Four Years Being a Farmgirl…and our new home

November 25, 2012- I had just learned what a blog was and was excited to try it.  Pages that would normally fill journals filled spaces on this web sized book.  To write stories that teach and inspire and make folks laugh while learning to farm and homestead was my idea.  A compilation of tales that I wish I could have found at the beginning of my journey.  I could have never imagined the amazing pieces of life we would be recording.

Indeed over the past year and a half you have put up with me pouting when we lost all that, started two more blogs, always return to this one.  I use my own blog so often to find recipes that I might be one of my best followers!  Over 110,000 times Farmgirl School has been read over the last four years.  I am honored.

When I found out that we were actually buying a house, my inspiration came flooding back.  Months of blog posts already half written in my mind.  Home.

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Our new abode come December 30th.

November 25, 2016- I can now use the skills I have learned about chickens and ducks, gardening, and decorating, cooking, and preserving, cooking on a wood stove, and intertwine them with new memories with my beautiful family, and all the things I want to learn, like Hugelkulter beds, and canning cranberry sauce to create many more years of Farmgirl School.  And all the things along the way that I will learn and share and our world-wide community continues.  We all share so may beautiful desires and wishes.  To return to homesteading life was certainly ours.  So here we go…

The Homeschooled Mama (and clever flash cards)

 

IMG_2136I believe homeschooled children have moms that have always homeschooled themselves.  A desire to learn.  A desire for knowledge.  Boredom sets in, we grab a book.  I think I loved homeschooling my children so much, and now giving my granddaughter, Maryjane, a head start because I, myself, love to learn so much.

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Losing my farm was devastating in as much as I was losing the ability to practice what I had learned and in learning new skills as it was waving good bye to my adorable sheep.  Homeschoolers get bored easily.  Homeschooling mamas are the worst.  I cannot simply relax with a novel and a cup of tea for more than five minutes.  I must continue to fill my mind with wondrous and new ideas.  And the obsession!  Homeschooling folk are obsessive in their thirst for more information.  We want to learn something?  We need to learn everything about it.

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I was the child that would ask folks at church and school if they could teach me.  I am indebted to the substitutes, church and community members, and teachers that would spend precious off hours to teach me.  I learned braille, sign language, a bit of Japanese when I was entertaining a modeling contract in Japan, a small amount of Spanish while living on the west side, and six years of French.  I do wish I had a better memory!  So, now I am learning Cherokee.  It is not a Latin base so therefore the hardest language I have ever laid eyes on.  And it fuels my need to learn something.

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For my learning friends out there, I found a way to use up those excess envelopes.  There are always extras from stationary and cards.  Turn them into flash cards.  Write what you want on the flap and the answer underneath the flap.  Then reuse by putting a word on the front and the answer on the back.  The Martha Stewart in me finds them prettier than boring old 3×5 notecards.  The environmentalist in me likes to see these envelopes being used.  And the homeschooler loves to see how they can be transformed into a new world.

Keep learning out there, Folks.

Grammie School

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It used to be referred to as “Mommy School”.  That is what Andy used to call it.  He loved workbooks and extra reading.  We loved to visit museums, art galleries, and book stores.  This was when he was five or six.  He would tell his teacher all about Mommy School.

But time found us getting busier and I with three little ones and Mommy School was limited.  When after a year of high school and Andy struggling out of lack of interest I decided to homeschool all three of them.  We visited the teacher supply store and went crazy buying workbooks and educational toys and various items like stickers. (Gosh, who doesn’t like stickers?)

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Andy was fifteen, Shyanne was twelve, and Emily was eleven so their interests and levels were different so as we made our way through we became more of “unschoolers”.  Unschooling is when each kid devours every topic they love, whether it be cooking or pirates.  In each topic they learn valuable skills such as reading, writing, spelling, history, science, and math.  They also have time to indulge in arts and music.  Because they were home with us they also learned what we deemed important, not the slanted school system’s ideas.  They learned about herbalism, animals, agriculture, our ideas on spirituality and they were left to fill in the blanks for themselves.  They were able to make their own paths with a well rounded base.

