Life On An Urban Homestead

20180813_071437The air is cool this morning.  Autumn just whispers.  A  little early, it seems to me.  A lovely few weeks of monsoon broke us out of our months of triple digit drought.  The farms are half fallow for lack of water.  On my little urban farm, the rain has brought forth abundance and we are just nearly tired of zucchini.  Still, fried zucchini and early pumpkin beer sounds good today.  I am grateful we do not rely solely on ourselves for food as I thumb through my depression era cookbook.  We are eating well from our gardens.  The herbs are lovely and fragrant, and though the produce is all slow to mature this year, we are now eating peppers and tomatoes and calabacitas.

The chicken’s yard is filled with birds of all kinds, apparently enjoying the new chicken feed.  The egg eater was discovered and went to a chicken swap where she is going to live in a lovely coop with three other roommates.  We now have eggs again.

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Many years ago I wrote a post about the pros of urban farming.  I think of that post now as I sit on my front porch watching the early morning world go by.  The morning glories have run wild and made the porch art.  Though I do want goats- many cities do allow them, perhaps eventually Pueblo will too- I see the many pros to living here in town.  I have abundant space to garden.  My garden on ten acres was smaller than the space I have here.  I can go up and out and raised and potted and there is much more land to make into gardens and orchards.  One does not need as much space as one might think.  I have the benefit of not having crop dusters flying over my little organic homestead.

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I have chickens and their hilarious antics and fresh eggs.  I have local farmers for milk should I choose.

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Today I am making soap for our new shop and for ourselves.  I canned seven pints of fresh, organic peaches from the farmer’s market and seven jars of spicy pickles from my own garden.  Little by little the root cellar fills.  Soon Doug will be chopping wood for the wood stove.  My favorite reading spot has oil lamps and candles and the power could go out and I would go on reading.

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Homesteading, I have learned over a decade of experience, is not about self sufficiency, but rather it is a village ideal.  One cannot possibly do everything themselves.  I need sweet corn from the local farmer, organic meat from my friends’ ranch if I choose.  They might get medicine or take a canning class from me.

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Here in town, I can ride my bike to the newest coffee shop to pick up fair trade coffee and hit the library for a homesteading book.  I can grow food and have chickens and even a farm dog.  Old arts like quilting and sewing and crocheting are making a comeback.  Homesteading is not insistent on the country, but rather a space in one’s heart for simplicity and old ways.

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Pressure Canner (homesteading necessity, chicken stock recipe, and buying only what you need)

We are slowly building our life and items we need back up.  We just purchase what we need as cash allows.  Last night we joyfully added to the cart a few imperative homesteading items.  A pressure canner (when the lid is off it’s a water bath canner), jars, stock pot, and canning gear.

First things first, chicken stock.  I am shocked at how much organic stock costs.  Here is my recipe for it should you need it from a prior blog post.

Click here for recipe

I am heading to my Great Aunt Donna’s for rhubarb this weekend.  And the hunt is on for everything I can get my hands on to can.  Rows of organic canned goods are amazing to have on hand any time of the year, goodness without listeria, E Coli, or whatever the heck else is in our food system.  Great, delicious, wonderful home grown food….oh, I am getting carried away.  Stock, that is where I was at…

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Starting a Homesteading School

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Several times this year I had us (meaning myself and you readers) all write down dreams, goals, things we want to change in our lives, things that we are holding onto, things that we need to start in order to get our dreams to unfold before us.  For anything you desire or wish for will come to fruition.  Once you put it out there and start planning, it is a done deal.  For us, we longed for a place with more land.  We had truly run out of space at our adorable rental house in town on two-thirds of an acre.  We even dug up the driveway last year to plant more corn and herbs!  Our goats yelling at people walking by and the veritable farm right there in the middle of town was definitely a show-stopper and amazingly fun but we were ready for the next step of our journey.  We prayed and planned though we had no idea how it would even be possible.  We had no money and no credit but we needed a bigger farm and a smaller, quaint homestead with more off grid possibility, and a place where we could use the homesteading skills we had acquired over the years on our practice farms.

