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.

Posted in Animals/Chickens

Cuddlewell Mission

One day when we were quite a young couple, snuggling and giggling, I said to my husband, “You cuddle well!” He said, “That will be our last name!” And so it was. Mama and Daddy Cuddlewell.

Our children were told that their actual, secret last name was Cuddlewell, as we would snuggle them. Andy, Shyanne, and Emily Cuddlewell. Even today, that is our name.

Our animals carried the same family name, Ichabod Cuddlewell, Clara Cuddlewell, and so on. I recently told my granddaughter about her secret last name too. She laughed and wondered if I was serious. Maryjane and Ayla Cuddlewell. And so it goes on. Our secret family name. We cuddle well.

Many years ago, when were trying to come up with a name for our own land, should we ever get it, Doug nonchalantly said, “Cuddlewell Mission, of course.”

In our hearts, everywhere we have lived has been Cuddlewell Mission. We tend to rescue the animals that need us. The cross-eyed cat with the spinal injury, who lived and played and cuddled for thirteen years, Clara. The retired racing hound, Bumble Bear. The tiny, Siamese kitten that we are still bringing back to health, Taos Mouse. The blind chicken, Heihei. This is a sanctuary. We have always had a sanctuary.

We got off track, somewhere along the way, with books and studies and farmer friends. We went from friends aren’t food, to maybe we were wrong and that is how it is supposed to be, then to regret and heartfelt wisdom. Just because it is how has always been, doesn’t mean that it is how it should be moving forward. We also used to keep slaves, beat our children, and ate cockroaches. We humans can move forward and do things better when we see the error of our ways! We can create a new normal. A new this-is-how-it-should-be. We would never allow an assembly line of shelter dogs, swinging from one leg, having their neck sliced, then being cut open before they were dead, cut up and packaged and put in the store….what are we thinking? Cows and pigs and even chickens are sentient beings. Look into the eyes of any creature and see the life there.

I’m not here to convince you one way or another, I just wanted to tell you about Cuddlewell Mission and how we have arrived here. With land and places for animals. A sanctuary for people and animals. A safe place to commune with nature and not fear for one’s life, and if you are human, maybe have a cup of tea. Yes, this is a mission. We are home.

Posted in So You Want to Be a Homesteader Series

Buying Land to Homestead (city or country?)

So you want to be a homesteader?  You will need land!  Now, do you want to live in the city or the country?  You can certainly homestead either place.

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I found a city, within forty-five minutes of my husband’s work, an hour and a half from my children, that has a very reasonable housing market compared to the other places in Colorado.  Pueblo has every amenity; arts, theater, restaurantuuuuus, hiking, bike trails, museums, and farms nearby.  My beautiful little house is powered 100% with solar.  I heat the house with the wood stove or the gas furnace.  I have city water, but it tastes pretty good and it is a sure thing.  I have farmed the entire front yard, producing much of our own vegetables and fruit and some for canning plus all the perennial fruit trees and berry bushes are coming along fine.  The wild mulberries here are delicious.  I have a large chicken coop and lots of chickens.  I have a greenhouse and additional garden. I have a farm dog.  I have a root cellar.  I have everything I need to homestead well here.  We even have a lake one block away that is stocked by the city for free fishing.

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Living in the city has a ton of benefits like the ones above plus most cities allow goats and sheep nowadays.  The utilities are generally cheaper.  Without a well, one does pay quite a bit for water.  And there is the space issue.  You can only do so much before running out of room in the city.  I must say I am impressed with how much I can grow here though.  Using vertical growing techniques and permaculture ideas increases yield exponentially.  Finding a home in the city can often be more affordable as well.

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It’s a shame we aren’t city people.  In the country, you might have a view.  A few acres of land to traverse.  More options for animals.  Outbuildings.  Stars.  And country people are my people.  I may have grown up in the city, but I’ve always been a country girl.

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These are things to look for when you are looking for a homestead, whether it be in the city or the country.

Check zoning.  Can you have chickens?  How about, by chance, goats?

FHA doesn’t do Ag loans (agriculture zoning).  FHA is the most common lending so plan to find something residential that can have animals.

Check and see if the community has an HOA.  If so, do not move there.  You will not likely be able to grow corn in the front yard or have a rooster crowing.

A wood stove or wood burning fireplace is a must.  On a wood stove, you can place a pot of beans and a kettle of water or percolator on days that electric goes out.

If you are looking in the country, is it on city water?  Is there a well?  How deep?

Septic tank?  How old?  Get those checked before buying.

