The Wintry Farm and Kittens

I opened the front door to great heaps of snow. For southern Colorado, this is quite a storm. It is still blustery and the snow is falling thickly with glints of sunlight shining through. It is a chattering 1 degree with the wind. Our farm dog, Gandalf, is sleeping indoors this morning despite his woolly exterior.

The chickens are snug in their coop with the help of a heat lamp. I will need to put on my galoshes and check on their water. One more cup of coffee!

The wood stove has been puttering along beautifully over the past frigid few days and I am afraid that the wood is about run out and another two cords will not be arriving for another few weeks. We do have a furnace, but there is nothing quite like the warmth from a wood stove to really warm the bones.

We have two new additions to the farm that have warmed our hearts. Their names are Taos and Socorro, after two of our favorite places to holiday in New Mexico.

Fourteen, or so odd, years ago, we adopted several kittens over a two year period full knowing that one day we would lose several cats within a few years. We lost four of them this year, my sweet Frankie just a week ago. We have one old kitty left, our beloved Booboo, whom the children taught to come to Andrew’s room if he blasted Bob Marley. We have two five-year old kitties as well. Well, it’s a bit quiet around here when you are used to many more. The silence of winter approaches and we felt we needed a little life and a little fun around here. So off to the shelter we went on the first blustery day and adopted two adorable little girls.

Our farm is humming along with dreams of spring and planting and future farm animals, as the fire in the wood stove warms the brightens house, the snow-light bouncing through the windows and adding a chill to the senses. ‘Twill be a cold night for tricks and treats tomorrow indeed, but in our little farmhouse we are warm, our hearts filled with joy.

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.

Cowgirls, Colonial Dresses, Apples, Tinctures, and the Family Farm

Emily is driving “over the river and through the woods to grandmother’s” (Grammie’s) house this morning. We are taking my six year old granddaughter, Maryjane, to her first horseback riding lesson.

If you have been following me over the years, or if you know us, you know that Maryjane Rose came into this world a future rodeo queen. Or at least that is what she told us when she was two. She was upset when we moved to the city because there was no way she could fit a horse in our back yard. And she was overjoyed when we moved to the farm in August, her glimmers of horse-hope restored.

I struck up a conversation with the cute blond farmgirl who was cashiering at Tractor Supply and it turns out that she can give Maryjane lessons and that she lives a half a mile from me.

…………………..

I walked to the library yesterday. I spent the morning designing and sewing a long skirt for myself out of green and beige check. It is tied shut with four lace ribbons and the front has a high waist. I sewed on a lace hem. It looks a blend of Victorian and colonial- my style. It just needs a pinafore.

My eyes were tired and I wasn’t keen on jumping into housework. The air was a warm eighty degrees and I wanted to stretch my limbs, so off I went to walk the three quarters of a mile to pick up more books.

I passed an empty commercial building and in front were two large apple trees- all of the apples wasted, on the ground, and rotting. I made a mental note to come back next year and harvest them. I passed houses with trees with masses of untouched apples on them, now too late in the season to harvest.

I plan on planting plenty of apples and other fruit trees. It seems strange to me that I did not spend the summer harvesting, canning, or prepping for winter. That I am not exhausted, finishing up the farming chores, and looking forward to winter. I wear myself out daydreaming these days.

This time next year, I will be exhausted, because this beautiful plot of land will be teeming with vegetables, fruit and nut trees, and livestock. There will be no wasted space or apples on this land. This is our fourth homestead and we know what to expect and what to do better.

……………….

I set up my jars of herbs that I had tinctured before we moved. Each medicinal herb carefully harvested and brewed. I had to order loose herbs for teas. Lord, have mercy, they are so expensive! I have been spoiled with my medicine gardens! Those will come next year as well. I signed up for a craft show and will take my humble medicines and books there to introduce myself to the area.

