Ending an Era to Make Dreams Come True (full time farmer and The Homesteading School at Pumpkin Hollow Farm)

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I write a lot about following dreams, taking chances, and working to bring goals to fruition.  It never fails to amaze me how when you start walking toward your dream, the doors naturally open and some close.  The universe conspires to bring everything into alignment, or “Everything works together for the good of those who love Him.” Romans 8:28.  I am sure there are passages and sayings such as these in every culture and in many circles.  It is a fact that if you so desire something and start putting it out there that you want that goal, you will achieve it.  Passions are put in our hearts for a reason and I view them as a guide map of where my journey ought to go.

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Five years ago when Doug left his city job with the comfy pay and benefits and I closed my dance company so that we could go peddle Echinacea at markets with three children at home, it was scary.  How many bottles of medicine would we have to sell to survive?  But we took that leap of faith.  A shop came available.  The money appeared.  The customers came.  The shop closed.  The customers doubled.  For six total years we have had the great pleasure of meeting and helping literally thousands of people.  We have learned and dreamed and succeeded.  And now the few we have whispered to our crazy idea wonder why we would close a perfectly good business that brings in a good amount of income.

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I teach.  It’s what I do.  I stayed in at recess in second grade to teach younger kids how to read.  I taught modeling while I was a model.  I taught acting classes.  I taught dance classes.  I teach herbal classes.  I teach homesteading classes.  I want to teach and farm full time.  Well, with this lifestyle when I say full time I mean enough to get the bills paid and then spend some time in a hammock or writing!

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I have a strong passion for teaching people how to empower themselves with plant medicines.  To not be fearful of diseases in the news.  To not be afraid of broken wrists or high fevers.  Knowledge that was lost must be found and redistributed!  I want to teach all about herbalism.  If there is an underlying worry that the student will become my competition then I cannot be a proper teacher.  If I have to keep all of my tried and true recipes top secret then what good am I doing?  By closing my Apothecary I will be a far more effective teacher.  I also lowered the price of my classes.  I combined the additional Master’s class into the Certified Class for the price of the latter.  A much more comprehensive course at a reasonable price.  Our school is superior to many of the others.  I know this because I have had interns from other schools who knew nothing about practical uses of herbalism.  But I lowered my price to make it more accessible.

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I have a strong passion for homesteading.  I love the freedom of it.  I love having the option to go watch the sunset, then come in and make supper, after I play with the goats, and plant a few more kale seeds.  I love that we can live on a small enough number that it is somewhat easy to get the bills paid and still have plenty of time to be together and play and enjoy our farm.  I love teaching homesteading classes.  Because the second you teach someone how to can, you open up a whole new world of affordable, healthy eating.  If someone can make their own soap, they eliminate the need to purchase expensive soaps and do not need to worry about skin conditions and irritation.  Teach someone how to farm, and they don’t need to depend on the grocery store so much.  Teach someone how to do any of the skills I offer classes for and they save money and are more easily able to attain their goals.

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I have a strong passion for farming.  The soil on my fingers, caterpillars slinking by, birds singing, bees on the flowers near, providing food for myself and others.  I love the animals.  I love this life.

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In the summer I am often too busy to really enjoy any of it.  We do farmer’s markets all week, we make a year’s worth of medicines, we answer phone calls and emails, we fill product, we ship, we wild craft and harvest enough for the year, we preserve all of our own food.  Now we will be getting most of our own wood.  We have a larger space to farm.  We have more animals.  When do I have time to really pursue farming and teaching when I am so busy with the Apothecary and basic homesteading?

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Something had to go and it wasn’t the chickens!  So, June 1st I am closing my Apothecary.  I’ll still be around to help people in a pinch.  I can still work on a sprained ankle or have some salve on hand.  But the retail side will be gone.  I am going to really promote my classes, which will be the make or break of this crazy idea, and I will farm with all my heart and spirit and physical ability.  Doug by my side.

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And when you put something out there, listen.  As the wheels of the goal start turning and coming into being you will be able to feel if you are on the right path by how much resistance comes your way.  Yesterday, a gal that runs a market in Elizabeth asked me to come each week and teach a small class or demonstration and promote my school.  For free.  I had the best talk with my intern from last year who resides in New York.  He’s coming out for two months this summer to help us get this thing in full swing.  I’m on fire, folks!  I am so excited.

