Six Years of Farmgirl School (and the adventure continues)

1005625_697090816973051_350125397_nSix years ago today I sat down and wrote my first blog post.  I had just recently heard of blogging.  I was writing regular columns in a few local newspapers but I was excited to take my words onto a bigger scene.  Even if I didn’t get any followers, I would enjoy typing away in the morning while watching out my window, holding a cup of coffee and watching the chickens play.  We were still fairly novice at everything from chickens to growing lettuce so the blog has chronicled our vast and adventurous journey and the life of a family, and inadvertently has become a comprehensive site to find out how to do everything from making witch hazel to milking goats.  My “How to Make Chokecherry Wine” has had thousands of views over the years.  Tomorrow, we will bottle homemade mead.

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This photo was used in an article in the Washington Post about our family.

I remember seeing a blog that had five hundred followers.  I could not believe it.  500!  I wondered what that would be like.  This morning I have one thousand, one hundred, and two followers.  Over 142,000 people have read my blog since I began this journaling journey six years ago in a rented farmhouse with nary an idea of how much to water crops.  We’ve come a long way!

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Maryjane
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Ayla

Six years ago I was preparing for my first granddaughter to arrive.  Today my second granddaughter is twelve days old.  Many people watched as we moved to what we thought was our forever farm, only to become homeless.  You cheered us on as we got back on our feet and purchased a home of our own with a third of an acre and a chicken coop.  You have watched me make friends, mourned over deaths with me, read as we created new businesses, patted us on the back as they closed, shared holidays with us. laughed with me, and befriended me.

Turns out that folks don’t keep blogs going for very long, maybe just a few years.  I love blogging.  Anyone who enjoys writing ought to start a blog.  It is easy and so restorative.  I just want to thank all the readers out there right now for giving me an ear, a place to be, for following along on this Farmgirl adventure.  It is far more fun to write for an audience.

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I read through the November posts from 2012.  The first ones.  Man, that’s some funny stuff.  Typos and all.  (Amazing how much one can edit and still overlook typos!)  Thanks for purchasing my books. (AuthorKatieSanders.com) I have seven, but Farmgirl School; Homesteading 101, which covered our first few years and my memoir, The Making of a Medicine Woman are near and dear.  I will have a second Farmgirl School book out by the end of next year.  We have much to discuss about urban farming and lots of projects to do!  (Let us turn the back porch into a greenhouse.  Should we get ducks?  Let’s make a walk-through arbor with pumpkins and twinkly lights!)  Oh friends, six years later, we are just getting started.  Thanks for coming along for the ride.

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Sleepover with a newborn goat at Grammie’s house.

If you have been a follower since the beginning please make a comment.  Here’s to another six years of living the good life.

Welcome to Our New Shop (a video tour)

My friends, I would like to show you around my new shop that opened Saturday!  My daughter and I (and a beautiful array of angelic friends) have been scrubbing, painting, creating, preparing, and decorating this glorious 1800’s store front.  Welcome to Pumpkin Hollow Farm Homesteading Supplies and Classes.  If you are ever in Pueblo, Colorado, do come by!  687 S. Union Ave.  Facebook.com/pumpkinhollowfarm

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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Pumpkin Hollow Farm Homesteading Supplies and Classes (a shop is born)

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Wednesday: The idea came swift and clear as a starry night.  Or perhaps it resurfaced.  Or perhaps it was whispered in my ear by the homesteading spirits before me.  Either way, it has been seven days since then and we are already planning our grand opening.

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Thursday: I ran the idea by my youngest daughter to see if she wanted to be a part of it.  She was in.  We went for a long hike and discussed why we wanted to start a farmgirl store.  I did not want to start something rashly with just money in mind.  It needed to be meaningful and enjoyable.  We came up with a list of why the homesteading lifestyle is important to us.

  • Helps environment
  • Healthier
  • Creates better mental health
  • Satisfying
  • Affordable
  • Homesteading creates more family time
  • Great for children
  • Creates community

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It was five and a half years ago that we stood in Nancy’s kitchen making goat’s milk soap, creating label ideas, going through seed catalogs and beginning “The Five Farmgirls.”  Emily held a few-month old Maryjane on her hip as she and Nancy’s daughter, Faleena came up with product names.  We laughed as we sarcastically came up with our own catch phrase, “It’s Farmgirl Good!” as we shook the cold milk trying to turn it into butter for two hours.  Our friend, Lisa came over to help make soap and we sat outside on an early spring day and had a picnic lunch.  A year later Nancy would suddenly and quietly cross over the veil.