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A brief, out of nowhere call from our landlords telling us they needed to sell the house (it looks to be going into foreclosure though) and a trip down Craigslist way and bam we were staring at our dream home.  A tiny hundred-plus year old homestead filled with memories and history on ten acres for rent complete with goat pens and chicken coop, fenced garden, clothes line, wood cook stove, and views for miles.  Nothing is impossible with God indeed!  All for half the price we were paying in bills at the old place.

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There is one more piece to this dream we have concocted.  A school.  I have taught Certified Herbalist Courses for about five years now.  For two years I have taught sporadic homesteading classes in our cramped kitchen.  Soap making, cheese making, fun skills like that.  I enjoy making medicines, but the retail side of it needs to stay small and intimate, helping people directly, so it’s not enough to get us through financially.  That, and teachers must teach.  We go crazy if we don’t!

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Before now I have just offered homesteading classes here and there and have not really promoted them properly but I am now in my place where I can really make this dream come true.  So, I looked at the coming year’s calendar and made a  schedule.  I had already written down sometime this year all of the classes and event we could offer.  I proceeded to take a leap of faith and make this dream come to life.  I guess you will see along with me what transpires!

There is a tab on the menu above that reads “Homesteading School”, all classes and events are posted there.  They are also posted on my website http://gardenfairyapothecary.com and there is a place to pay for and sign up for classes.  I am really excited about this!  Perhaps I will be able to meet some of my readers at a farm event or class.

What dreams are you working on this year?

5 Ways to Make the New Year Better (write down yours!)

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I really enjoy my time with other homesteaders.  I find comfort in how much we have in common.  We don’t get to see our country friends too much because we are all so darn busy but now that things are settling down we’ll possibly have time for impromptu visits.  Yesterday our friend and neighbor from ten miles down the road came by to visit.  He didn’t call (country friends rarely do) and I was frazzled that the house was in such disarray.  We had the baby all day and I could either do dishes and clean or play with the baby.  I spent too many years cleaning and doing dishes while my children grew up without me playing with them so I opted to play.  She had just fallen asleep when Jim came by.  We had a nice chat in the sunny living room in front of the Christmas tree and talked about the snow coming, work slowing down for both of us, the holidays, he lost his dad and how sad he was, what medicines we were making (he was one of my students), and laundry.  Yes, laundry.  You can tell the weather out here by the clothes lines.  The day before a cold front comes in we all do our laundry so it will be dry by time the cold hits.  He had a load in the washer so couldn’t stay long.  I did too.  We had a pleasant chat and agreed to get together for cards soon.

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I am very content.  Despite the cold (which we can handle and are hoping to put in another stove) we have just the life we want out here.  As the new year approaches though I find myself pondering what I could do better, what more I want in my life, and how I want to improve as a person.  Maybe you are too.  Instead of calling these things resolutions, let’s just call them new additions (or subtractions!) from our life and make a personalized plan for success!  I have started them now.  No reason to wait.  Write these five things down on a piece of paper and start pondering them now.  They can be easily implemented throughout the next year and help you become your best self.

1. Learn Something New

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What would you like to learn in the new year?  Let’s not forget that learning goes on our whole lives and that learning new things is great for the brain, the body, and spirit.  I wanted to learn how to learn how to ride horses.  Now, I have rode dozens of horses on trails that the horse knew by heart and they were already saddled up and ready to go for fifty dollars an hour.  Or friend and family’s horses that were in a ring, and again, already to go.  I put out on social media that I would like to learn how to ride horses and was willing to barter for lessons.  I expected to learn western riding.  I would love to get a horse or two in the future (the sooner the better!) and expect to be riding western style.  But when one of my friends and past students offered me English riding lessons, I took it.  She already knows how to make medicines so I bartered for my husband.  His expertise anyway.  I let him know he was helping her design a facebook and website for her upcoming business.  He is a good sport.

You can find someone to teach you virtually anything and folks are happy to share what they know.  You will easily be able to barter or find inexpensive classes.  Or splurge and take up tap lessons or go to drawing school.  Just learn something new.

What skill would you like to learn?

