catalogs.

Posted in Entertaining

A Book Themed Birthday Party

When the children were growing up, we started our morning with two things, coffee and Martha Stewart. We loved her show when it took place in her house (and how I would love a set of DVD’s if they were ever made!), and then we watched the newer Martha Stewart Show. Me, Andy, Shyanne, and Emily piled up on the couch with our cups of coffee, absorbing everything the maven of domesticity had to teach us. Perhaps that is why my kids are such clever party planners, or perhaps it just comes natural to them. Yesterday, Emily threw a book themed birthday party for her daughter, Ayla’s, first birthday.

I made the girls matching dresses with books on the fabric. They were adorable at the party!

I cannot believe my granddaughter is already turning one! Oh, she is a darling little thing- spunky and all smiles. She was quite a hit at her own party as family and dear friends gathered around the local coffee shop (closed on Sundays) to celebrate. Here is a look at Emily’s brilliant birthday party plan. Kids get tons of plastic toys that will not be played with long, but books…now books are a great gift.

The menu was made to look like a library check out card.
Emily is a great cook and she spent the day before making miniature quiches and muffins. She also set out a parfait bar with yogurt, chia seed pudding, fruit, and granola. Doug and I picked up Einstein’s bagels and shmear on the way.
A drink station and food buffet makes it easy for everyone at the party to help themselves and let’s mama play with her children and visit with guests.

My daughter, Shyanne, is an amazing baker. I have shared with you her work before. I must say, she outdid herself this time. These cakes were not only gorgeous, but absolutely delicious. The double tiered cake was orange and vanilla and the other was a vegan chocolate that was so rich and so amazing. https://www.facebook.com/WickedlyDeliciousDesserts/

The baby loved all of her books and entertained everyone as she stood up and walked around and danced. It is always lovely to get together with friends and family. Emily took a simple kid’s birthday party and made it affordable, creative, and fun.

Posted in Our Family

A Wedding in the Woods

On July 27th, a hundred-year-old lodge was decorated with pastel roses and succulents, lights, and pink table runners to celebrate a special union. There were photographs of the bride and groom as children and a few of the parents of the couple in their wedding splendor, in frames glued together to make centerpieces. The place was coming alive that early morning as the groom finished getting ready, the music was being tested, and the photographer came to capture our two big families coming together.

A village put on this wedding. Our long-time friend volunteered to DJ the music and another officiated the wedding. A dear friend donated all the dishware, my other daughter baked and decorated the cake, a friend made the carefully scripted signs for the wedding. Love from all corners of the world came together to bestow wishes of happiness and love to my daughter, Emily and her groom, Reed.

The warm sun was showering through the vanilla-scented Ponderosa pines. Family near and dear gathered along the wooden benches. The couple was quiet and sweet as they muttered their own vows to each other.

The celebration continued with dancing and visiting between families and friends.

The cake was beautiful and the spirit of love was present. A young deer curled up near the lodge to rest. The children danced and ran around the near forest.

On this cold, frosty day, it is lovely to go back to that warm Sunday afternoon. It seems my child was five, then eight, then suddenly twenty-two! Her daughter looks so much like her at this age. We are most grateful in our life for our family, for our children, for our grandchildren, for the partners our children have chosen. Emily and Reed had a lovely day and a beautiful wedding. Wishing them every happiness and so many decades of love and laughter!

Mr. and Mrs. Reed and Emily Thompson

Posted in Holidays

Halloween Through the Years (and tons of easy costume ideas!)

Going through photos can be bittersweet. My babies have grown up! We sure had fun over the years and there is more fun to have.

My son, Andrew, is now 26 years old. Shyanne is turning 24 in December. The baby is Emily, 22 years old, a new bride and the mother of my two beautiful granddaughters, Maryjane, who is six, and Ayla, who is turning one in three weeks. They are all creative, fun, holiday loving kiddos. Add me and my husband, Doug, in, and we have had some fun costumes!

We used to traipse all over town to visit grandparents with the children in costume. Doug’s grandparents, my grandparents, and Doug’s folks all knew to be ready with the candy and the camera.

In front of Grandma’s lake.