We did not expect to move. It came as a complete (and pleasant) surprise. One day we were sitting in a park in June with my students after visiting a medicinal herb farm and Doug and I wondered aloud how far Canon City was from his work in the Springs. Doug walked off and started talking to someone in the park who was from Penrose. Ten weeks later, our house is sold and we are living in Penrose. Funny how life works that way.

…………………….

A student brought me a chokecherry and gooseberry from her land to transplant as a gift. Aren’t plants the most fabulous gifts? I hope they thrive here. I know we will.

My beautiful family at our daughter’s wedding.

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.

A Day in the Life of a Farm Wife (and why homesteading is the best life)

The early morning dawn brings with it the sound of roosters crowing around the village. The smell of wood smoke fills the air as the fire comes alive with a whoosh in the wood stove to start the day. A kettle of water is put on for coffee. Out into the early morn, a scarf pulled around the neck, the chickens are let out. They scurry by and gleefully pounce on scratch being thrown. Next up are the goats, and the sound of “mah”ing brings a smile to the farmer’s face. The sheep try to body check the others out of the way in order to get to the hay first. The sheep are distracted while the goats are led to their stanchions in their turn. The gentle sound of milk hitting the metal bucket methodically starts the day and inspires prayers of gratitude. A sleepy farmer can easily balance their head against the warm side of a goat happily chomping on sweet feed. Back inside, the milk is strained into half gallon jars and placed in the milk fridge. Boiling water is poured over fresh coffee grounds, and the cats and dog are fed and watered. Hot coffee is poured into a mug.

This is the average morning of a homesteader. If one has children, then they are tending to the youngsters as well. This was our life during the first years of our homesteading. For the last four years in the city, we have not been able to have anything but chickens, but here on our new farm, we are happily plotting the loafing shed and the pasture fencing for the “mah”ing of goats and the low “mom”ing of sheep. (Have you actually heard farm animals? It does make you wonder where the children’s books came up with their animal sounds.) We have homesteaded in each place we have lived, from country to city and back to the country. We build the infrastructure of our homestead and farm. The wood stove is coming in two weeks. The fencing this week. The loafing shed in two weeks. The goats and sheep? When we find them. Most likely in the spring. And our hen continues to crow.

Our 1st homestead

The rest of the day for a homesteader is filled with satisfying chores. Keep the fire going. Plan supper. Make bread. Clean the house. Plan what to pack for hubby’s lunch tomorrow. Care for animals. Do laundry. Hang on the line. In growing months, tend to gardens-plan, plant, weed, harvest, preserve. In winter months, catch up on sewing, make Yule presents, craft, crochet, and write.

There is a joyful cadence to homesteading. A well versed schedule of chores, work, play, and rest. Of being present. Immersed in the cycle of life and death, joy and pain, intensely taking part in the life before us, and savoring every bit of it.

My granddaughter always chooses what she wants to me to order (everything)!

Yes, from old fashioned skills come real peace that truly cannot be found anywhere else. We step back from the craziness of the world, and stoke the fire, make cheese, harvest grapes, bake bread. We spend less, save more, have a lower footprint, and a lighter heart. We tend to be heathier, eating fresher food, breathing fresher air, making real connections with neighbors and holding family close. We appreciate and communicate with the natural world. We teach others how to do the same.

The joyful sound of newly canned preserves, their tops popping tight, lining the counter. The smells of manure, hay, wood smoke, coffee, bread, roasted chicken. The sight of mountain views and sunsets and skies of stars and baby goats entering the world. The feel of a sheep’s fleece and how the yarn slides through one’s fingers at the spinning wheel, and a soft kitten’s fur against one’s skin. The taste of really, really fresh, homegrown food and drinks. The sound of the baby laugh when the dog licks her or the squeal of delight as the older child finds the perfect pumpkin in the patch.

Our first homestead when we farmed the whole yard!

Yes, this is why we homestead. It is why we come back to it each time we move. It is truly a good life. For us, it is the only life.

The Homestead Wood Stove

“Whatever you lose, whatever you feel was taken from you, know that it will return. It will be given back.”

