Posted in Farmgirl Decorating

Farmhouse Remodel: Phase 2

Before

It is such a lovely home just the way it is. I was wondering about my crazy ideas this morning before demo began! But this is our farmhouse and it needs to work for us! Sure, there is a strip of floor and a strip of wall missing now- all which can be covered and repaired in time. The other thing that is missing is the wall!

After

Our decidedly not-built-by-a-homesteader 1993 home just didn’t have a few things we needed. Like storage for over 500 jars of produce come fall. It also had a weird 3/4 wall, which seemed to be an afterthought, and blocked all the nice light and ambiance of a wide open kitchen/living room/dining room.

When we first moved in six months ago, I decorated in modern Scandinavian-inspired elements and furniture. Oh heck, I even bought electric lamps. You know how it goes when you start over and everything has to be new and different? Yea, well I probably could have saved some money by purchasing second hand because no sooner had Yule hit and the house was becoming our style again. Homey, homesteady, old fashioned, grandma style. Like come in-kick off your shoes- sit by the oil lamp- and read style. It’s good stuff.

We had a modest stipend thanks to a rebate we received and we decided to use that to affordably, mindfully remodel our home in three phases. The first phase happened last week when we put in expansive, gorgeous shelves all across the north wall. Read here.

Today, the wall came down!

The next phase is painting the cupboards. What do you think? Olive green (kind of 1800’s style)? Chalk board paint- that would be lots of fun! (Too much black?)

It is all coming together. This is the best time to do farmhouse remodeling because soon we will have our hands in the soil and the house will be but a place to rest and drag mud through. A home should be a place of respite. It matters not how new it is or how worn. Small elements can create a space of comfort and calm, of peace and memory-making.

Posted in Farmgirl Decorating

1860s General Store Style (making a homestead more efficient)

We do not have a lot of money so we designate extra funds to anything that builds or benefits our homestead. I picked up a “new” oil lamp and two beautiful wooden candle holders with chimneys at an antique store yesterday. Our house is so lovely and rather modern compared to our past houses. It was not built by homesteaders so a few changes were needed to prepare for our year of farming ahead.

Before

We put up hundreds and hundreds of jars of produce each year and where will we put them? There is no basement here and we have limited storage. We spend most of our time in the main room of our house. When you walk in the front door you are in the living room which is attached to the dining room and is separated from the kitchen by only a 3/4 wall that was made into a pantry. If that wall were gone, it would be a perfect square. The wood stove putters along nicely heating the house and the east and west windows keep the space light, the high ceilings make it feel airy and rustic. To make it fit our needs better, there are two things we wanted to do, build shelves along the north wall and take down the wall.

After

With the rebate we received from getting solar panels on our last house we hired the fellow that put up our shed. The shelves are stunning and rustic. It is rather amazing how shelves can totally transform a space. We chose the brackets (Celtic scroll) and the wood stain. Four 12 foot long shelves went up on one side and two 6″ boards went up on the other side. Kevin was kind enough to move my behemoth piano to where I wanted it. The result is stunning. You could call our decorating style, 1860’s General Store style, I guess!

Getting a little low on preserves! Come September, these shelves will be brimming with hundreds of colorful jars.

Each 12 foot shelf can hold 244 jars of produce. Is it safe to have all of one’s canned goods out in the open like that? I did my research and actively used a thermometer to monitor the temperatures of the wall in several places. The first time I ever saw canned goods was at one of my best friend’s houses when I was sixteen. Her family was Mormon and quite sufficient in their lifestyle. Rows of glimmering glass jars shone from open shelves on a sun porch. I was mesmerized. Funny how little things like that can change the course of your life.

According to my research, I learned a few things. 1)Canned goods are best kept out of direct sunlight. The shelves are on the north wall. Thanks to a covered patio out back, the sun never shines directly on that wall. 2) Homemade preserves are best kept between 50-70 degrees. No higher than 90-100 degrees. The highest temperature the wall got with the wood stove at its peak was 78 degrees. That was nearest the stove. The higher shelves were at the highest temperature because heat rises.