At home, the house was set with fun-scary decorations and orange lights. Spooky sounds wafted from the CD player and “Halloween Hamburgers” thrilled the young goblins before trick-or-treating. Around our suburban neighborhood we would go, laughing and begging for candy; the kids all hoping for a big candy bar. The neighbor across the street gave quarters. (Not cool.)

We had a large bin of clothes in the playroom. The kids might get a new costume one year but then it would be replayed year to year as something else. We had a lot of fun with costumes and never spent very much.

Then Maryjane Rose was born and the fun began all over!

And then her sister came last November! They are going to be Joker and Harley Quinn. So cute!

And the fun continues! Happy Halloween!

Posted in Homestead

Seeking the Simple Life and Penpals

The sun is rising, splaying pink and metallic colors across the mountains and along sides of structures. I am so thankful to be in the country. I watch the horse across the street from my office window run and jump, darting through trees, and landing in a swirl of dust near his food bowl as his owner comes out with hay.

Maryjane (my six year old granddaughter) had her first riding lesson. She at first did not want to go because she found that her cowgirl boots were too small. She perked up the minute she saw the horses and she fell in love with the bubbly, blond instructor, Miss Britney. These were great horses; Maryjane clutched one large horse in a hug and he did not budge. Maryjane easily learned how to guide the horse, as her little sister, Ayla, blew kisses to all of the horses. These are country girls.

At Grandpa’s house Saturday, we celebrated his 92nd birthday. He had to take off work to do so. He is forever at his drawing board, on the phone, or meeting with clients. He sipped his coffee as he told us stories of working on a dairy farm, milking eighty head, or helping the vets bring down the draft horses for treatment. He once rode round-up moving horses from Sterling to Estes Park, 146 miles. His stories about being a cowboy, the rodeo circuit, World War Two, working on the sugar beet farm for his uncle during the Depression, and working at a dairy come with a final relief that he moved to the city.

We are lucky to be modern farmers and homesteaders. I am able to romanticize it a bit. It doesn’t hold the same urgency of survival as it did in Grandpa’s time.

Doug and I chat in the car on the way home about our ideas and goals. We have done this before so we know what to expect and how to do things better this time. We want to live simply. So simply (and prepared enough) that if the power were to go out or a storm were to rage, we would be snug in our home with plenty of light, warmth, water, and food.

Simple enough that our electric bill stays lower than if we purchased solar. The clothes being cleaned with a washer plunger in the summer and dry flapping in the wind on the clothes line. Food chosen from rows of dirt or rows of canned goods. Meat from our own chickens or from our friends’ cows and pigs. We seek out and associate with other homesteaders/ranchers/farmers. We travel long distances to each others’ homes for dinner. Keep up on social media. Cheer each other on. Support each other.

One of my favorite old activities is to write and receive letters in the post. A moment to sit with a cup of tea and an old friend in prose and see what is going on in their world. Then with pretty stationary and pen, share our private life, thoughts, and ideas. Now that we are settled into our home and winter is upon us, if you would like to be pen-pals, please write me! I would love to correspond.

Mrs. Katie Sanders, 790 9th Street, Penrose, CO, 81240.

Posted in inspiration

Everything in its Season

I long to get this show on the road. To get this new farm set up! Get the rototiller! Get the goats! Get the fencing done! Let’s get planting!

But, alas, it is October 2nd. I can plant hopeful bulbs of dancing tulips and sunshine yellow daffodils that will surprise me with delight come spring. That is all.

The wood stove is coming next week and the goat shed is coming too and we are slowly getting fencing done. I can see it all! I can see the corn in rows interspersed with pumpkins zooming along the front yard on green tendrils and vines. I can see the vineyard I have always wanted stretching out to the western sky. I can see the bright red tomatoes, the crisp lettuces dancing in the cool breeze, the baby goats and sheep jumping around the pasture in the sunlight. My polar bear dog with a job, finally.

I can see myself moving the dutch oven to make room for the kettle for a cup of tea and checking the fire. I can hear the vibrant shaking of the pressure canners putting away summer’s gifts. Wiping my hands on my apron and taking my granddaughters outside to play. Watching the sun set behind the wild pasture with rabbits shooting to and fro and turkey vultures swaying gently on the breeze overhead.

This is our fourth farm. Our fourth homestead. The second home of our own since beginning homesteading. This one on land. In the country. Our own. My heart soars with gratitude and excitement to get this farm set up! But alas, it is October 2nd.