Farmgirl

I want you to remember that friends, because we may be speaking of wood stoves today, but this goes for everything in life.

One of our options is a steel stove.

Some four and a half years ago (a lifetime ago, folks), we were using our last bit of money to install a wood stove in a house on the prairie that we rented. It had been a very cold winter (36 degrees in the bathroom cold) and we were ready to be warm. We got lucky and a friend of ours in town offered to pick up an old stove that was on Craigslist for $250 and install it for $300 plus the pipes and such. Total cost was $1200. That was about the time that the landlords kicked us out (the whole story is in my memoir, The Making of a Medicine Woman) and since we had used every penny to set up the homestead, we had to give everything away and move into our friend’s guest room. It was the most devastating time of our lives. After living with friends, then in an apartment, we bought a little house in the city and it became our urban farm. It had the most beautiful wood stove. Everything returns.

The one I want. (Okay, mainly because it has a squirrel on it!) There is a steel one we are considering as well.

Five weeks ago we moved on to land with a beautiful house, and some money in the bank from selling our last urban homestead. No wood stove though. We do have a furnace that is original to the house. It doesn’t get below zero this far down south, but it does get pretty darn cold in the winter and spring. I sure like having a backup plan if the furnace breaks down or if the power goes out. I also enjoy the ambient heat of a wood stove so much more than forced air. I actually feel warm with the heat from a stove. I enjoy putting a Dutch oven on the top or a kettle of water. My pioneer spirit loves wood stoves. So, even though we are a little gun shy about spending, I would love a wood stove.

Emily and the girls came over and we headed to Canon City to a darling shop called “The Woodshed Stove Shop.” I must tell you that I never imagined that my child would ooh and ahh over the newest models of wood cookstoves, but there we were, running our hands over a perfect Amish oven, two farmgirls at heart.

I was immediately drawn to a smaller cast iron stove with a beautiful forest squirrel cast into the side. Maryjane preferred the camp style stove. We also looked at a steel stove.

When looking for a wood stove, here are things to remember:

There are three basic types of stoves.

Steel gets the hottest the fastest, therefore burns the wood faster, but heats quickly. It is the lowest priced of the stoves. The one we looked at had a larger top to cook on.

Soap Stone holds the heat in and lets it go slower and longer. It is the highest priced of the models.

Cast Iron is in between. It holds heat well and gets hot moderately fast. The model I looked at would require a smaller Dutch oven a small kettle.

Look at how many square feet they heat. Some heat 800 sq ft, some much more. My house is 1176 sq ft, but the heat will not get into the back bedrooms. One can utilize fans and such to distribute the heat, but the heat will not reach bedrooms well. The Quakers and the Amish still use this fact to bring the family together in the evenings. Just think, no kids lurking in their rooms with IPADS. Everyone is together working on projects and connecting!

The cast iron stove I want heats 1000 sq ft. The steel one heats 1400. Your living areas will be real toasty, so the cast iron one would probably be sufficient for us. We could face it so it looks down the hallway, so it may send heat down some to the far side of the house.

Look at how much space you have. Remember that the stove has to come out from the walls a certain amount depending on how big the stove is. A stove may seem small but once you set it away from the wall and place it on a fireproof floor pad, you will lose space. I have a small main area that makes up the open kitchen, dining room, and living room, so we should err on the smaller side so I can still use my dining room and have plenty of seating in the living room!

See how big the firebox is. The one I am looking at only takes 12 inch logs. That is tiny when you are chopping wood so I had to run that by my husband first! The average length is 16 inches. The stove that I want is more efficient than most stoves so it will burn longer and use less wood.

The stove is not the expensive part! The stove pipes are. The stoves we are looking at are right around $1400 and we were quoted for pipes and installation an additional $2700. Expect to spend $4500 and upwards depending on the price of the stove. (There are some real nice ones out there!)

You will pull a permit from your local county. You can install it yourself if you have the know-how. I don’t and I would rather make sure a wood stove is properly installed!