Books will fill the spaces nearest the stove.

I believe that the sight of hundreds of colorful jars of sustaining produce is the prettiest art installation I have ever seen. It may seem odd to have all of one’s pantry out in the open but the benefits are many. One, it is so beautiful! Two, you can see everything available and inspiration for supper comes easier and you can see what you are getting low on. Three, it looks like an 1860’s General Store- which happens to be my current decorating style.

If we had installed the shelves ourselves it would have been even more affordable, but we didn’t fancy having crooked shelves and we needed them to be put up strong and correctly to hold that much weight! The second phase happens Wednesday when the wall comes tumbling down. Such little changes to make a homestead more efficient and charming.

Bye bye wall!
Posted in Non-Electric

Off Grid Lighting (even if you are on the grid)

There is something about old fashioned living that appeals to many of us. Old fashioned living honors the natural rhythms of nature and the body. It is better for the senses, the spirit, and one’s outlook. I am not romanticizing the life of pioneers of old- the starvation, traveling away from their families, the freezing temperatures- but we can take the practical, slower, methodical (and sometimes fast paced), family oriented, earth friendly, sweet aspects and incorporate them into our modern homesteading practices. One of the easiest ways to incorporate homesteading into one’s life is old fashioned lighting.

This mouse is one of my favorite finds!

A girlfriend of mine and I go visit Amish friends in Westcliffe every so often. The last time Elizabeth and I were there, Ruth showed us around their new home, freshly built of rustic logs and windows with views.

“What are the outlets for?” Elizabeth pointed at the ceiling.

“Oh, we have to have the house wired in case we ever want to sell it,” was Ruth’s reply.

Hanging between two comfortable looking chairs facing west and looking out upon the grand Sangre de Cristos- so close you could practically climb them- was a battery operated light, much like one you might find in a mechanic’s garage. They charged it in the basement at night and it ran for many hours in the evening.

So, what’s the point? If one is going to have light at all, why not just flip on a switch? For the Amish, living a slow, simple life keeps them closer to God and each other. That is really what homesteading is about as well. It connects us to things greater than ourselves. Greater than video games, recorded television shows, and opens the way for meaningful conversation and family time. One area of lighted space keeps a family together in that space, reading, laughing, sewing, watching the children play. When Doug and I popped in to see Ruth’s husband, Joel, at his furniture shop last weekend, he mentioned the birth of twins. Happy moments shine brighter in an old fashioned life.

Oil lamps are my favorite because they are beautiful and practical and some of the old ones come with their own quiet stories. Oil lamps are easy to find in antique stores and even Walmart. There are beautiful ones online and even second hand stores. That is where my daughter, Emily, spotted this charming red one. Oil lamps come in all shapes and sizes. When you are looking at an old one, turn the knob and make sure it moves the wick up and down. You can get a new screw on collar for the lamp if needed online. Put in a fresh wick. Empty any remaining oil and clean the lamp. Pour in a clean oil like, Klean-Heat or Firefly. Let the wick gather up the oil for a few hours before lighting. Let the wick barely show over the top in order to keep the lamp from smoking or wasting oil. Clean the chimney and place on top.

I also use extra chimneys to cover candle tapers. I have some lovely candle holders. Candles perhaps give off the best light. Look for packages of candles at second hand stores. The best though, is to purchase a bulk pack of dripless candles. They last a long time and do not make such a mess.

If I supplement light, it is from twinkly lights. We always grab a few extra boxes of Christmas lights during the season. They use less energy and help supplement the space with soothing light.

