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.

The Littlest Farmgirl and the Petting Zoo

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“What’s this, Grammie?” (except she doesn’t say r’s yet) Maryjane asked me as she stood before the sweetest cria we had ever seen.

“An alpaca,” I replied.

“Oh, hi!” she said to the baby as she gave her a kiss on the neck.

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Children would come near the animals then scream and jump back. Meanwhile, Maryjane Rose greeted and kissed each and every animal.  She was in heaven among all of the farm animals, especially the sheep.

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She rode the horses in the endless circle and each time she came around I heard her little voice singing, “Yee haw!…Yee haw!…”

It’s so sweet to see things through the eyes of a little Farmgirl.

 

The Country Spirit

This is the photo that came across my screen the other day!  Her mother caught her in a moment of history in the making.

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Maryjane has been in love with horses since birth.  If you have been following long you remember my friend, Nancy, who I had many farmgirl adventures with before she passed away.  Her daughter, Faleena, is like a niece to me.  And since very early in Miss Maryjane’s life she has seen Faleena with a horse.  And Faleena on a horse.  Standing on horses!

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Maryjane, at the age of two, has aspirations of being rodeo queen already.  We may have moved to the city but we are a mere thirty minutes from our real home and the country doesn’t leave one’s spirit.  It is certainly embedded in my granddaughter (and in Faleena who had to moved to the city too) and we will work diligently to get that baby girl on a path to trick riding, sheep herding, or whatever else she wishes to do!

The Enchanting Prairie Visitors

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The sun was shining yesterday and though the air was cool I figured it was a good time to get some laundry done.  The sky was clear and soft, a mirror of light blue stretching far and wide and the mountains stood tall in the distance.  A purple silhouette against the prairie sky.  The grasses swayed just gently.  The cows watched me as I brought my basket out to the line.  I am beginning to get used to the complete silence. It is the most beautiful sound.

I threw a towel over the clothes line and grabbed a pin to affix it when I heard the sound.  My mind ran through various files of what it could be and I realized I didn’t know.  A little panic struck as I worried that one of the goats may have gotten their head stuck or something just took a chicken, it was a sound of desperation, whatever it was.  And so like a flash I left my damp clothing and ran behind the greenhouse to the animal pens to see what was the matter.

And there along the fence line stood the most magical sight.  Over a dozen horses, donkeys, babies, and mules stood regally against the open space and greeted me.  My heart felt fuller, my breath exhaled, my smile got bigger, and I am sure I had the magic of a child in my eyes as I took in this majestic sight.  I walked over to the large mule and scratched his neck, felt his soft winter fur across his nose.  I chattered to and patted the surrounding horses and wooed the baby donkey nearer (who was the source of the unusual sound).  Another dozen horses on rest from cattle roundups and enjoying the miles and miles of prairie grasses began walking towards me as well. I found myself wishing for a camera but knew I could never capture the beauty and just enjoyed the moment and secured it to memory.

It was like an enchanting holiday movie or a commercial, it was so surreal and magical.  And beautiful.  And even when the day comes that I have my own horses and mules and donkeys, I shall not lose that wonder of seeing them there to greet me.  It felt like an early Christmas gift.  This prairie and all its beauty and quiet is a gift indeed.

Winter Storm on a Homestead

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The season’s first storm blew upon the land.  Racing winds howled across the prairie.  The sounds both ominous and exhilarating.  The house shook, the wood stove crackled, cats snuggled close.  The midnight sky showed only coal black.

This morning the house read forty-five degrees.  Our breath showing in threads in the main room.  In the kitchen the little wood stove-that-could chugs along trying to keep up with the frosty chill.  A gentle snow is falling.

Horses escaped their pasture to the north and came galloping across our pasture.  A dozen majestic creatures stirring the snow and playing freely as they made their dawn run.

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The howling prairie now calm and peaceful, it is eleven degrees with the holiday snow flitting down.  The kitchen is warming, the coffee is hot, and the day ahead seems best spent beneath a warm comforter watching holiday movies!

But first chores need to be done.  Bundled up and braving the cold we need to check on chickens, break their icy water, give them food to warm themselves.  The goats are still away.

There is a great peace here.  A silent solace that calms the spirit.

Three cords of wood stacked high, a fire in the kitchen where we rub our hands together to keep warm…such is a homesteader’s life.