Wood is carbon neutral. When a tree is decomposing, it releases carbon dioxide. The same as if it is being burned in a wood stove. And trees absorb carbon dioxide and release oxygen over their lifetime. We need to be responsible about where we get our wood though. I am driving into town to pick up a load of wood from downed trees in a neighborhood. It won’t cost anything but the gas to get there. Look on Craigslist and keep an eye out for free wood. You can also order a cord of wood. Research cords vs face cords to make sure you get a good deal.

It is nice to know that if the power goes out, I can just set a Dutch oven on the stove or a frying pan, a kettle of water, and light some candles or oil lamps and I will be all set for the evening. A wood stove is a homesteading necessity and a lovely one at that!

The Very Fancy French Cheese Cave (cheese recipes and homesteading lists)

My fancy, French cheese cave arrived today. Well, it’s a mini fridge, but it will work the same!

The cheese cave does not take up much space. It has shelves built in. At the very, very lowest setting, the mini fridge will be around 55 degrees. Which just so happens to be perfect for aging cheese.

Use a laser thermometer to check temps often. I turned the dial down a little further.

One must take care to keep a drip pan under the tiny freezer compartment, because it will not get cold enough to stay frozen, so it will drip. That moisture is just the right amount of humidity to age cheese.

Once a week, wipe down shelves with soapy water, taking care to leave no residue that could permeate the cheese. Mold will start having a party, because that is what mold does when it is given ample amounts of cheese and temperate weather. Never mind it, it will not hurt you. Just wipe off mold from aging cheese with salt water (1/2 lb sea salt to 1/2 gallon hot water until dissolved. Keep in refrigerator.) Turn the cheeses over once a week.

Make sure to label the cheese. They all do begin to look amazingly alike after awhile. This one is a Parmesan cheese I made that will be ready next year on my birthday in April. It is already almost three months old and is getting a nice layer of olive oil to keep it from drying out.

I have a hard Italian cheese in the press. A woman reached out to me on Facebook and offered me my dear, dear departed friend and farmgirl business pal, Nancy’s cheese press! Lots of homestead memories right there sitting on the counter. The cheese will go into a brine this evening (same sea salt recipe as above) and then dry for a few days, then go into a red wine bath for another day or two, then will age for three weeks. (for a trip down memory lane, click here) (for the Italian cheese recipe that is no longer in the new additions of Home Cheesemaking, click here)

The soft cheeses, like Chevre, stay in the regular refrigerator and should be eaten in about a week. The cheese cave is for cheese that is aged longer than a week, typically 3 weeks to 9 months. (to learn how to make soft goat cheese, click here)

Even though we just moved onto our new homestead a month ago and are missing key elements to a self sustaining homestead (like goats, sheep, and gardens), there are still plenty of ways to homestead without a homestead while getting a homestead set up! The gal down the street sells me her milk that I make cheese out of. I purchase beautiful yarns (or use what I have!) and am getting ready to crochet some beautiful pieces for fall. I can tend to my chickens, pray that my farm dog will like goats, get the goat fencing put up, break down a processed chicken for supper, and make kombucha and other delicious additions to a healthy, happy homestead. Which now has a very fancy French cheese cave.

5 Farmgirls

(Note: this particular mini fridge has ended up staying at around 44 degrees. So, I have been experimenting with using it as a cave with ice packs and that seems to be keeping it closer to temperature.)

Starting a Farm and Homestead (Pumpkin Hollow Farm adventures continue)

“And just like that, we are homesteading again!” Doug said as he walked into the house after work. Two pressure canners were sputtering on the stove, twelve quarts of homemade chicken broth within. The house smelled wonderful. I was in the process of making cheese. We ate tortellini en brodo alfresco while pointing out where we should put our Pumpkin Hollow Farm sign. Yes, just like that, we will be farming again too.