2. Take Care of Your Body

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We can all do the things we love a lot easier if we feel good.  Identifying and implementing what we need to feel our best is very important and shouldn’t be put off!  We all have different needs and cannot just blindly follow the latest fad or phase.  For me, I need to change the way I eat.  A year ago, after twenty plus years of being a vegetarian, I decided to start eating meat again.  The prairie lifestyle and the organic farms around me, not to mention being out of things to cook, inspired me to try it.  It would be a more self sufficient way to eat as well since I could easily pack my freezers with friends’ harvests.  In one year, I became depressed, my face showed more wear and tear, my stomach always hurt, I had heartburn every night for the first time in my life, and I was lethargic and tired all the time.  My husband wasn’t faring much better.  His acid reflux came back, chronic congestion, and breathing issues ensued.  He gained weight and was also tired all the time.  Enough was enough.  I sold every bit of meat in the refrigerator.  We are starting our mornings with a quart of green smoothies filled with spinach, aloe vera, frozen berries and rhubarb packed away earlier in the season.  Apples, also from Aunt Donna’s, and bananas, pumpkin, spices, anything else I can find filled with antioxidants goes into the fabulous Vitamix and is already infusing our bodies with more nutrients than we have had for a long time.  The hole in my stomach is healing and I can sleep now.  All digestive ailments have gone away.  Doug is detoxing pretty harshly but will feel better soon.

Instead of buying veggie meats (I was trying to get away from them because they have so many GMO’s in them and are owned by the big companies) I am experimenting with more ethnic foods.  Dal, Curries, Mexican food, all different cuisines from other countries that don’t eat a lot of meat or have a wide variety of beans, legumes, vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, and spices.  We are still eating and enjoying fish.  Not only will be getting healthier again but I have opened up a whole other world of delicious recipes and foods.  I will start checking out a different cookbook each week from the library.  I can also grow most of these foods.  I will increase my bean and lentil crops this year and pack in as many vegetables into my new garden as possible!

How will you make your body work better?

3. Take Care of Emotions

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Our bodies are made up of emotions, spirit, and physical and they all need to be working well because they effect the rest of the systems.  I avoid the news like the plague.  No news is good news.  But social media bothers me as well.  I enjoy getting onto Facebook and seeing what my friends are up to or seeing pictures of my kids and granddaughter, but then there comes a point where I have to stop.  Folks posting pictures of abused and neglected animals out in the snow, and posts of what Monsanto is doing, and what our government is doing, or complaints about various ailments, and this and that, I just can’t take it all in and process it without feeling saddened.  Check it in the mornings while I am writing and returning emails then leave it.

How will you seek emotional health?

4. Take Care of Spirit

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I love church, I really do.  I find myself making it way too difficult.  I do not like legalistic and superior feeling folks.  I love the Catholic church, but stupid as it sounds, I cannot get down the new prayers and sayings and need to get the new booklet on the changes.  I yell out the wrong thing.  I also would need to meet all new people.  I just want to go, sit in the back, and pray.  I don’t want to be a part of a community.  I am always disappointed in church communities when I do.  I know I am expecting too much.  I love the gathering every other Sunday downtown with my American Indian friends called Talking Circle.  It is two hours from my house though.  We pick up the baby at 11.  So I don’t have time (so I say) to go to any of them!  Excuses, excuses.  What do I want?  Go to Saturday evening mass, pick up the baby early and drive to Denver and go to Talking Circle and make a day in the city of it, or just go for a long walk and pray.  There are many ways to connect to the Creator.  Put it on my schedule and do it.

5. List What Makes You Happy

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These are the things we need to do more of.  We so often say at the beginning of the year, no more of this!  No more of that!  Change this!  Change that!  How about add this and that?  It will make all the difference.  For me, I love being home more.  I do not like running errands and driving all over all the time.  We have one more week of craft shows.  I love just staying at home and working on my homestead.  I love taking walks and being in nature.  I love writing.  I love reading magazines on the porch.  I love being around my kids and around sweet Maryjane Rose.  These are the types of things I should do more of.

Now write down yours!

From our farm to yours…wishing you a beautiful and prosperous year to come filled with good health and joy and many, many great memories!  Feel free to respond with your goals for the new year.  Let’s not wait until the 1st to feel great!

 

 

Prairie at Dawn (and you can rest in January!)

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I stepped outside before the sun’s colorful hands glided over the edge of the prairie.  The lighting was surreal and looked as if I lived in a Renaissance pastel that might hang in the museum.  A painted landscape so beautiful my mind could hardly fathom.  The owls called to each other from tree to tree and the city lights in the distance shone against the silhouette of the mountain.