By using off grid or near off grid lighting options, the dimmed light allows the body to calm down and you will sleep better. It is a natural way for your body to know that the day is fading. It just doesn’t get the memo with television and phone screens! It is less harsh on the eyes and flattering on faces. It is calming in a way I cannot explain in prose. We are so relaxed and comfortable in the evenings. Between the wood stove and our off grid lighting, our gas and electric bills are less than half of what they would be in a conventional environment. And even though oil for the lamps and candles have a footprint, it is less than blaring all the electric lights. Incorporating non-electric lighting into one’s house is easily done anywhere and is a great step into the world of homesteading.

Some more of my articles you may enjoy:

Visit Ruth’s House

A return to our Amish friends’ house

Oil lamps

Posted in inspiration

Map of Purpose and Inspiration

My heart is a little heavy today, but I know why- it’s midwinter. All the dreaming of gardening and spring and trying to keep busy do not completely veil the wintertime blues, or Seasonal Affective Disorder. My mind wanders and ponders and when the mind is given too much berth it tends to get into trouble! I wonder about social media. I wonder about this blog. I wonder of my own worth and contribution to society. Then I quiet it down again with a gardening book and a cup of tea, thankful for the respite of winter and the rest before the miraculous madness of farming season.

What is the point of my being on facebook? It began as a way to reconnect with old friends. Which I did. And I never see them and few would even notice if I left facebook. I use it to promote my blog. What is the point of my blog? I like to think that my purpose is to inspire others. To help them bring the quiet simplicity of a handmade life into their own lives. To be able to walk softer on the planet. To find joy in an old fashioned lifestyle. It is particularly useful for highly sensitive people like myself. But, does it really make a difference at all? And then there is Instagram. Do sharing photos of our life really inspire anyone at all? Ah February. I will have my hands in the soil towards the end of next month.

My beautiful friend, Annie, lived with me two summers ago and helped me with the gardens, animals, and with canning and soap making, and was wonderful company to me.

In these moments of quiet insecurity when the sun still goes down way too early and the outdoors beckon but it is still too cold, and Vitamin D stores are low, minds do begin to wander. I believe what most of us are really worrying about is our purpose. Our contribution to the world. We receive so many blessings, are we returning them in a good way and are we appreciated? I tend to hermit myself into my home and adore the company of my animals to crowds and office buildings. I could easily fall into my only socialization being social media and this blog (though I have a handful of great friends, children, and a husband that won’t let me). But I do have a dream that I would love to see come true, though the universe would have to arrange it. Still, I believe it could happen. When a dream is put upon our hearts, it is map, a blueprint of our current purpose.

My friend, Ethan was my farm intern in 2014. We still keep in touch. He now farms in New York.

High school age and young twenties, I love their energy, their smiles, their hearts. I have such a desire to be a mentor, a friend, a surrogate mama to those that need someone to be there for them. I have a handful of past students and my children’s friends that consider me one of their mamas and I try to keep up with them. Make sure they feel loved. Make sure they have the encouragement they need to pursue their purpose.

I loved my daughter Shyanne working with me and teaching her the art of herbalism.

Over the last ten or so years my farm and homestead has revolved around how to make it profitable (or rather, how to survive), but now that my husband supports us, other ideas come forth. This is my biggest garden plan ever, my most ambitious homestead yet, and I will surely need help. I also want to share my skill set with the next generation so that they can feel secure in the fact that they could be subsistence farmers, homesteaders, nature restorers, and find peace in the soil of our sustenance. It could offer a safe place while they are learning by working with me. Have family style meals and be a positive influence and encouragement while working alongside future gardeners and friends.

I am so grateful to live this homestead life. This old fashioned, apron wearing, reading by oil lamp, warming myself by the woodstove, kitten on my lap, homegrown and handmade life, that I cannot help but share it. And hope that it brings inspiration.