The first real homestead we had was gradual; first a garden, then chickens, then goats, we learned one thing at a time. The next thing we knew we were practically living off grid and cooking on a wood cook stove! We have learned a lot over the past decade. I waited to see if Doug wanted to homestead and farm. I didn’t want to just jump into it. After all, it is an expensive adventure to start and it is a lot of work. He keeps talking about breeds of goats, and wethered sheep, and plotting the grazing section and where to put our vineyard…we went and picked up fencing for goats and sheep. We’re in. Homesteading isn’t just a job or a lifestyle, it becomes a very part of you.

I couldn’t remember how much it cost to have farm animals (besides chickens), it has been four years since we have had goats and sheep (that is how long it has taken us to get back to the country). This blog holds, not only my memoir within it, but so much information that I constantly resort back to. I looked up “How Much Does it Cost to Have A Farm Animal” from the first year I started this blog. I was pleasantly surprised to see that prices have only increased about 20%. I did expect higher. We should still be well in our budget to feed some more furry kids that give milk and fiber.

I have been visiting local vineyards. Grapes grow very well here and I would love to start my own winery. Even if it is just for me and my friends to start. A lot of folks focus on one thing, maybe beef, or chickens, or vegetables. They aren’t all over the map like I am. I want to have a vineyard, use my own plants to dye my own fiber from my sheep, create beautiful crocheted and sewn pieces to sell, have a huge pumpkin patch, a large garden, have milking goats, and still leave land to be wild and a safe place for bunnies. (Gandalf loves bunnies. They are as delicious as the chickens, apparently.) I love to have variety. That way, I always have what we need and my creative expressions can change as well. I am not going to get burnt out having sheep if I only have two!

When plotting your homestead, first write out what you would like. Garden? Chickens? Ducks? Remember that poultry will consume everything in their path, so they have to be separate from the garden. Goats? They will eat trees down to nothing so the orchard (did you want an orchard?) has to be fenced away from the cute ruminants. Do you have a niche you want to focus on? Don’t think of money while you are writing down your list. What do you want to do? Then draw out your land (even if it is a quarter acre or in the city) and sketch in where you will put everything. Decide on priorities based on money and time to get things started.

Then note where you might make extra money from your homesteading adventures but always have a back up plan. That is the most valuable lesson we learned over the past ten years. Pumpkin Hollow Farm continues on! Our family is excited.

Where are you at in your homesteading adventures? My granddaughter, Maryjane, has loved our farms and has made so many memories. I want to have Grammie and Pa’s farm for her and her sister. So, it’s not all serious here. Homesteading and farming should be fun.

Homestead, Hobby Farm, or Commercial Farm?

“And sometimes I dream of things very, very fine,

but then realize a love of simple things is mine.”

-Katie Lynn

So you are ready to start something; growing food, raising animals, starting a new hobby. You have a bit of land or a plot in the city. You have checked zoning, read every homesteading and farming memoir in the library system, have been following my blog, and have a little bit of money to put towards an agricultural endeavor. Now, do you want a homestead, a hobby farm, or a commercial farm?

We have been homesteading for seven years now. Splitting logs if we have a wood stove, starting a small commercial farm with wool, eggs, milk, vegetables, and herbal medicines. Before that we had a small hobby farm where everything almost paid for itself but not much more. And we have lived on a “regular” paycheck and used homesteading as a means to save money and have a better life.

We have found ourselves in the most wonderful of circumstances; we are now the proud owners of a 1.1 acre lot zoned AG in the country. There are restrictions on how many animals one can have per acre. I do not have irrigation or water rights (the city water is from up the road from the reservoir and it’s quite good and not too expensive). My husband works full time and the children live over an hour away so I will be doing most of the work on this new farm. Land and houses are expensive in Colorado so our mortgage is high and will take a lot of our budget. All things to consider.

Homesteading: Homesteading is a a great way to live a simple, healthy, pretty self sufficient life. It generally includes a garden (anything from a community garden to a huge plot of land counts), avid preserving (120 pints of tomatoes…check!), a few farm animals (maybe a few chickens for eggs, ducks for laughs, goats for milk, and moving up from there), and a great respect for the lifestyles of our ancestors. There is nothing quite like gathering around the fire at night, the oil lamps lit, knitting on your lap, laughter in the air, time as a family sacred.