The dark smoke billowed densely and ferociously off the mountain sides. The smell of it all filled the air. The wildfire was scarcely contained and my heart broke for the animals and trees and the wildness being consumed. Death and ending before our eyes as we drove to our mini-vacation spot. Next spring, there on the mountain, life will unfold. Everything in its season.

The aspens and oaks danced in brilliant colors of gold and red, creating patchworks across the mountainsides. That specific shade of bold autumn blue sans clouds stretched above everything and the west was in its ultimate splendor.

Our youngest daughter, her husband, and their new baby joined us for a few days at a beautiful place. A private spot where one can hike to various hot spring pools nestled along the mountain. Walking along the path we stopped to eat hawthorn berries and wild plums. Deer wandered past the pools, a fawn catching up with her mother. Birds flitted from thick tree to tree and life buzzed all around. It is a clothing optional resort and the feeling of air on one’s skin while passing thickets of herbs and trees and the feeling of the water from warm waterfalls is grounding and restorative.

A crow cawed and flapped its wings loudly as it flew close by. The warmth of the water followed by the cool breeze was enlivening. Amongst plans of future and to-do’s and day-to-day life, it is good to rest and restore, to ground in a new place, to spend time with loved ones, and to look out over thickets of oaks and pines and into valleys. To pull a blanket closer around, sip coffee, and hear the earth speak, as breezes lightly blow fog up the road. Everything in its season.

Posted in Farming, Homestead, Our Family

The Multi-Generational Legacy of Farming and Homesteading

The garden once Gandalf moves to the goat and sheep yard.

I wish we had started homesteading and farming long ago. It would be nice to have a multi-generational legacy of land and tradition that becomes genetically ingrained in the children and is always a sense of comfort and a place to return. My eldest child grew up near the beginning of our journey so he had little experience with the farm (though he can grow anything), but perhaps he had some connection, because he would like a farm of his own some day. My middle child tends to pots of tomatoes and peppers, herbs and flowers that flourish on her second floor deck as she watches the deer cross her yard in her mountain-like neighborhood. My youngest daughter was around the most and seeing her hold a newborn goat for the first time was to watch a thirteen year old melt. So enthralled with farm life she became, and she and her husband are adamant about getting a farm and homesteading off grid. And of course, my granddaughter, has been a farmgirl since birth. Photo shoots with goats her first year and farmer’s markets in bonnets. Bottle feeding goats her second year, gardening her third, and so forth. She is the most excited about our new farm. Her baby sister will love it here too, I just know it. So, better late than never!

I will tell you a secret though; moving here to this gorgeous piece of land, I considered (gasp) not homesteading or farming (for like a week). Hang up my farmstead aprons and become a “normal” wife. I could get a job and wear smart pant suits and buy cans of food (instead of pulling them from the root cellar) and keep all the land as it is. I sat out on the back porch with my farm dog (who is a little bored without charges as am I) and looked out across the cedars and cactus, across the deep valleys, up the mountain tops, across the larger-than-life western sky, and then started envisioning things. Ah yes, normalcy didn’t last for long, because that (pointing) would be the perfect place for goats and sheep. That area could be kept wild for the bunnies and natural medicine. There is the vineyard, of course. There is the huge pumpkin patch and corn field as you enter the property. Here is the garden. There is where the clothes line will go. And so forth. Doug had the same ideas, so it wasn’t long until in our minds, a fully functioning homestead and farm was painted and planned. Homesteading and farming is hard work, but it is deeply satisfying, soul enriching, life giving work. And comes with wonderful things like homemade cheese and wine.

The goat and sheep yard
The vineyard
I can see this shed with a huge mural of pumpkins on the side! Need to contract my girls!
Welcome to our farm.

My grandparents grew up on farms (and had no desire to ever step foot on one again) and I was fascinated by their stories, always asking questions. The “normal” today is actually just the status quo. Farming and homesteading were not only the norm, but the expected, in every generation from my grandparents back. And I am honored to be a part of it. We will start this generational wisdom over starting here. Because it is important work. Environmentally, emotionally, sustainably, and beautifully important. Watch us grow!

What is your favorite aspect of homesteading/farming?