Posted in Herbal Remedies

Never Fear a Virus Again

Those old survival instincts like to create panic and the news loves to induce it. Viruses have been around since the beginning of time, I’m betting, and many have become worse because of our own doing. We have created drugs that are making the bacteria morph and resist. Perhaps illness and natural disaster are ways for the earth to control population. Whispers about government conspiracy trying to control population abound but we do enough damage ourselves with pollution, drilling for oil, animal agriculture, GMO’s, and lifestyle, so we needn’t worry about the government! Let’s just get down to it, a virus is a virus. It’s a cold- sometimes a bad one- but a cold nonetheless. Now, turn off the news and let’s get some tried and true remedies into your homestead apothecary so you don’t have to worry about the flu, the Coronavirus, or a sinus infection. We are not trying to come up with cures or shun doctors, we are trying to prevent and catch things early.

Oregon Grape Root

The good thing about new viruses is that they are none the wiser about our western herbs. If you think herbs are just mild immunity boosters, think again. I’m not talking essential oils or tea bags here, I make herbal medicine that is more effective than anything that big pharma can come up with. Nature is more than happy to help you heal and live a life that does not revolve around fear of getting sick. So, let’s get started.

First, where do you get these herbs? I highly suggest you grow them. Many of our best allies are becoming endangered and extinct. In a few months, seek out a plant nursery that sells plant starts. If you live in Colorado, two of my favorites that have tons of medicinal herbs are Tagawa Gardens in Parker and Desert Canon in Canon City. No yard or green thumb or it’s winter? You can order online. Just google “organic echinacea.” You can find reputable, small farmers that sell it. Or you can go with one of the bigger companies like Mountain Rose Herbs or Starwest Botanicals.

Here are some herbs to start gathering. Try to get one from each section.

For Sinus infections you need an antifungal:

  • Walnut (leaves or hull), black walnut even better.
  • Garlic
  • Mugwort

For Sore Throat:

  • Bear Root (Osha) is a great antibiotic
  • Cinnamon
  • Peppermint

To stop the sniffles:

  • Stinging Nettles
  • Peppermint
  • Dandelion
  • Rose Hips

For lungs you need a cough suppressant:

  • Mullein leaves and flowers
  • Valerian
  • Willow Bark

To break a fever:

  • Willow Bark
  • Feverfew
  • Catnip

To open airways:

  • Ephedra (no it’s not dangerous. You will probably need to grow it. It is not illegal to use it or sell it. The bastardized version from the lab, ephedrine, caused all the trouble back in the days of quick weight loss.)
  • Mormon Tea (the American version of Ephedra)
  • Thyme
  • Indian Tobacco (Lobelia Inflata)

Specifically Anti-Viral:

  • Echinacea (also anti-cancer and anti-biotic)
  • Yarrow
  • Lemon Balm
  • Sage

Specifically Anti-biotic:

  • Juniper Berries
  • Oregon Grape Root
  • Barberry Root
  • Bear Root
  • Garlic
Echinacea

In a quart jar add 8 Tablespoons of dried herbs of choice (try one from each category) and fill 3/4 of the way with rum and 1/4 of the way with honey or agave. Sit in sun for a week, then move to a cupboard, shaking occasionally, for 3 more weeks. Don’t strain, just pull out what you need. Take 1 teaspoon when everyone is sick around you, 1 teaspoon 6x a day when sick.

Sage

Now, it’s all well and good to take herbal medicines to heal, but if one continually taxes their system, the herbs will only go so far. Other ways to boost immunity:

Green smoothies and juices once a day are very important for antioxidant and vitamin intake.

Fresh air while walking or riding a bicycle.

Stress reduction

Surround yourself with people and things you love and do work that is meaningful to you.

Eat a plant based diet so that you are eating as many antioxidants and minerals as possible.

Don’t let fear attack you. There are bits of fate we have no control of and there are things we can do proactively. Let’s just live and let the universe take care of the rest. A home apothecary will take away many of your fears and help you be ready for anything.

Intrigued? My books on Amazon can help you navigate the world of herbalism even further.

Posted in Non-Electric

The Hand-Cranked Life

The dawn filters through the windows white and glowing after the night of snow. I put my warm robe on and wander out to the wood stove to start the fire. It starts spreading heat quickly and the kitties gather and curl up on furniture around the stove while I start the coffee.