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Saturday: Doug and I had lunch with Lisa and Lance Saturday and I told her my idea.  They raise humane meat on their ranch and we could have a pick up point at our shop.  We could do the same for milk.  We laughed and talked for three hours and discussed ideas.  Still, with not a lot of dollars and no idea where to get an affordable retail space, it still felt far off.

So certain that this was going to take off, Emily and I started picking up usable antiques (that are sturdier and still work better than modern versions!) and items for our store.  I bought material to make aprons and farmgirl style pillows.  We came up with a name, Pumpkin Hollow Farm (of course); Homesteading Supplies and Classes.

Sunday: Doug and I drove around and gathered phone numbers for retail spaces.  None of them were quite right.  They also were way out of our price range.  I wanted an old space that looked like a general store.  And it had to be ridiculously affordable.  (They are cleaning it up…I’m keeping the piano for the shop!)

Monday: I call on a shop that people had said would be hard to get.  Many people had inquired on this space and had either been turned down or never called back.  The manager picks up, says she will call the owner and call me back.  Five minutes later she calls me back, the owner loves my idea.  She will rent to me.  For a ridiculously affordable price.  Ten minutes later I am at the shop to see it.  The building is over a hundred years old and it sure looks like a general store.  It is in a great location.

Tuesday: Dad brings a box to my apothecary that says my name on it.  “Mom wanted you to have these,” he says wistfully as he hands me a large bag along with the box.  My friends Kat and Rod are like parents to me and Kat died almost exactly two years ago.  I have a collection of her grandmother’s things.  Hilda is alive and well in my home.  A box and bag of homesteading items and china were the new gifts to me to carry on.  A whisper from above that there are many friends helping this come together.

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Wednesday: Yesterday morning we signed a lease and shook hands.  A private loan came through.  I registered my name.  We have held on to our beloved name since our early farm.  Our farm and homesteading school took a devastating turn a little over three years ago when we had to suddenly leave our rented farm and all of my beautiful homesteading items and our lifestyle was lost.  In a twist of irony, as I searched for my name in the Secretary of State, the name expired three years ago to the day that I re-registered it.

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Mission Statement: To increase happiness, health, and well being for people and Mother Earth by offering quality, second hand, homemade or sustainable objects that bring back the charm of an old fashioned, simple life.

Pumpkin Hollow Farm Homesteading Supplies and Classes coming in early September!

“It’s Farmgirl Good!”

 

 

Backyard Chicken Tips and Homesteading School

20180605_085348Gandalf the Great Pyrenees had a new toy.  The story goes (according to him anyway) that Buttercup the chicken got out of the pen and he was simply attempting to corral her back in.  Three quarters of her was stuck in his mouth as I screamed at him.

Forget hawks, eagles, raccoons, skunks, bears, coyotes, or any other predator you may have heard about.  Dogs are the most common predator chickens face.

20180710_161045My friend, Addie- aka Superwoman…if war breaks out, we are heading to her house- brought us three chickens to make up for Buttercup.  Buttercup, was of course, our best layer.  These three have some work to do.  They were in a large coop hanging out in the front yard when we got home.  A lovely surprise!  We quietly put them in the coop in the night so that the chickens would all be fooled and think that they were always there come morning and there would be no blood baths.  It always works.  Except when it doesn’t.

We used the portable coop she loaned us that the chickens had been delivered in to lock up the chickens.  “Should I put the three new girls in the pen?”

“No,” she replied, “you lock up the bullies!”

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This is Hei hei because she acts like the leghorn in the movie Moana.

She further explained (if y’all knew how many homesteading lessons I have had from this gal over the years you would think she should have written a book!) that if you put the new girls in the pen it only tells the old girls that they are indeed below them.  If you lock up the mean girls then they come to understand that they are not the bosses.  It worked like a charm.

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Then the egg eating started.  Oh, those three rascals.  One of them was eating eggs like she was sitting in an IHOP.  Addie suggested we raise their protein intake in their food because they were all molting and they needed more nutrients to get through it.  We also laid golf balls around the coop so the culprit would peck those once and would stop pecking eggs.  That worked but no one is laying eggs right now!

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I have been a subscriber since I was twelve years old to a magazine about country living.  I am afraid its gotten a little high falutin and ridiculous.  Very pretty pictures but really geared for rich people who have no idea what farming is about.  Photographs of chicken coops with pea gravel and curtains with lush, landscaped yards and chickens crossing the kitchen without any poo in sight.  I love it, but it is a little deceiving.