I will definitely be getting a homestead back in place here over the next year. Already, I miss my garden and harvesting what I want to eat. Popping open a jar of preserves without having to read the ingredients. Installing a wood stove and gathering kindling. Start milking goats again. I have homemade presents in mind for Christmas this year and new inspirations for crafts.

Homesteading generally saves money but it does take a lot of time so a stay at home wife or someone that can work their own hours can excel at this.

Hobby Farm: A hobby farm tries to pay for itself. The goats start to produce milk and you have excess, so sell the rest or make cheese and other products. Sell the extra eggs. Everyone pulls their own weight. The goats pay for their own feed, so do the chickens. A lot of people raise meat on their farms. Meat chickens grow to market weight in 6-8 weeks. Set up a U-pick or CSA or set up at a farmer’s market to sell extra produce.

An outside paycheck generally covers the costs of living expenses and the farm covers itself. Always make sure you have enough to live on plus enough to take care of animal feed in case the goats dry up, the chickens stop laying, or the garden gets destroyed by hail! Taking care of a farm is a year round chore but it is all seasonal. Planning for the down times takes a lot of stress away.

Commercial Farm: Oh, but you have a really great idea! Lots and lots of vegetables, specialty mushrooms, lamb, wool, flowers, etc. You have the land, you have the start up. You can get your name registered with Secretary of State and get a website. You can claim profits and losses on your taxes. You can qualify for grants and live your dream full time! Find some interns, and go for it!

We wouldn’t mind going this route. Our farm is named Pumpkin Hollow Farm and I have lots of ideas for pumpkin festivals and private tours and lunches at our farm. Farm to table dinners and homesteading classes.

A few things to keep in mind when pursuing a commercial farm.

  1. You could trigger an audit. With the ever booming hobby farm craze, folks from all over starting taking deep losses on their taxes. I know a lot of small farms that have been audited so keep your books and receipts in order!
  2. Have some money put aside for unexpected expenses or losses.
  3. Don’t put your eggs all in one basket! Create lots of ways to make money on your farm. Classes, festivals, different animals, different vegetables, crafts, etc. will help balance the budget out year to year.
  4. Don’t forget to stop and smell the roses. What a gift to have a farm. Don’t forget to grab a beer and sit on the back porch watching the chicken antics and the view around you.

Maybe you start as a homestead and work your way up or maybe you jump right into farming. Whatever you choose, have fun and be willing to be flexible and creative. A simple life is always a good life.

How to Make a House a Home (decorating styles)

The thought of starting over both exhausts and excites me.  I am moving to a simple box of a home with an acre of wildness.  I asked a friend of mine who lives out there about wildlife.  “I suppose I will be back with wildlife,” I wrote.  “Deer?  Coyotes?” I ventured.

She wrote back, “Deer, coyotes, foxes, raccoons, bears, mountain lions, hawks, owls.”

My chickens are toast, I thought.

pexels-photo

Outside of fencing in the chickens, the rest of the gardens will wait.  Fencing, soil, amendments, and careful planning over the winter’s months will result in a full fledged gardening and farm animal movement.  In the meantime, I turn to the house.

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In my mind’s eye, I see it burgundy with white trim, dark brown rustic shutters, and a wrap around porch.  I have no doubt that will come to be, but first, we work indoors!

How do you get the feel of a house?  How do you choose your decorating and design in a new place?  It is easy in old houses.  The old wood floors and crooked lines and personality shine through.  Doug was surprised that I liked the house we chose.  He commented that I don’t usually like new.