The grinder has a gentle whir that I rather like as I churn the handle around. It isn’t difficult and within minutes the smell of freshly ground coffee awakens my senses. The kettle on the stove starts to bubble and the grounds hiss and extract as the boiling water immerses into the French press.

My Great Pyrenees will not come inside, despite the very cold temperature. I have never had an outdoor dog before. I always thought it rather cruel. But there he is, happy as can be sitting in the snow barking at who knows what. I give him a bowl of water that is not frozen. I open the chicken door and give them food and water as well. The mountains are hidden behind a thick veil of clouds and threatening snow storms. The large western sky above makes it feel like a snow globe. The cats are fed and fresh water given and I settle in with my coffee amongst them before the fire and write.

I turn off the computer, unplug all cords, there are no LED lights shining non-stop here. They irk me for some reason and I can actually here the buzzing from electric devices. The grandfather clock gently ticks time and tells me the quarter hour. My home wouldn’t be quite the same without the master of time standing guard in the living room.

I tie my apron on and the day is spent in blissful schedule. Bringing in wood. Stoking the fire. Putting the kettle back on the wood stove for tea. I think I will put on a Dutch oven of beans and make sage white bean soup for supper. Maybe I will knead together a loaf of bread.

I tend to whatever household chores are on the day’s list and do all the cooking from scratch. Stopping to snuggle animals. Catching up on sewing projects. Dreaming of spring. Reading gardening manuals as if they were the most fascinating of novels. My education in farming and homesteading continues. Though is doesn’t make a lot of money, it saves a lot of money. And money saved is the same as money earned sometimes. Particularly for homestead wives.

Today I will write to my pen pal and perhaps call my grandpa. The piano is longing to be played. There is a steadiness to the winter days here. Soon I will have my clothes line up and in the spring I will get a set up to do my clothes washing by hand outdoors once again. I will use a hoe to weed, and my hands to harvest. Nary a machine in sight.

The warm water and suds caress my hands as I place the dishes in the dish rack. Stir the soup. Take a sip of homemade mead. Light the candles and oil lamps as the sun begins to fade, casting shadows across the house and another day winds down.

We sit together and chat, enjoy the fire with a hot drink and talk about our day. Blow out the oil lamps and the candles. And fall into bed sleepy and happy and content.

The furnace will come on if the indoor temperature drops too low. My daughters will snapchat me throughout the day. We can turn on the lights of the lamps. There is a coffee maker for entertaining in the garage. I could just go on using the washer and dryer year round and I certainly could turn the clock on above the stove. But why? When the gentle cadence of an old fashioned life brings with it such quiet and loveliness. When clothes and dishes are cleaner, coffee better, house warmer, air more crisp as one gathers wood. Laughing at animal antics, kneading the bread, the feel of a wooden spoon in hands that work joyfully. Reading by oil lamp, snuggling near the fire, a kitten on one’s lap, and a song in the heart. That is a day in a hand-cranked life.

Posted in Homestead

DIY Affordable Homestead Fencing

My husband, Doug, and I have never been accused of being handy. We do, however, have a great passion for homesteading, so over the years we have learned and we have made it work! We watched our first goats, adorable and nimble as they were, hop through the holes in the field fencing and go gallivanting around the fairgrounds beneath the hooves of horses riding by. Since then, we have put up fencing with smaller holes, specific to goats. It works great for chickens and sheep as well. No more five inch holes around here. No matter where we are homesteading, we have found that field fencing is by far the most affordable, fastest, and easiest for a few non-handy (but very passionate) homesteaders.

We have had the great privilege of purchasing a little over an acre in the country. My husband works full time-plus to support our little farm (having learned early on in this journey that a regular income sure comes in handy), so we are limited to weekends to complete tasks. The first of our tasks was to separate the acre into thirds. The back third is left wild to honor the many cedars, wild plants, and animals that hop about back there.