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Our year starts in spring when the baby goats are born and we start our early planting.  Spring is filled with preparing beds, planting at the right times, bottle feeding goat kids, cooing over baby chicks, and praying for warm weather.  We are also madly getting ready for farmer’s markets.  Preparing, bottling, labeling, farmer’s market checklist; tent, tables, chairs, displays, application fees, products made…ready, set, go!

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And we catapult into summer where for the next four months family and friends have troubles getting a hold of us.  Those close to us understand.  We live a whirlwind of sunrises, farm animals, farmer’s markets, farming, herbal business, preserving, holding classes, getting ready for winter.  Always getting ready for winter.

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Sporting my new fashion look.

September seems like it will be slower as some markets draw to a close and we see our pantry filling up but for the next three months we will still be actively preparing, just as the ants and bees do, to settle in for winter.  Always wondering if we have enough stored.  Enough food…enough water…enough wood.

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Moving was a wonderful thing since it marked the end of our years of pining for a homestead.  It is exactly what we prayed for.  Low enough rent and no utilities that we can afford to be healers.  The landlords share the property which is not something we would have ever considered before until we started being intrigued by the idea of cohabitating homesteads where we started to think that we should not share property with friends.  Too complicated.  But, the idea is sound.  The owners here are quiet and leave us to ourselves but we are all here if the other needs us.  Best of both worlds.  We are near my favorite city.  In twenty five minutes I am at a library, coffee shop, or restaurant if I want to be.  Then back to the confines of the vast prairie, large stars, and serene silence.  I am humbled to be here.  But moving was exhausting and we find ourselves longing for rest.  But there is something about Autumn that makes me want to keep working.  An innate desire to get things done and prepared.  The longer I homestead the closer to nature and natural seasons and intuition I get.

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Our friend, Jim, was one of my students; he is a Vietnam Vet, commander for a veteran’s organization, lover of plants and herbs, a survivalist, loyal friend, and in the tree business.  He gave me a great deal on three cords of wood.  Even though it is a lot of money for us, a winter without utilities will even things out.  He dropped off the cords one by one while Doug and I spent the afternoon stacking wood.  Doug kept stopping to pull up his jeans.  Forget a gym membership.  We work hard, our muscles are defined, we eat healthy, homemade food, and though we’ll be a little soft by the end of winter, we’ll be right back in the swing of things for the remainder of the year.  Homesteading looks good on folks.

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We have a pantry full, two freezers full, now a total of four cords of wood, and we are getting closer.  Time is ticking because we are still doing farmer’s markets through the end of the month and craft shows through the middle of December.  In between we get ready for our winter rest.  We are drying off the goat; we have plenty of cheese made and milk frozen.  We are getting ready to breed Isabelle again.  Today the gutters will be cleaned, homestead area mowed, garden worked on, chimney cleaned, and orders filled, even though we are under the weather.  The seasons don’t stop for sick days.  Soon we will only have craft shows on the weekends and the holidays to look forward to.  Then for three months we will rest and grow restless and be ever ready for the seasons to start over.  We are thankful to live this lifestyle.  This is truly the good life.

5 Steps To Becoming a Homesteader (or just simplifying your life)

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1.Write down your goals. 

Do you want to quit your job?  Move to the country?  Have an urban farm?  Homestead on the weekends?  Live a more peaceful, mindful life? 

We have been on the path to simplicity and homesteading for about seven years now.  It started with reading books like “Animal, Vegetable, Mineral” by Barbara Kingsolver and wanting to learn to can and grow all of our own food.  I started canning (badly) and started a sad little garden in the city.  I got better!

Our goals were to leave our corporate world and busy suburban lifestyle.  When Doug had a nervous breakdown our timeline sped up.  Our goals constantly change and morph each year.  We have a pretty extreme list of homesteading goals right now.  I have no way of knowing if they will work, but I have written them down and am working towards them.  Ask and you shall receive!