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One always thinks of the worst case scenarios which hardly ever come up.  What if we need to make more money? (get a part time job or sell something else)  What if a storm wipes out the gardens?  After any storm in life we get up and start over knowing that only good can come out of difficulty.  But life is short and dreams are big, so we may as well start following them now.  I have no doubt that come summer this blog will be reflecting that dream come true.

Now, it’s your turn, dear reader.  Write out that dream or goal, no matter how big or small.  Details, people!  Get it all out.  Now, are you really ready for it to come true?  You wouldn’t want to block your own goal!  Now, place it in the responses so that the wheel can start turning.  It’s going to be an exciting year!

How to Become a Homesteader-Part 4-Thrift, Bartering, Splurge

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Finding balance is one of the things we all strive for in every aspect of our lives.  Becoming a homesteader is about living the life you want, that you dream of.  It’s about taking chances and knowing you can live on less.  It is about spending time in the gardens and with animals and friends and not giving our life to a corporation, who will have you replaced by the time you hit the parking lot, or grave.  This is about relationships; with community, with friends and family, with nature, with God.  This is about freedom.  When we are living on less, we need to know when to be thrifty, when to barter, and when to splurge.

You can find tops for empty wine bottles to turn them into lanterns at Lehman's or kitchen stores.  Just fill with lamp oil and whallah!

You can find tops for empty wine bottles to turn them into lanterns at Lehman’s or kitchen stores. Just fill with lamp oil and whallah!

Being thrifty means that we reuse a lot of things and we don’t produce a lot of waste.  This is helpful on our pocketbooks and the earth.  We find we need less.  We don’t go to an office job so we don’t need really nice clothes, nor do we worry too much about our appearance.  We use our clothes until they are torn.  Our cars have to be practically falling apart while driving before we get a “new” one.  We read books from the library and rarely purchase new.  We reuse rubber bands to fasten stems of greens together to sell.  We save all of our twist ties and use them to stake plants to trellises and tomato cages.  Wine corks can be put in the bottom of pots before filling with soil for drainage.  Boxes that are too small to put in the garden or use to store canning jars get torn up and are used as fire starters.  Wine bottles get turned into oil lamps.

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Bartering is imperative in the homesteading world.  Being able to trade for services that we cannot do ourselves helps us live on a small income and helps connect us to others.  Rod put up a screen door for us and Doug cleaned up his computer.  We are trading one of Elsa’s kids for one of Jenet’s Nubian kids.  Last year Joan and I traded canned goods so we would have a bit of variety.  We barter herbal medicines for a lot of things!

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When to splurge?  Buy good quality feed for your animals.  Buy organics for yourself if you didn’t produce them.  When buying tools, buy the best you can so you don’t have to repurchase.  Buy quality seeds.  Not everything need be cheap.  Sometimes a bargain costs much more in the end.

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Then there are other types of splurges.  We live this way to enjoy life.  My post about boxed wine gave folks a good laugh around town, I’ll tell you.  I received large boxes of wine and funny comments.  I bet knowing my affinity for good wine that you can guess that it wasn’t long before I was darn sick of boxed wine!  If it’s under $15, a bottle is worth it.  One can find a great deal of fabulous wines in that price range.  And if Doug and I aren’t running around wine bars all week like we used to, you can bet your overalls that I am going to enjoy my glass of single vineyard, estate grown wine with dinner!

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This weekend we are taking Emily, Bret, and our sweet Maryjane Rose up to Boulder to celebrate Emily’s birthday a bit early.  I bartered for the rooms at a gorgeous Bed and Breakfast.  We will splurge on great meals and make fond memories with our children.

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Enjoy the good life today folks.  Life is sweet.

A Peek at the Typical Week of a Farmsteader

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Some folks envy us.  Some folks think we are crazy.  Some of our relatives wonder if we work.  Some people come from all over to learn what we do.  If you ever wondered what life on a farmstead looks like, particularly for an entrepreneur, here is a small peek into a typical week.  If you are interested in farmsteading, we will teach you everything you need to know to make small steps towards basic self sufficiency and regaining your freedom by making your own schedule.  Just check out the Homesteading School link on the menu.  We also have a Certified Herbalist and Master’s Herbalist program to help you learn everything you need to know to care for yourself, your family, and the animals that will share your farmstead.