Rescued farm animal yard and mini-barn in a fun pumpkin orange. The coop will be painted to match!
Gandalf the White(ish)
For extra security, dog panels cannot be beat to protect your flock.

A third for the future pet farm animals and their guard, the Great Gandalf. Part of that third, directly in the back of the house, was fenced off for a garden.

55×40 fenced in kitchen garden. The pallet compost bins are just over the back fence.

The front third will be medicine gardens and a corn field. There was a vineyard planned, ’cause a farmgirl can dream, but it turns out that we have need for more tomatoes than wine grapes so the vineyard got nixed for Amish Paste and Romas. (We will still grow some grapes for the table and juice.)

Larger poultry yard in the foreground and tomato canning garden.

Next week’s task is to further separate a 30×30 area in the front pasture so that the chickens can have a bigger area. The front garden fence was intended to keep stray dogs out (they could jump the fence, I suppose, but usually a fence will dissuade dogs, and to keep cars out of the future garden. Folks see dirt and park wherever! Get off my imaginary garden! Fences keep some out and some in. A field fence easily manages that.

Medicine and Perennial Garden, Corn field beyond, and fruit trees and bushes lining the side fence all the way down.

Ironically, it costs a bit to get started as a homesteader. For less than $500, including the post pounder, we were able to fence in what we needed of an acre. That is pretty good. Gates are important for pasture rotation, moving animals about, and ease for the farmer to get where they are going! Once we have the chicken area up, we will have six gates. Gates are the most expensive part of fencing, so if you can find some used, do that.

Setting up a homestead needn’t break the bank. We have been in our home going on six months now. We have put in a wood stove, put up a mini-barn, and fencing. Next week is chicken fencing, the week after will be the clothes line, and so forth. Keep doing projects throughout the winter as you can because come spring, the focus moves to the garden!

Posted in Food/Wine (and preserving)

Making Your Own Meat Alternatives

A common question to vegans is, If you don’t eat meat, why do you look for things that look and taste like meat? The best answer I saw to this was a response on Instagram, “Because I don’t want to harm animals!” There sure is a lot of false accusations going on on social media regarding meat alternatives in fast food restaurants. All we have to say is, no one gets fast food to be healthy. It is nice to have an alternative in a pinch. The reason the unhealthy meat doesn’t get attacked is because it is illegal to say anything against the meat industry.

So why do we want meat lookalikes? We were born into a society of meat and potatoes, animal laden mealtimes, and comfort food. We weren’t raised with lentils or beautiful ethnic spices or vegetarian fare- save for canned vegetables. Meat alternatives give us a place to rest. To give us the tastes of home without causing harm. They make meal planning easier. We can still whip up old recipes. Chicken fried chick’n with mashed potatoes, gravy, and green beans is comfort food. Chick’n nuggets with french fries and a big salad with homemade ranch dressing is delish. Pot roast over potatoes and kale or on sandwiches. Ground meat in casseroles or spaghetti sauce.

For me, I never really liked meat, even growing up, so it’s no big thing for me, though it is fun to create these things. My husband is a big meat eater (or was) and he feels more satiated with familiar looking dishes and enjoys a big plate of food. Made healthier and inexpensively, these dishes are fun to prepare and taste amazing. We love cooking together and much of our life is based around growing and preparing our own food. We both love animals as well and have no desire to harm other creatures. And we don’t have to. It is easy to make your own meat alternatives.

I made an easy, healthy ground that tastes amazing and is very versatile. It is high in Omega 3’s, protein, iron, Vitamin D, and many trace minerals. Use equal parts walnuts and mushrooms. I soaked the walnuts for a few hours then drained and rinsed. Place the walnuts and minced mushrooms into a food processor and blend well. Freeze on a cookie sheet and then break up crumbles and place in freezer bag. Scoop out what you need for meals!

