Posted in Homestead

The Busy, Busy Summer

It has been an incredibly busy summer and here autumn is in full swing. Homesteading here is a pleasure and our first farming season was wonderful. In June, I was terribly discouraged, even considering giving up. I had started gardens six times bigger than any of our previous homesteads and was upset that I wasn’t able to keep up by myself.

Enter angels in cars and vans with backpacks and stories and ideas and joy and youth. Becoming a WWOOF host has been great fun. World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms is an amazing program; “The new backpacking across Europe,” according to my husband. A woman in her thirties with a master’s degree and a desire for a new career, new life, searching for herself (and a liberal cowboy). A young woman fresh out of college, feeling the peer pressure of starting a career, but really wanting more freedom and a homestead, fulling embracing her apron strings. A young man straight out of the military with some serious soul searching to do. A nineteen year old with ambition and wisdom beyond her years, with a great desire to change food deserts and start a farm. My last woofer is here now, a 6’7″, hungry, twenty year old basketball player. He is here for two weeks helping me put the gardens to bed and to prepare the homestead for the colder months. We will then have our house to ourselves again, and then will welcome more young, future homesteaders here in the spring. We have a greenhouse now, are adding extensive raised beds, and are putting in a vineyard with fifty-five vines. The help will be most welcome! I am eternally grateful to all of them. http://wwoofusa.com

These shelves are now much more full than when we took this picture!

I remembered exactly why we put up food! After a few years of slacking, the empty grocery store shelves of early spring reminded me. This year we put up over four hundred jars of food, have a full freezer, and root cellar vegetables. Our garden is still filled with root crops. Medicinal plants fill the front garden. All of these gardens were prairie and shale. I am enjoying teaching my techniques to create prolific gardens. A book is in the works.

So many projects planned! Rain barrels, greenhouse beds, raised beds, and a modern root cellar addition to the house.

Baby lambs will be born any day now at our friend’s farm. The same gal we got two from all those years ago before we lost everything. Here, everything is restored. All things that are taken from us will always be restored. I have started weaving and will be selling my work. I work at a local winery on Saturdays as their in-house sommelier, and I just love it. I have visions of making our own wine from our own vineyard and using the pressed off wine grapes to dye our own wool from our own sheep and then spinning it into lush yarn to weave my own creations. Homesteading allows so many opportunities for creativity and peace.

Coming upon my eight year anniversary writing this Farmgirl School blog, I contemplate our journey. From farm to rented farm to apartment to urban farm to here- this beautiful spot on earth, and realize that in the craziness of the world, and elections, and pretend pandemics, and social media…there is no place like home. And may that home always be a homestead.

We found this street sign while out on vacation. How perfect if we lived on this road!
Posted in Homestead

Life on a Colorado Homestead

Colorado can be harsh and it can be breathtakingly glorious. It can be twenty below zero, a hundred and five, with a severe drought, or a wild flood. A month without rain then torrents then clear. A mere few miles to the south and also to the west of me, hail completely destroyed the gardens of friends and family. A few sprinkles hit our corn. In Colorado, you never know what will happen. The weather is as fierce as its beauty.

My grandfather, my father, Doug’s parents are from here. We were born here. Our children were born here. Our children’s children were born here. Despite our dreaming of other places, Colorado is home. It holds the people that hold our hearts.

Because of this, we choose to homestead here. I realize after talking to perspective wwoofers that the perceptions of Colorado range greatly. Denver is not in the mountains. We are in the high desert. We rarely have snow. The mountains are where the snow is. We are often in drought. We have a four month growing season. Cactus and cedar grow best here. The wind blows most of the time. It is cold most of the year, but with the sun shining on your face, even winter days can be wonderful. If you can learn to farm here, you can farm anywhere. The views are staggering, the weather this summer quite pleasant, and the gardens doing well.

In the morning, I rise, let out the chickens, throw them scratch and watch them run free. I let out and feed the ducks and watch them flap their wings madly in the morning light. I throw hay to the goats and a scoop of food to their faithful guard- an oversized Great Pyrenees who watches his fortress with grace and a bit too much tenacity. I feed the cats and give them fresh water. The kittens chase flies and toy mice. Our oldest kitty endearingly watches Dad work. He is so happy that Doug works from home presently.