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Andy went off to college and the girls felt amiss.  They wanted to try the small high school in town.  Shyanne, my socialite, loved it, thrived in it, and graduated.  Emily went back briefly but found herself unhappy in the school system and then learned she was with child so she reverted back to homeschooling pretty quickly.  I enjoyed homeschooling my children and I believe they are intelligent adults that were more realistic about the world out there then children just graduating from traditional high school.

Now, I have my first grandchild here four days a week while mom and dad work.  It is my greatest honor and profound joy.  In many cultures the grandmother is put in charge of the children’s well being, growth, and education.  These grandmothers hold the wisdom of half a life or more and tend to have more patience.  Maryjane is a special child.  When she was six months old we attended the funeral of Shyanne’s best friend who had committed suicide and the depth of sorrow was intense.  As I would approach people Maryjane would put her hand on their face as if she were trying to comfort.

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She is a bit of a wild child, the child that usually comes last, the one that has so much life bubbling forth that her parents want a nap!  She is also highly intuitive.  She has the same healing gifts that run through my family.  It is obvious even though she is only two years old.  She eats wild herbs and helps me make medicine.  She comforts those that are upset.  But she “knows” things too.  We were to meet Emily and Maryjane at the coffee shop the other day.  Maryjane started to yell, “Pa! Pa!”

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“Grammie and Pa aren’t here yet,” Emily replied.  About a minute later we pulled into the turning lane to get into the parking lot.  Emily was a little shocked.

“If you send her to school they will squash this little girl’s spirit,”  I lamented.

“I wasn’t planning on sending her to school.”

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Oh, happy day.  Emily and I will be homeschooling that amazing child.  Four days a week (depending on the kids’ schedules) we will be having the raucous event called “Grammie School”.

Daydreams of workbooks and drawing pads and finely sharpened pencils danced in my head then I realized that I am already homeschooling.  Learning doesn’t begin at age four and end at eighteen or twenty-two.  We have already begun.

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Here are five ways to teach a little one:

  1. Count- everything I hand the baby I count.  Here are some mullein flowers to put in the pot.  One, two, three, four, five…She now tells people she is five.  She can’t put them in order, but she can randomly sing, “one, five, nine, three, six…”
  2. Spell- Dad, d-a-d, is on his way!  I don’t spell everything we say, I would annoy myself, but she is really in tune to simple words.  Pa, p-a, Mom, m-o-m.  She has no idea what we are talking about yet but the letters stick in her little head.  She sure surprised her mom by writing D-A-D on her arm!
  3. Point out everything.  Birds, trees, flowers, dogs, coffee, books, people, cars, rain, everything.  These babies are sponges and they will remember all of these things in detail.  It is terribly sad to me that so many parents I see just set their kids in a corner and ignore them.  They just “get through” until the next stage.  Babies being lugged around in car seats instead of being held.  Perhaps it is a grandmother’s perspective to see that children grow quickly and time is so precious.  These little ones cannot be all they aspire to without nearly constant attention and guidance.
  4. Teach them about animals.  Teach them not to be afraid of animals.  The kids used to have friends come over to the house that were terrified of our cats!  A child that knows animals, speaks to animals, is gentle with animals, and who is well versed in the various kinds of animals naturally grows to be a more compassionate and gentle child and adult.
  5. Read- read, read, read!  Read labels, books, magazines, signs, and fill the child’s head full of adventures and stories.  Give them a love for reading early.  Visit the library, read to them on your lap, just read.  This is special time for the child and for you and the libraries will forever hold a place in that child’s heart.

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There are many more things, manners, cooking, chores, things that we have Maryjane do as well, but the above five are easy and effective ways to homeschool whether one chooses to send their child to school or not.  There is always the opportunity to reach out to a child and make a difference in their self-esteem and in their learning.