  • Find a place with a small house that has a wood stove.  Wood cook stove?  Even better.  Said house should be around $850 a month.  Don’t laugh, it could happen.
  • Small house would be on a bit of land.  I need a full acre of garden.  A quarter acre at the moment provides us with 90% of our vegetables during the summer and early fall, and 80% of the medicinal herbs I use.  Another quarter acre could be the remaining herbs I need to grow, and additional fresh eating vegetables, plus a pond.  A green house and hoop houses could inhabit part of the remaining half acre and a large preservation garden (everything I need to can) and a spice garden (Lord, do I spend a lot on spices!) could round out this menagerie of growing Eden.  An orchard would be added as well and then of course we need room to walk about, have our goats, chickens, and ducks, and be able to ride our bikes to town.
  • A composting toilet and gray water systems could be in place.  We will use as little electricity as possible.
  • This will be a haven for our friends, children, grandchildren, and wildlife.

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2. Learn two skills. 

There was a vast amount of information about homesteading lost with our past generations.  We just don’t know how to do many of the basic skills and farmstead chores anymore.  Find a mentor or a class or a great book and make a goal to learn two things.  Two things a month, or two things a year, whatever works for you.   

A few years ago on this homestead I wanted chickens and to preserve almost all of our food for winter.  The next year I wanted goats and alpacas and to learn to spin.  I learned to spin, didn’t like it, didn’t care for the alpacas, gave away the alpacas, fell in love with goats, got more chickens, and canned over 500 items.  Homesteading is constant rearranging of goals.  This year we got bees and ducks and started growing almost all of our medicinal herbs.  We dug up the driveway to make more space to garden.  Last year we dug up the front and side yards.  Last year I learned to make soft cheese, this year hard cheese.  Doug has learned fencing methods and how to milk a goat.

We have learned what we enjoy, what we don’t, what’s a waste of time, what’s imperative to our homesteading journey.  Learning everything at once is not possible and would be overwhelming.  Just pick two skills.  What do you want to learn?

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3. Get Money Savvy    

Rethink your finances.  Get out of debt.  Stay out of debt.  But don’t wait for pristine credit before you make the jump.

Our BIGGEST mistake that will continue to haunt us for years to come was getting into debt.  We had fourteen credit cards, owned our house (or the bank did), had two car payments and had amazing, perfect credit.  Ironic, isn’t it?  We took the Dave Ramsey program at our church six years ago and it changed our lives.  We paid off and cut up all of our credit cards.  We do not have any still.  We paid off a lot of debt.  We then lost our house and one of our cars in the crash and our credit went to crap.  Which didn’t matter at the time because we were content renting for half the price of our house in Parker.  We have everything we need but there is the little matter of $50 grand from the second mortgage that still says it is an open account and $25,000 for the student loans we still owe.  There should be a money back guarantee.  If you don’t use your degree you should get a refund.  I do not see, with the interest rates the way they are, how we would ever in this lifetime pay these off.  If you are in debt, get out.  If you are not, do not venture into that pitfall.

Save a hundred dollars a month.  Pay yourself first.  Put it in a coffee can or the bank.

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4.  Simplify.  REALLY Simplify!

Every hour you work is money spent on something.  How many hours do you have to work to make enough to pay for the car?  Gas?  The house?  Cable?  Cell phones?  Restaurants?  Is it worth it?  What do you need?  How much time would you like?

It goes against every grain of our society to make less.  The mantra is make more, spend more, the more you make the more you can give, the more you can have, the more secure you will be.  Wrong.  I highly recommend you read “Radical Simplicity” by Jim Merkel.  It outlines our footprint on this planet as well as radically simplifying your life.  If you work less, you leave more work for others.  If you consume less, you leave more for others.  If you have less, you have to work less (this does not include the good kind of work on your own time on a farmstead).  The less you consume, the less resources you take from the planet, less pollution, less animal habitat loss, less unfairness.  Do you need a huge house?  Do you need to buy all of that packaged stuff?  Does it really bring happiness?

My goals are to lessen even more.  We are stressing over bills still and have too much stuff.  What is it with the seven sets of (gorgeous) antique dishes in my cupboards?  All the clothes I don’t wear?  The jewelry I don’t wear?  Where is our money going?  I am now writing it all down, the spending for each day.  See where the leaks are.  See what we don’t need.  What we don’t need to buy.  How much is everything really costing us?

And despite the stressing of leaching money, I want to make less.  No, I have not lost my mind.  I want to stay beneath the poverty line.  I have all the food I need, I am looking at lessening my rent, getting rid of my water bill and most of the electric bill, driving less, less gas money and wear and tear.  High taxes?  Don’t have them.  Where is your money going?