Coffee on a homestead is next, of course. If it is winter, the wood stove would be stoked. In summer, I stay outdoors as long as I can, writing, reading, putting the hot, dark liquid to my lips.

Weeding, watering, killing squash bugs, harvesting, replanting, making sure the resident toad has water, admiring the foliage, the colors, with gratitude for the sustenance contained within a mere seed that will fill our bodies and pantry with food. I watch the hummingbirds and listen to the song birds. The ducks swim in their pool, the dog sleeps in the shade of the barn, the chickens bathe in the dirt. The heat comes quickly so I work faster.

Canning, housework, cooking, laundry all fill the summer days of a farm wife who is also the farmer. The busyness feels good and I stretch to relieve my tired muscles. When my farm interns arrive this week, we will tackle the larger projects of painting the large chicken coop, mucking the coop and mini-barn, and starting keyhole gardens. Making sure we still have time to sit on the porch and admire the view of the Sangre de Cristo mountains and watch as a hawk lazily glides overhead. The breeze through the trees and the fresh air of country caress as we enjoy sweet tea.

I work on my weaving in the late afternoons. Or maybe read a magazine before I realize another task undone. Winter is for resting. Summer is for doing and my mind and body love it.

I love homesteading. Up with the sun. Working with my hands. Doing things from scratch. Dedicating my life to hard work, family, animals, and creating beauty and sustenance. To be grounded with hands in the soil, my eyes on the horizon, my heart at peace.

Posted in Homestead

The Perfect Homestead

As the new year approaches I have been thinking a lot (as if I don’t think about it the rest of the year too!) about the quintessential homestead.  I fear I have fallen into the trap of When I get my real homestead I will then be complete…happy…truly living life…

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So, a better look at things is in order.  I did pray for a homestead.  I suppose I should have been more specific.  But, here I am living in a nearly hundred year old farmhouse (one of my requests), on two-thirds of an acre (I asked for land), with a myriad of farm animals and a quarter acre to farm.  I forgot to mention that I wanted more land, a well, a wood stove, a barn, and a great view.  Looking at Doug’s not bad though.  I am living on a homestead.  I am also walking distance to the library, bank, café, saloon, and a great little museum.  I back to the fairgrounds and have front row seats to rodeos and festivities.  I am close to Maryjane and Emily.  We are close to what is important to Shyanne.

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Next year Shyanne goes to college, Emily turns eighteen and Bret graduates.  They may want to take a different path.  I love the community here.  I have never belonged in a community before and it feels great out here.

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Perhaps I will stay out here for a long time.  Find a homestead with the above criteria and remain in my community.  Perhaps I will move closer to the mountains where my children are gravitating.  I would love a mountain cabin, a green house, a place in the quiet of the woods.  I would love a stone house by a creek.  I would love a farm near the mountains.  I would love an Earthship in New Mexico.  An adobe in Taos or southern Colorado.  I would love….

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Well, you get the picture.  I may possibly have just too many things I want to do and see.  I can start a garden anywhere.  The longer I stay the better the soil.  Make sure I am somewhere I can have my animals.  See that I am close to Maryjane.  We could stop looking for the perfect homestead and a way to buy and opt to rent.  (A house is often an expensive anchor.  We lost our house years ago and are not able to buy anyway.)  If we rent we can experience lots of different homesteads or get a long term lease.

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Or…some nice person will leave me a lovely farm complete with a barn, a view, a wood stove, a hundred year old farm house, a well, a place to grow food, in a perfect mix of trees and prairie with the perfect community where I can stay forever and ever.  Ahh…I may never learn.

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The important things are that I am near friends.  Grandchildren and children.  That we are happy and healthy.  That we have the freedom to do what we would like.  The homestead of my dreams may or may not exist but I must have faith that we will be lead to exactly where we are supposed to be.

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Grow where planted.  May this be a blessed year for all of us.