Farmgirl School; Homesteading 101 (back to basics for an enchanting, simple life)

Homestead 101 Cover

My book is out!  I sold several copies over the weekend.  It is filled with articles about pursuing your dreams, living a simpler life with less bills (so less work), and breathing in every day, along with everything you need to know about creating your own grocery store (preserving), gardening, soap making, candle making, medicine making, gift making, starting a farm, getting farm animals, and SO much more.  It is a hoot to see it in print.

There are some things I learned while compiling articles from the last two and a half years of blogging and editing the final book.  I was horrified to find that there is at least one typo in every post.  I shall not be so hard on writers while reading books any longer.

I also learned that I have repeated myself often over the years and at times contradicted myself….or maybe just changed my mind….or maybe found a way to do it better!

I learned that we have learned so much in such a relatively short amount of time and that it is never too late to chase that dream and learn new skills.

The universe always conspires to make dreams and goals come to fruition.

We have had a great time practice farming and look forward to being full time farmers and teachers now.  If you are interested in receiving my book, just send $22 plus $6 shipping to Katie Sanders, 7080 Calhan Road South, house 2, Calhan, CO, 80808.  I am so excited to share with you all that we have learned.  I can’t wait to see what we learn this year!

 

How to Become a Homesteader-Part 2-Skills

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We try to learn two new skills each year.  There are some skills that are imperative to the survival of a homesteader.  Actually, not just for homesteaders, anyone who is trying to live as simply and on as few funds as possibly (less work for a paycheck=more freedom to live life how you want).  It is nice to have more than one person living on a homestead (doesn’t have to be a spouse) because generally what one person can’t do, or doesn’t care to do, the other can.  And for the things that neither are very good at, bartering with someone that has that skill set is invaluable.  Here is a rough list of important skills to learn to be a homesteader.

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1. Cooking– I have been cooking since I was quite small and Doug was a bachelor for some time before we got married so we both know how to cook.  That doesn’t mean that restaurants weren’t our worst vice!  We haven’t sworn off restaurants completely and we do go out more than our other homesteading friends.  I do, however, cook the vast majority of our meals.  And if I am too tired to cook in the morning Doug will fry up a delicious hash (fried potatoes, onions, garlic, eggs, and any vegetables or fish we have).

Cooking is not only obviously important to the modest budget required in a homestead, but it is better for you as well.  You need to stay strong while doing farm chores!  It is also much more ecologically friendly.  You can decide how many pesticides to put in your body, how many miles your food travelled, and how many boxes you put in the landfill.

We rarely buy anything in a box.  We use whole ingredients and in bulk if possible.  Grains, fresh vegetables fruits, or the ones we canned or froze, fish, legumes, eggs, milk, and cheese, make up our various meals along with a lot of great spices and flavor.  It is easy to put together meals with so much selection.  And because they weren’t in boxes, but rather larger bags or serve yourself, they were cheaper too.  I can add my own flavorings without all the additives.

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2. Gardening– Being able to grow your own food is a wondrous thing.  The cost of seeds is much less than the cost of groceries with the added benefit of being in the sunshine, knowing where your food came from, having all the nutrients still available, and helping out the bees.

One can successfully garden in a plot, the front yard, in five gallon buckets on the porch, anywhere really!  I combine all of these to get enough space!

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3. Canning– After World War II, women wanted a different life.  Canning, cleaning, country living, many normal ways of life were shunned in favor of city living, jobs, packaged food, cleaning ladies, and the earlier ways of living were thought of as mundane and peasant, if you will.

Canning is a great way to survive on a fixed income.  By putting up all the produce the summer brings (even if that means buying a bushel from a nearby farm) we don’t let all that glorious produce go to waste and come winter we scarcely ever need to go to the grocery store!  Just look in the pantry!

Canning is enjoyable as well.  It is a great sound when those jars click shut.  It is particularly fun with margaritas and other women to help!