I am ready to simplify even more.  Make less money.  Offer medicines on a donation basis so that everyone can afford them.  Does cable television make us happy?  We don’t really watch it, so no.  That glass of wine in the evenings?  Yes, I don’t have to give that up.  By freeing up your money and where you spend it, you have only what you need and love.  And lots of time to watch the sunset and play with baby goats.

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5. Just Do It!

No more five year plan, maybe next year, only if he gets a raise, or when the kids move out.  There are no guarantees you will live long enough to live the life you really want.  Now is the time to act!

What can I say?  I have friends my age in their forties heading on to the Great Beyond and ones in their eighties who are too tired to do any more.  What is the best time to pursue your goals, cut your spending drastically, move to the place of your dreams, and start living self sufficiently?  Now is a real good time.  And if you cannot move yet or don’t want to, if you don’t want to quit your job or change much at all, just learn a few skills.  Cheese making?  Crocheting?  And urban garden?  Simplifying and homesteading can be done on many levels.

 

 

 

The Inspirational (and Inspired) Life

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I was always fascinated by grandma’s bay window of plants and her rose bushes.  Of Aunt Donna’s heavy laden apple tree, grape vine, flowering bushes, and crisp rhubarb.  I wonder if they know how much they inspired me and that I am a farmer today because of their memories on the farm they grew up on and watching them grow things.

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Jill and Nancy inspired my love of goats.  I had trepidations about goats after babysitting a friend’s unruly rescued male goats.  A bruised hip bone made me very leery of ever having goats.  But these girls showed me how fun they could be.  They let us come over and play with new baby goats.  They answered questions.  I am now ready to start milk shares and am sharing my home (and lap) with adorable and fun loving goats who make this farm more enjoyable.

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Sandy and Debbie inspired me to grow more herbs for my medicines.  I thought it would be too difficult to grow all the herbs I need for my medicines so they grew things for me, with such ease that I felt I could do it myself.

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Kathi taught me and Nancy how to make soap.  Nancy taught me how to make cheese.  Claudia tried to teach me to knit.  Another Sandy taught me to spin.  There has never been a shortage of inspiration surrounding me.  Kat and Rod taught me to be a better parent, be more loving, accept people for who they are.  Pat and Rodney taught me unconditional love.  I have so many lovely friends who inspire me every day and that I love dearly.  I need to tell these people that they inspired me.  Thank them for helping me on my path and for being a part of where I am today…living on this mini-farm, enjoying what I do.

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I  hope I have inspired ideas through my teaching and writing.  That is the thing, we don’t always know how we have affected other’s lives so it is important to live a life that you enjoy and that makes you proud and passionate.  And always be kind.  For others are watching and taking ideas that will better their lives and so makes our short time on earth more enjoyable and filled with beauty and ideas.

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In this blog, every holiday and entertaining picture is with Nancy and her family.  The 5 Farmgirls was made up of me and Nancy and our daughters and Maryjane.  The early pictures of Emily with goats were Nancy’s.  We learned skills together and played together.  That is one of the sweetest gifts on earth.  Someone to inspire and be inspired by and be in cahoots with.  I am so sad that she passed away this morning.  But I will not focus on her passing, but on all the inspiration that she gave to me and the memories we made.  Her spirit is indelibly on this farm as she helped make it possible with her brainstorming over glasses of wine with me.

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I hope that I am an inspiration.  Life is too short to have any other reputation.  Let things go. Don’t focus on the past.  Don’t worry if some people don’t treat you like you think they should.  Focus on those that are good to you.  Notice the good and the blessings.  Do what you want.  Don’t be afraid.  If your heart desires something….a homestead….a child….a beer….it will come to you!  Today work on it coming true!

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March has been a rough month over here.  Many losses of human and animal lives.  The important thing is to focus on the positive.  My son is getting married this summer.  My granddaughter and I have a special relationship.  My children are well and happy.  My marriage is good.  I bottle feed three baby goats a day.  We have hope.  What a beautiful life we live that inspiration is everywhere.