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We have a noxious tree that I love called Tree of Heaven here, or Chinese Sumac.  It’s poisonous so the chickens don’t eat it.  It has popped up all over the chicken yard creating a jungle atmosphere and shade.  When they first moved in they had two foot high grasses to jump through.  They will eat any plant that is edible, y’all.  Do not landscape your chicken yard!

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We looked around this place and saw the chickens, the infant orchard, the vegetables growing tall, and the pumpkins jumping out of their beds, and we have realized that we live on a perfect urban farm.  A lot of people cannot afford to live out in the country and I have decided to reopen my Homesteading School.  I will be teaching canning, preserving, baking, cooking, gardening, and much more as our little-farm-that-could gets more organized and utilized.

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Check out my Facebook page for events here! I will also be putting a link on this blog.  Happy Homesteading!

Growing and Blending Seasonings

rosemaryI shall grow basil in plots

I shall grow oregano lots

The chives shall come up fine

along rows of heady thyme

I shall grow rosemary too

And red chile for New Mexican stew

I shall grow sumac if I can find

and lavender to breathe and unwind

Could I grow caraway too?

for rye bread to eat with a good brew?

The onions and garlic are growing now

I can make them dried somehow

I use all these herbs in dishes galore.

I will grow so many herbs you can’t see the earth floor.

Along with herbs for medicine and herbs for aroma and more

I will grow herbs to blend instead of spending money at the store!

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I admit it, I spend hundreds of dollars on culinary seasonings.  I have a large basket and two full cupboards of seasonings that we use all of the time.  Many are the very same herbs that I grow for medicine and to use fresh.  I spend hundreds on infused oils.  You know how it is at the end of summer, you are already pushing time to get all of the harvest in, preserved, garden beds cleaned, and trying to catch some of the glorious last warmth.  Blending herbs for the kitchen just seemed like one more thing I didn’t have time for when a nice store already did it for me.  Because I am an herbalist I also get bulk herbs that are going to be a lot cheaper than the specialty stores.  If I just use bulk herbs for what I cannot grow, and grow and blend the rest, I will save SO much money!  I can infuse my own oils.  Dry, dehydrate, and blend my own seasonings.  It will be worth the time!  Another DIY for this homesteader.  We are going to be busy this summer on Farmgirl School!

My Interview on the Radio About Herbalism and Homesteading

I had a great, new experience yesterday.  I was on the radio!  I was interviewed about plant medicines and homesteading.

If you want to hear the interview here is the link!

Getting Back to Simple (and paying off debt)

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We are firm believers in the powers of intention and manifestation.  You can paint your life however you wish.  We were desperately trying to manifest more income.  On the full moon we generally each light a candle of gratitude and ask for what we would like to see in our life.  Usually it’s more income.  Then it kind of hit me, we have actually doubled our income since June when Doug found a job.  Our online business has picked up and my work down south has too so it’s not a matter of making more money.  I realized we have been spending more money!

Oh, it’s so easy to do, isn’t it?  There was the debt to start paying again, of course, but there are plenty of places money falls through the cracks.  When I first started this blog over five years ago we were seriously starting to homestead.  Before we moved from that house I was canning four hundred jars of produce, growing food and ninety percent of my medicine herbs, had chickens, and Doug milked goats each morning.  I learned to make cheese.  I hand washed our clothes in an old wash bin with a handy plunger-like item that got our clothes far cleaner than the washer.  (We had all our kids at home and a grandbaby on the way so we did go get a washer.  Our washer here still doesn’t clean for anything.)  I made our body products (we sell them in our shop), cleaning products, sewed and handmade presents, and had like minded friends near by.

Being frugal is so much a part of being a homesteader.  Having some money set aside to get by is only a part of it.  I want to get rid of all of our debt (except the house) this year, fifteen months max.  My ideas never go as planned, but it is a good goal!  Debt is our jailor.

But it’s not just about money.  Once we moved around and lost and found ourselves again I had stopped making our own things.  Our skin is drier, we are paying five times more for organic body products when I can make my own.  Same with cleaning products.  I seem to have forgotten how to be frugal.  Frugalness is eco-friendly, healthier, savvier, and freer.  It is in the Homesteader’s Ten Commandments.