How many acres?  What is the zoning?

Let’s be honest now here.  EVERY farmer/rancher I know has an outside job.  It’s just the way it goes these days.  Someone in the household probably has to work.  Check the distance to work.  No one wants to commute two hours to the office!

Check the fencing.  Are you going to be able to keep your pup in?  Goats?  See realistically much work has to be done to move in.  Fencing in the city is incredibly important as well.  Preferably a six foot fence!

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Well y’all, that will get you started.  Happy land dreaming!

 

 

Posted in Field Trips

Two Days in Santa Fe

I am sitting in a coffee shop on the Plaza enjoying a delicious brew in a corner booth overlooking the frost covered buildings and the vast sky that promises warmer weather today.

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I read a study that compared the frequencies of people and places and how we thrive best when matched with our own similar frequency level regarding people and lands.  According to the study, if you were to close your eyes and someone placed a stone from a place that you love in one hand and a stone from a place you do not like, you would notice the difference.  This place matches my frequency.  Whether crossing the Santa Fe Plaza or eating red chile in Socorro or driving though farm land or artist towns, this is my place.  One day…

I adore the architecture and the history here.  The traditional adobe with straw sticking through its ancient walls.  The oldest house in the United States is here and was built in 1598.  Down a small street next to San Miguel church (circa 1636) is the house and free museum.  I loved seeing the tortilla press (not too different than mine) and the stone used for grinding corn into meal (a bit different than my Vitamix) and the other items of the era.

There is a distinctive look to New Mexico.  It is all about the details here.  Punched tin, kivas, adobe, bright trim, murals, and vigas create textures, history, and art in the architecture and design here.

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We brought our granddaughter’s stuffed animal with us and have been capturing moments with it to the delight of Maryjane.

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Now I have seen the fake stuffed animal heads mounted on boards.  They are cheeky and kind of funny from a vegetarian perspective.  In fact, I have long had a stuffed moose head we named Moosletoe hanging in our living room.  One is funny; more than that might be over the top.  However, when I saw this rooster head I started giggling so much that the cashier started giggling, than Doug joined in, and the contagious laughter prompted his coming home with me.  He is hilarious.  Perhaps he will inspire my rooster, Bob, to behave himself.

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Amazing how ten days flies when on vacation.  Thanks for coming along with me, we’ll see you back at the farm!

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Posted in Homestead

Searching for Home

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It is just an ordinary old building from the outside.  It was a feed store and a liquor store among other things.  Its basement is flooded and water rushes around the old, old boiler standing proudly, its ankles wading in the rainwater misplaced.  The large main floor is open with high ceilings, windows, wood floors, and my eyes gaze around in wonder as if I were designing a loft for a popular television show.  The upstairs is a rounded loft that would make a lovely bedroom.  The back room is really the gem.  A rustic blank slate of old brick and cement, a kitchen it must be.  I dream as the owner shows me around.  Lord, I could decorate anything.  Unfortunately we have to rent a year before we can buy and she could not afford to allow us that being too far behind.  The bank will likely have this unspoken masterpiece, unappreciated in its barrenness but too expensive in its needs.  I wished her luck.  I could have had supper clubs there and art openings and karaoke nights!  But alas, it is not for us though if could buy we could get it for a song.  I could even turn the outside strip into a garden oasis with chickens.

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So, Doug and I decided to head out to the building that holds the company that he is interviewing with tomorrow.  We are confident and hopeful.  We backtracked from the building to various neighborhoods, many with pristine grass and home owner’s associations written all over them as well as mighty confident price tags.  Because his work, should he get the job, is on the far north side of Colorado Springs we would be a mere ten minutes from the first bit of country.  A life Doug would like to hold onto.  Truth be told, so do I.  We still want the large gardens and chickens.  The views, the stars, the quiet, that life.

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We drove past the trees that were scarred by the fire I wrote about a few years ago.  The area is regrowing and beautiful.  To live in the trees would be magical even though the fire risk is always a possibility.  A few minutes further we get into the prairielands we know and adore.

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Oh where will our new home be?  And can it be somewhere we can stay?  To put down roots and apple trees without fear of being forced to move?  Can we find someone to help us get the house then buy it from them?  Or a place that we can rent then purchase later?  A place that we can call our own?  Dreaming of home is a bittersweet ordeal when you know not where home is.

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Home is by a hearth and fire, surrounded by our cats, and visited by our beloved ones.  It is where we find each other at the end of the day and at early dawn.  Where the rooster will crow and the pumpkins will grow.  We are searching.