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Learning Homesteading Skills (finding teachers)

Our grandparents knew how to do all these things.  Mine laughed when I wanted a farm and wondered why.  Growing up on farms and in the country, in hard times, with so much work, it baffled them that I would run off to the lifestyle that they left willingly.  The skills from that generation and beyond become more and more lost.  No one taught me how to milk a goat when I was a child (which would have been nice since I will be milking in a few short weeks!), no one taught me to garden, or to spin, or to can, or to take care of one day old chicks.  There was no reason to in the middle of Denver!  Over the past years I have tried to accumulate these skills.

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I started with books.  Lots of books.  We are avid readers over here anyway, so I may as well be learning while reading.  And indeed I have picked up many great tips and tried and true ways of doing things from these books.  Many specific skill books though go in one eye and out of my memory faster than a three day old goat can elude me. (Man, they are fast!)

Things like knitting, milking, spinning, I need to see it.  I need to have someone show me step by step then I have it.  Most of the time.

IMG_0526Spinning was not working out for me.  My yarn looked like dreadlocks or clumps of fur.  It did not resemble anything looking like yarn.  My machine would not work.  My friend told me to pour a glass of wine.  I did.  Then I poured three.  Still couldn’t spin.  The spinning wheel anyway.  The teacher I had just kept saying I needed practice.  I could tell there was no more she could teach me.  I called my wine recommending friend.  She came over a week later.

She first noted that my machine was put together backwards.  That the break was on the wrong side.  The tension was all wrong.  She showed me the technique of spinning, which I knew but had been trying without good result.  I sighed and tried the wheel.  And spun.  Yarn.  It looks like yarn!  All I needed was a new teacher.

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In your community you will find people that do what you wish you could do.  Make cheese, spin, can, garden, make herbal medicines, make wine, any number of fabulous homesteading skills.  And most of them are happy to teach you.  You may have to pay a small fee for the lesson.  Or barter.  That is okay because the money you save and the joy you feel while mastering these skills outweighs forty bucks.

I teach canning, crocheting, high altitude baking, gardening, soap making, candle making, soft cheese making, herbal classes, and herbal body product classes.

I need to find a class on how to make hard cheese.  I suppose if I read the cheese making book I bought I can figure it out since I already know how to make soft cheeses.

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I need to learn to milk.  I milked a goat when I worked at an animal shelter some twenty years ago.  I wonder if I will remember.

I want to learn how to knit.  Books and teachers thus far have not been able to help.  Surely there is a patient lady out there with the perfect knitting needles to get me on my way to making socks and sweaters.

We signed up for a bee keeping class.

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I cannot wait to experiment with dying fiber.  I have many plans this year and I hope to teach all of them.  Of course, I could keep all these skills to myself and make money off of the canned goods, the yarn, the farming, the herbal medicines. And I will, because there are folks who would rather I do it.  But for those that want to learn, we must teach what we know.  We must share our knowledge.

And our lessons for the day summed up:

If first you don’t succeed, get another teacher.

Give a man a fish, and you have fed him once. Teach him how to fish and you have fed him for a lifetime.

A Homesteading Store Field Trip

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It’s housed in an old building with large sunny windows.  The young woman that greets us is always there, I believe her to be the owner.  She is always smiling, never overwhelmed. You may have a store like this one near you.  I could order everything online but if there is a store somewhere within an hour’s drive, I would rather support a family, an entrepreneurial adventure, a fellow shop owner.  Buckley’s Homestead Supply is also cheaper than what you can buy online.  That really seals the deal, and Doug and I have a half day field trip of homestead supply shopping and lunch at the Tapateria in Old Colorado City!  Tough day in the life of a homesteader, I tell you.

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I needed a bee keeping suit.  And a smoker.  And a hive tool.  And I did not want to wait until the bees came to get them!  Remember what happened last year?  Fiasco.  I didn’t have anything ready.  I chickened out and sold the bees right before they came to my young mentor.  This year I want new farm animals.  10,000 of them.  Buzzing around.  I ordered them a few weeks ago and they will be arriving to Pumpkin Hollow Farm in April.  Doug and I tried on bee keeping jackets with the head piece and veil attached and each bought one.  Along with a smoker we don’t know how to use and a hive tool.  Doug decided he is going to be a Scottish bee keeper this year for Halloween.  He will wear the jacket and veil with a kilt.  He spent the next half hour speaking in a brogue accent making jokes about bees and nethers that had me in fits of laughter.