I hadn’t been to the library for a year because I have been playing at the book store (expensive!) and I decided that was a good first step.  Walking out of the library with a pile of books and movies makes me feel like I’m robbing the place!  Free knowledge!  I picked up a gem (which I may have to buy) called “Little House Living” by Merissa A. Alink.  As things run out I make the homemade version.  Her book is inspiring.  I have already made the dish soap (took five seconds and very little cash).  I could have written this book four years ago.  I love it and I love that it’s getting me back on track.  I love her rice mix, and her youth, and her story, and her recipes.  She shows us (or reshows us) that it takes no time at all to make your own things and the benefits far outweigh the minimum time and cost.

We will get that debt paid off and I will get back to my Little House on the Prairie self.  It’s good for the soul.

What are some ways that you stay frugal?

 

Homestead Gardens and Winter Rest

20180103_073048The first seed catalogue arrived in the mail the other day.  My four year old granddaughter, Maryjane, took a sharpie and circled everything we need to order.  Instead of toys, she circles plants in seed catalogues.  She is one of us.

It is impossible, I believe, for a homesteader to not think of the garden at all times of the year.  I am creating a new space, roughly 500 square feet of ground.  A square, fenced in, next to the chicken coop, three feet from the porch turned greenhouse we are planning, and ten feet from the compost.  I dream of the colorful rows of fresh produce, the front yard of fruit trees and medicinal herbs, the patches of volunteer vegetables and wild foods.  But, these gardens, of course, cost money.  Fencing, glass, extra compost, and seeds do not come cheap.  I know it will all come together wonderfully and before I know it, I will be sitting here next year pondering the next season’s garden!

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I do love January, even if it is not my favorite month in the least.  It makes me rest.  We homesteaders aren’t much for rest.  We are a lot less anxious with our hands dirty, faces in the sun, planning, harvesting, moving.  The ground is asleep.  My fingernails are clean.  And I can dream, and January brings that lovely reflective sense of peace and accomplishment.  We dine like kings on everything we stored in the root cellar, freezers, and pantry from this last season.  We remark how beautiful our house is and our yard is coming together and in just short of one year’s time, we have transformed it into a working homestead.  Our hearts are overwhelmed with gratitude.

Hawks swirl and the large lake is out our south windows and the city bus rumbles by out the north panes proving you can homestead anywhere.  I write on my list that I need lamp fluid for the oil lamps and more tea candles.  Wood is chopped and piled by the stove.  The chickens are waiting to be let out.  The farm dog sleeps and I need another cup of coffee and a sharpie so I can start circling items in the seed catalogue and create dreams for spring.

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Everything I Do Kills the Planet

mother-earth-wallpapers-for-android-For-Free-WallpaperI still get those dreams.  The “if-we-don’t-change-things-now” dreams, then glimpses of what will be.  They frighten me and I become extremely aware.  I look at my fake nails (I have no idea what came over me to go get nails last week) and can see all of the plastic nails in all of the salons and the chemicals that pervade the colors and liquids and fumes.  I sigh and look at my fingers…ooh sparkly!

Mother Nature can and will, of course, change as she sees fit.  Fires, floods, and I well know that her own temperature has raised and lowered over many more eons than I have been here having dreams.  I know that the polar bear on the internet could have died from illness.  Yet my heart breaks all the same.  My ancestors would have never seen that.  They would only know what they could do to heal the waters or the air in their own neck of the woods.

People spark outcry for the drilling on our beautiful lands then fill their cars with the very same fuel that they protested at some point and drive…everywhere.

I would love to live in a little off grid sanctuary- full knowing the work involved- and heal a small area of space in time.  That is not my husband’s dream though.  What can I do, then, in this space of the planet to be mindful?  The bouncing Christmas lights color my home with joy (and electricity) and my coffee is hot and welcoming to the day (and comes from who knows where) and my car doesn’t drive on air and the gifts I am buying may end up in landfills and I sigh and know that we really have gotten ourselves way over our heads.  We know that we are doing great harm and that we need to change as a society but we have no idea where to start because by the time we get done looking at starving polar bear pictures and put away our protest signs we have lost sight in despair followed by complacency.

What can we meditate on this Yule season to spread healing to the waters and air and lands of this earth?

Perhaps I will get a bicycle.  Stop coloring my hair and nails for godsake.  I could start making my own cleaning products again.  Unhook the pipes and let the water run into 5 gallon buckets that I could then water the trees with.  Sneak a composting toilet in this place.  Or I could stop using paper cups while getting coffee.  I could stop buying packaging.  I could stop buying junk.

If I were to feel more gratitude and wonder here in this place in time that I breathe, I would naturally remember what is good for me and the earth and be more mindful in the coming year.

That could be my new dream.  I can’t save the world, but I can start here…

What will you do?