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4. Fencing– This was one of the first things Doug had to learn and quick.  Come two squirrely, runaway goat kids, we had to learn to reinforce and put up good fencing on the cheap.  We have found that T-posts and pasture fencing are affordable options and moveable if necessary.  We will easily be able to fence in a large area off of the current goat pen for the goats and new arrivals.

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5. Building and Fixing– I grew up in a home where my mom taught us girls how to do every domestic chore.  I am grateful for that.  I have never pushed a lawn mower or changed my own oil though.  My dad built their house by hand.  He can fix anything, my brother can too, but I was not taught these things.  Doug grew up in a house where if something broke, they called someone in.  So, when we first got together and something would break, I’d say, “Aren’t you going to fix that?” and he would look at me like I was crazy.  We spent a lot of money on hiring people over the years and we needed to learn how to build and fix things.  This is a skill we will work on more this year.  This is one that we barter classes or computer support for.  I traded a class for a fabulous cold frame.  We would like a better milking shed too.  Neither of us even know where to start!  That is where knowing how to barter comes in handy.  But we also need to learn for ourselves.

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6. Animal Care– Animals are an important part of a homestead.  For many they are a source of meat, but for this vegetarian farm, they are a source of food, fiber, and comedy shows.  We love our chickens and their eggs.  We love our goats, their milk, and the dairy products that we make from the milk.  We can sell their kids and milk shares to help cover costs of feed.  We are looking forward to our new sheep and their fleece as well as the new alpaca, Buddy the Cotton-headed-ninny-muggins.

We have needed to learn how to trim their feet, and how to know when they are sick, and what to give them.  How to put an animal out of its misery (still working on that one, we are getting a revolver this year), and how to house and feed them.  In my opinion, animals make the homestead.  Sharing your life with other creatures makes things more complete.

After the kindling catches, add small pieces of wood, then a larger log.  Blow into the fire to make it catch more.  Once the log has caught, close the flue.

7. Fire starting– We heat our house with wood and a propane heater.  We got the bill for the propane.  Next month we are putting in another wood stove that our friend found us so no more propane!  We have a lot of wood stacked up and Doug learned to wield an axe.  It keeps him in shape, helps him blow off steam, and keeps us in wood.  But it took us a bit to figure out how to get the fire started easily!  We weren’t scouts and we never needed to do much else but throw one of those ready to burn logs into an outdoor fireplace at a party.  We learned quick!

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8. Sewing– Being able to mend old clothes or turn too old of clothes into quilts and projects saves you from having to purchase it at the store.  Remember, anything we currently purchase at the store we want to learn to do ourselves!  I can make the baby dresses, sew a semi-decent quilt, and mend but I would like to learn this year how to sew more elaborate clothing, like men’s shirts and dresses for myself.

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9. Fiber Arts– Being able to knit a pair of warm socks is high on my list of skills I would like to master this year.  Along with animal shearing, carding, spinning, and dying yarn.

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10. Learning to Entertain Oneself– Being able to not be bored easily.  To be able to rest and entertain oneself is high in importance.  We can’t very well run off to see a stage production downtown anymore or away for a week in New Mexico.  We also don’t have a big cable package or media entertainment.  We read, write, draw, walk, have folks over, visit others, play with the baby, and sit outside in the sun.

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Being a homesteader doesn’t mean that one does less work.  Nay, you might end up doing doubled!  All of these skills take time.  Time is what you will have and it is much nicer to be doing what you would like on your own time and schedule wherever you please.  It is all good, pleasant work.  And learning to rest and play is important as well.  This is a great lifestyle.  I highly recommend it if you are thinking of living this way!  A good skill set makes it all the easier.

What’s Next? (welcoming the new year)

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The sun is shining brightly on this lovely New Year’s morn as a feeling of hope and aspiration overcomes us.  We release the last year, accept its many lessons, rejoice that we are here this morning to breathe and revel in unstoppable dreams and goals.