For “sausage” I took a cup of frozen crumbles and added in a little olive oil (which made it clump up into sausage-looking crumbles), fennel, paprika, garlic powder, smoked salt, and pepper. I smothered a homemade pizza crust topped with sauce with the sausage and added our favorite combination of black olives, green and red peppers, and pineapple!

For veggie chick’n, we use a recipe from The Great Vegan Bean Book by Kathy Hester. If cutting it up and putting it in meals, I use as is, but our real treat is to batter it again by dipping it in almond milk then a flavorful blend of bread crumbs and frying it in coconut oil. Chick’n fried chick’n!

For pot roast, roast beast, french dip, etc., Doug uses a recipe from J.L. Fields, a local vegan chef. Go to http://JLGoesVegan.com and look up french dip. We took that basic recipe and altered seasonings and broth and it has become a delicious staple in our house.

Three other must have books to handmake many more alternatives like sausage, hot dogs, chick’n nuggets, ribs, burgers and more are Gaz Oakley’s Vegan 100, Miyoko Schinner’s The Homemade Vegan Pantry, and VBQ- The Ultimate Vegan Barbeque Cookbook by Horn and Mayer. You will also learn to make dairy alternatives and sauces with these books as well.

Chorizo tacos from walnuts.org

A full page advertisement caught my eye in one of my magazines. I went to walnuts.org and found some delicious plant based recipes to make chorizo and ground meat with mouth watering recipes. More and more people are realizing that instead of crazy fad diets like Keto and Paleo, and weird ways to lose weight, veganism offers a way to easily go down to your perfect weight, clear your skin, reverse medical ailments, erase anxiety and depression, boost energy, and it’s just easier than ever! Try some of these alternatives and enjoy cooking and eating!

Posted in Crafts and Skills

Of Handkerchiefs and Trash

I am always trying to improve our life, our health, save money, and lessen our footprint. When I look at my shopping list, I look for the things I can prepare myself. I see what I can grow myself. We think of what we can do for ourselves. We try to do better. We recycle. It is important to us. Despite the growing reports that our crap may just all end up in foreign countries, or worse, not get recycled at all, I just cannot not recycle. Despite the fact that we pay double what our non-recycling neighbors pay for trash and we only get a pick up once a month. So, I look at my trash bin and my recycling bin and see where my trash is coming from. Because it is not enough to put up solar or wind power, get an electric car (still uses fossil fuels, folks), or recycle; we need to use less, waste less, live simpler.

This vintage child’s handkerchief from Pinterest couldn’t be cuter.

I am surprised at just how much waste finds its way onto my homestead. Bulk items in plastic bags, produce in plastic bags, animal food bags, my new oil lamp wrapped in plastic and cardboard. Cardboard boxes from prepared foods, deliveries of items, and so much more fills my waste bins. I can deal with that by buying less, preparing more, and coming up with another way to get bulk items and produce home. But there is one other thing that surprised me that filled the trash bin. Tissues!

When did the era of using a handkerchief leave us? My generation in particular seems to have completely forgotten how things were before us. So many things have been replaced with wasteful, mass marketed, and destructive alternatives. We don’t think much of a box of tissues, but perhaps we should! A handkerchief was used to wipe one’s face or hands, dry tears, or blow the nose. Washable and convenient (and for women, often very beautiful), handkerchiefs were as fashionable and reasonable as bonnets and long skirts. (I am wearing my bonnet this year, y’all, I don’t care what the neighbors think!) So, perhaps it is time to add handkerchiefs to my sewing list for winter. I think cotton would be lovely and soft. Perhaps they could be made out of an old shirt. I will use the same technique I did for the homemade cloth napkins, which couldn’t be simpler. I think it might be wise to use darker fabric. Maybe I will even embroider my initials on them. (What is my name these days? Mama? Grammie?)

Handkerchiefs are an easy way to lessen our footprint and add a little old fashioned charm to our lives.

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.