Seeking the Simple Life and Penpals

The sun is rising, splaying pink and metallic colors across the mountains and along sides of structures. I am so thankful to be in the country. I watch the horse across the street from my office window run and jump, darting through trees, and landing in a swirl of dust near his food bowl as his owner comes out with hay.

Maryjane (my six year old granddaughter) had her first riding lesson. She at first did not want to go because she found that her cowgirl boots were too small. She perked up the minute she saw the horses and she fell in love with the bubbly, blond instructor, Miss Britney. These were great horses; Maryjane clutched one large horse in a hug and he did not budge. Maryjane easily learned how to guide the horse, as her little sister, Ayla, blew kisses to all of the horses. These are country girls.

At Grandpa’s house Saturday, we celebrated his 92nd birthday. He had to take off work to do so. He is forever at his drawing board, on the phone, or meeting with clients. He sipped his coffee as he told us stories of working on a dairy farm, milking eighty head, or helping the vets bring down the draft horses for treatment. He once rode round-up moving horses from Sterling to Estes Park, 146 miles. His stories about being a cowboy, the rodeo circuit, World War Two, working on the sugar beet farm for his uncle during the Depression, and working at a dairy come with a final relief that he moved to the city.

We are lucky to be modern farmers and homesteaders. I am able to romanticize it a bit. It doesn’t hold the same urgency of survival as it did in Grandpa’s time.

Doug and I chat in the car on the way home about our ideas and goals. We have done this before so we know what to expect and how to do things better this time. We want to live simply. So simply (and prepared enough) that if the power were to go out or a storm were to rage, we would be snug in our home with plenty of light, warmth, water, and food.

Simple enough that our electric bill stays lower than if we purchased solar. The clothes being cleaned with a washer plunger in the summer and dry flapping in the wind on the clothes line. Food chosen from rows of dirt or rows of canned goods. Meat from our own chickens or from our friends’ cows and pigs. We seek out and associate with other homesteaders/ranchers/farmers. We travel long distances to each others’ homes for dinner. Keep up on social media. Cheer each other on. Support each other.

One of my favorite old activities is to write and receive letters in the post. A moment to sit with a cup of tea and an old friend in prose and see what is going on in their world. Then with pretty stationary and pen, share our private life, thoughts, and ideas. Now that we are settled into our home and winter is upon us, if you would like to be pen-pals, please write me! I would love to correspond.

Mrs. Katie Sanders, 790 9th Street, Penrose, CO, 81240.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My beautiful family at our daughter’s wedding.

Excerpts From My Honeymoon Memoirs (and never ending adventures)

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2003…It’s seventy degrees, slight breeze.  I look out and see nothing but navy blue with white foam spreading sporadically.  Glorious!  I did not, for the first time in my life, wake up last night. The rocking of the boat knocked me into restful bliss!  The sky, right now, is cloudy with patches of blue, the air is sweet, and salty, and clean…

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We went to a beautiful theater, large with lush red sofas and small tables set in front with art work of Renoir pasted upon them.  Large windmills two stories high perched on the sides of the stage, millions of lights.  A big band played and we danced up a storm in front of a partially filled theater on stage.  I have married my soul mate!…

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Jamaica…exuberant, vibrant floral trees, one hundred foot high bamboo, everything tropical and lush.  The mountain was scattered with mansions and cinderblock homes in no particular order.  Children bathing in the stream.  The sound of birdsong, the smell of rain and earth, hot sun, tropical flowers, dark skinned beauties (with no dental care), and another world…Doug was offered drugs four times…

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We are quite famous on this ship.  We are stopped several times a day and complimented on our dancing and singing.  We are sweetly referred to as the Honeymooners though it wasn’t really announced that we are.  We were told we have stars in our eyes…

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Cayman is the opposite of Jamaica, sparkling clean, English influence, professional souvenir shops, more expensive, but still breathtakingly beautiful…a lot of tame stingrays swept briskly and familiarly along our sides and legs.  We fed them squid, and with a strong suction, they slurped it out of our fist.  They are incredibly soft, four feet across, magnificent animals…

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We went to the top of the ship, to the top deck, under the stars looking out across the water, and danced to Doug singing “When I’m Sixty-Four” without another soul around…

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We rode horseback in Cozumel in the sweltering heat through Mayan ruins which were rather fascinating.  My horse had a mind of her own and didn’t like Doug’s horse.  The foliage was very much like ours.  The difference was the hundreds of iguanas freely crossing the streets, trails, running about as frequently as squirrels!…

Overall, the places we have visited are beautiful and colorful, different and exciting.  But nothing beats Colorado’s charming mountain towns, swimming in the hot springs, and the houses down sixth avenue are still the prettiest I have seen.

I am sitting on the veranda once more waiting for Doug to take me on more adventures…

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My, what adventures we’ve had!  I look forward to many, many more….

We were to go on a trip to the mountains this weekend for our anniversary but it looks like we will be snowed in.  As long as I am with him, I will be happy.