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We picked up soap making supplies for a class that I was teaching.  A lid for our canning jar that makes it a water bottle also went on our growing pile.  A small book on making cheese, yogurt, and other dairy products since I will soon be in milk.  And one on how to make wine.  And a strainer for our herbal medicines that is finer than the present one.

cheese pressWe priced out the cheese press, and drooled over all the other items there while putting several on our wish list.  We finished the trip by signing up for a beekeeping class at the beginning of April.

We walked out $270 lighter including paying for the class.  A steal, I tell you!  If you live in Colorado, head down to Colorado Springs and see the nice, young woman that owns Buckley’s.  It is worth the trip.  She can help you accomplish all your homesteading goals this year.

One stop shop.

Buckley’s Homestead Supply

http://buckleyshomesteadsupply.com

1501 W Colorado Ave, Colorado Springs, CO 80904
(719) 358-8510

This Year in Farmgirl School…

I am inspired by so many things and people.  From the Amish countryside to the Tuscany hills, there are people and principles there that appeal to me.  Perhaps the aspects that I so desire are the same.

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I am inspired by simplicity.  In having few material items.  More meaningful open spaces that are easy to care for and easy to feed a crowd in.  The openness and simple beauty of an Amish home.  The old worn villas in Tuscany where the doors and windows stay open, if possible, and streams of light and outdoors dance across the tiles of the homes filled with family and friends and wine.

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An emphasis on family, friends, and spirituality from Catholic to Amish, a love for community, a devotion to family, a loyalty to friends, and a love for God all speak to me.  To take the time to sit down and enjoy the company of those close, to pass a loaf of homemade bread, to pour another glass of wine or lemonade.  To be interested and care about what is happening and to share in the richness of these various ribbons of people gifted to our lives.

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Homemade food.  Tapestried gardens, local, fresh, healthy farmed, real food.  The taste of just pressed olive oil, or crisp kale from the garden, of earthy potatoes baked with cheese, or chicken just roasted with sprigs of rosemary and sage.  Locally made red wine or glasses of refreshing iced tea.  Things grown from our own hands or from a local farmer or artisan.  Knowing where our food comes from, proud of its origin in the back yard, or from nearby.

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Self sufficiency, or better, local sufficiency.  A can-do spirit.  I can get eggs from my back yard.  I can grow a bit of wheat.  I can put up vegetables.  I can harvest my fresh fruit.  I can grow mushrooms.  I can savor my own herbs.  I can….As my friend put it in a recent post when describing her grandparents’ farm, “The life of self sufficiency turned into a life of dependency.”  Profound words to me as most of us have been born into a life of dependency.  Being an incredibly independent free spirit makes me desperate to be able to provide more for myself and my family.

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Arts and beauty.  From paintings and pottery to home spun yarn and homemaking arts, I am inspired by them all.

Out here, folks do tend to move a bit slower, have less material items, and are comfortably Christian without the annoying evangelism.  They are friendly, and community minded.  I farm in town so that perhaps more people will be inspired to grow their own dinners and see that it can be done out here.  I do have dinner with friends and close family often.  I have many more arts to master.  This will be an even better year.

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This year in Farmgirl School we will be learning a host of new things.

We’ll become bee keepers.  We will not be afraid of a few ten thousand bees.

We will create a corn fence around the front yard.

We will grow an entire garden’s worth of produce in five gallon buckets.

We will create a portable orchard.

We will learn how to be market growers.

We’ll show you how to start a farm from a business perspective and succeed with farm diversity.

We’ll be playing midwife and welcoming in new kids next month.

We’ll master the art of creating hard cheeses along with other dairy products.

We’ll be shearing large unlovey animals.

We’ll master the art of spinning.

We’ll color roving with plants.

We’ll create lovely fibers and then learn how to make sweaters and socks and they will be straight and even!

We’ll be hoping for farm hatched chicks.

We’ll expand the Apothecary garden and teach you more about natural cures.

We’ll visit a local Amish community.

We’ll host a food swap.

We’ll entertain more.

We’ll have some laughs, some mishaps, some roaring successes, and we’ll learn.  Come learn with me.

Welcome to Farmgirl School.  This year is going to be fun!