What is in store for Farmgirl School this year?  My lists are brimming.

This year we will completely immerse ourselves in permaculture (Doug and I are already busy reading books and listening to lectures on the subject…such a foreign concept to us as we have been gardening the same way for so long but are excited to completely change for the better our way of farming.) and create an oasis here on our new  homestead with fruit and nut trees, berry bushes, perennials, annuals, container gardening, cold frames, green house?…lots of big ideas.  Join us as we grow mushrooms this year and more herbs too.  Let’s learn to hunt wild foods and eat weeds.

Let me show you how to make medicines with wild herbs and many ways to administer them.  There is lots of wacky information out there on herbal medicine, let me just teach you how easy and effective it is.  We’ll make our homesteading and herbalist school a great success and meet lots of folks from all over on the way.

Let’s get some more farm animals maybe, and learn many more skills.  I will teach you how to make hard cheeses.  Let’s eat our way around the world and learn more ethnic cooking.  Who knows what else we will learn in our journey this year!

I love the idea of the proverbial clean slate ahead of me.  Unwritten days and new attitudes, memories, and experiences at hand.  As always, thank you for following us on this journey.  Last year we found the homestead that we dreamed of and learned many valuable lessons that will be pivotal to our experiences this year.  I love receiving your letters.  Should you like to correspond please drop me a line via snail mail.  Mrs. Katie Sanders, 7080 Calhan Rd So, #2, Calhan, CO, 80808 or if you are in Elizabeth on Mondays, come by Grumpy’s coffee shop and sit a spell with me.  I love seeing who is reading my writings and learning from each other.

So, here we come 2015, we embrace you with open arms.  Who’s with me?

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!

Classy Farmgirl….taking classes that is

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Learning new skills is exciting, like opening a new page in our books.  Expanding what we can do in our life and what we can do for ourselves.  Learning also means teaching.  I read somewhere that we have a responsibility to teach what we know, so the circle continues.  Besides libraries and educational institutions, there are other teachers out there.  We so often put off taking classes in favor of say….doing the dishes.  But, more talents and excitements await and are only a class away!

This year I took a soap class.  So much fun, I am sure you read about it!  And now I can proudly provide myself with clean soap.  Fabulous.  I took a spinning class…..I may need to take one or… fifty more.

An old client of mine sent an email yesterday.  She used to have a goat farm and is now teaching classes on how to make soft and hard goat cheese.  Now generally, I figure I can learn all I can in a book.  And most likely I will read a book and try to just go do it.  There are limits to this type of knowledge without a hands on teacher.  I was scared of lye.  Kathi helped me conquer it.  I do not have the slightest idea how to make fine goat cheese.  I have exhausted my way through restaurants attempting to try every type of goat and sheep’s cheese…ash filled, wine soaked, pasture raised, brie style, herbs de Provence chevre….oh my.  Now that we know what kinds of cheese we would like to make (all of them), beats me how to do it!  So, Julie is going to teach me.  This helps her too.  Farmgirls cannot survive on one income alone off the farm.  Multiple facets must be in place to “make it”.  Besides farm products and craft products, there are always people who want to learn what you know.

There are more classes in my very near future.  Agriculture classes at the college as well as writing classes (gotta get this book published!), Spanish classes, and more dance classes, because it makes my dance school better, all await my “eager for knowledge” mind.

In turn, I will continue teaching Certified and Master Herbalist classes, animal medicine classes, dance classes, and new this year, bread making and canning classes.

I will learn hands on how to tend to bees thanks for my friend, Brett.  I am interning with my friend, Deb, who is a master gardener to learn the ins and outs of gardening before I take the college ag courses.  I will be better suited by the end of this year for my homestead that is forthcoming….perhaps I will go from mini-farm to farm next year.

Goat cheese classes- http://godshowranch.com

Deb’s blog- http://lookingoutfrommybackyard.wordpress.com

My classes- http://gardenfairyherbal.com