The house we spent eight years in after being married and when our children were young was an ugly bi-level in a suburb.  The photos of the place were on the internet as we peeked at real estate recently.  Gone were my murals and whimsical painted cupboards.  Also gone were the broken hand rails and the bare sub-floor.  That house swiftly fell apart the moment we bought it.  We were astounded by the new recessed lighting, sharp looking kitchen, soft carpet, and beige walls.  It was very rich looking and very…boring.  That house was all about homeschooling and raising children.  The downstairs was an art room and library with cement floors they could ride their scooters on.  The upstairs was open for entertaining and was full of color.  I don’t miss it though.  Once we made our exit to the country, I didn’t think I’d be back in the city!

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Back in the city, in a fancy apartment that looked out across the skyline of mountains that we rented for a year while saving up for a house, I decorated with eastern Indian motifs.  Golds and sharp pinks, black and white designs, and an area for yoga so that I could look out at the mountains and wonder how our life got turned so around that I was living in an apartment a few miles from that first house!  The colors were stimulating and inspiring.  A country look would not have worked.  And that was my calming place to get my mind right after so much loss.

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My design inspiration for my current house.  I kept it on my fridge for a year dreaming of my own homestead.

Here in this home, that used to be a farmhouse, the design is simple.  We moved in with practically nothing and it didn’t take long to fill it with hand me downs and antiques.  It is colorful with chili ristras and my bright paintings, yet serene with comfy seating and lots of plants, thanks to all the natural light.  The decor is incredibly eclectic, bouncing from Amish country to New Mexican to old farmhouse.

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New house decorating inspiration.

We are now moving to a circa 1993 (my baby was born in 1993) home with brand new greige paint (the newest trend- grey/beige blend), and fresh floors, and newer appliances, and not a hint of personality.  But I can find it, harness it, use it to create a new home.

The house has an incredible view of the surrounding mountains.  The acre is filled with cactus and cedar and other southwest, desert plants.  Snowfall will create a breathtaking view.

We are at a different stage of our life now.  We want to have enough beds to host all of our children in hopes of big country Christmases.  I want the house to feel welcoming, calming, inspiring, grown up, with a sense of fun and whimsy placed here and there.  A homestead, but modern farmhouse style.  I will take the greige and use it as my base of ideas.  Creams, dark woods, and warm knits will give it a hygge (Nordic) feel.  A mix of industrial, Nordic farmhouse, and cabin elements with lots of light and coziness.

Clear the clutter will be my motto and striking single pieces will replace lots of stuff.  We have our eye on a large, tall book shelf complete with a ladder.  The high ceilings will allow it.  Image it filled with all of my brewing herbal extracts with suspended plants, and stained glass-like jars of canned goods lining the shelves.  I am painting my dark piano cream.

Our shelves of books will line a wall in our new office/sewing room with a pull out couch.  The guest room will boast a stunning queen sized bunk bed.  The television will sit on a roll cart that can easily be put in a closet.  I despise having to decorate around a blasted, ugly television!  An oriental rug in the slim kitchen and blackboard doors on the pantry.  The oil lamps keep getting knocked over by a very large farm dog, so they will be replaced (*sigh) with elegant lamps.  Whimsical vintage signs and things we love, like drawings from Maryjane, greenery, and photographs.  Yes, this will be a lovely home.

The inspection on our new house is today and I will take along a measuring tape and graph paper to measure and plan.  This is my favorite part of moving!

Here are a few tips on how to find the personality and decorating style for your home.

1- Find the story behind the house.  Use surrounding scenery and house style to find the personality of the home.

2- Where are you in life?  Raising kids or working from home will all change the needs of the house.

3- What colors make you perk up?  What design elements (antiques, old/new signs, plants) make you smile?

4- Can you reuse what you have?  What do you need to buy?

5- Decorate with what you love.  Even if they don’t “match,” you will find that they end up seamlessly working with everything else.

6- Check out design and decorating books from the library and cut out decorating ideas you love from magazines.  I keep a huge binder of them and look at them each time I want to redecorate or move.

7- Fill your home with visiting friends, laughter, great books, candle light, and a kettle for tea.  Music, less electronics, and joy will make your home a respite from the world.  I think I might turn in my smart phone for a home phone and a record player.

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