Monday: Farm day

Up just before 7:00.  Doug goes outside to tend to the animals.  It could be a heavenly sixty five degrees or a miserable twenty below, it makes no difference.  Isabelle must be milked!   I make coffee and when Doug comes in after milking the goat I strain the warm milk from the bucket and prepare him a cup of coffee with fresh goat’s milk and a bit of sugar while he feeds and lets out the chickens and ducks.  We then spend some time writing, reading, paying bills, relaxing, and planning the day.

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After breakfast we begin our work.  Farm day is also canning day.  Any harvesting that needs to be done is completed in the morning before the plants go limp from the heat.  If I needed a boost in produce I would have bought a box of tomatoes or something from my friends at Miller Farms Sunday at the market.  We have to be diligent with canning.  Our winter food source is our root cellar/basement and freezer.  Yesterday a flat of tomatoes became six quarts of ruby colored pasta sauce.  We have been out of sauce since March to my utmost dismay and I will be canning a lot more this year.  We will double the eighteen jars we put up last year.

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A large pot of chicken broth was also in the works.  I saved in a freezer bag all chicken bones and odds and ends of carrots, onions, and celery over the past month and threw them all in the pot covered with water.  I added large handfuls of herbs and a bit of salt and pepper and let it simmer for an hour and a half.  This was pressure canned to make easy quarts of ready made broth.  This is a chore we do all year.

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Large bowls of green beans have been coming out of our garden and as quickly as we can process them, there are a bunch more ready.  It has been such a gift to be able to eat and preserve produce from my own gardens.

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Farm day includes any and all planting, weeding, mulching, harvesting, bee hive checking, fence fixing, coop and goat pen cleaning, lawn mowing,  and transplanting.

We fall in bed exhausted.

Tuesday: Class and Cooking Day

Anyone who wanted to learn to can would come on Monday to help.  Folks that want to learn specific skills like soap making out of fresh goat’s milk, candle making in containers with handles so that you can use it as guiding light at night, cheese making with delicious goat’s milk and fresh herbs, etc. come on Tuesday.  Each week I teach something new and also stock up for our own family.

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Tuesday is when I bake bread for the week and make a batch of hard cheese to start aging to enjoy in the winter.  I also plan the menus for the week and start preparing what I am packing (breakfast and lunch) to take to the markets.

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Doug works on miscellaneous things pertaining to business.  Paperwork, filling orders, errands, and anything else I give him in the form of a to-do list is on Doug’s agenda.  Every other Tuesday evening he shoots pool and I quilt in the evening or we might opt to take a walk or watch a funny show.

We fall in bed exhausted.

Wednesday: Apothecary Day

This is the day we get all of our product filled for the farmer’s markets that week.  We make lotion, fill bottles, combine teas, and get the car packed for Thursday’s market.  People seek me out all week for help and call at all hours of the day.  We work with them immediately but the farmer’s markets not only help us bring in more income, but also helps us meet infinitely more folks than we would from our farm.  We are able to help many more people and interest people in classes.

I also teach a Master’s class in herbalism on Wednesdays.

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Wednesday is also the day that I make extracts.  I harvest herbs that are ready to be cut and place them in jars.  All of my new recipes are made with fresh herbs straight from the gardens and prepared on the spot where they will brew until this fall.

Thursday: Market Day

Doug milks early and we head off to Colorado Springs (a 45 minute drive) at 6:30.  We set up our tent, our tables, our wares, and talk, help, and promote until 3:00.  We then break down and reload the car and sleepily drive home, arriving back at the farm at 4:30.  A quick dinner is all I can come up and the rest of the day is slower.

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We watch our granddaughter, Maryjane, the light of our life, four days a week while her mother is at work.  We are the only grandparents that do not have a nine to five job and dad is still in school so we get the great opportunity of playing with our baby most days.  Even though she wears us out, she adds a light and an energy to this place that I never take for granted.  She is a great gift to us.

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In the evenings, every single day, at around 7:00, Doug heads back in to milk Isabelle.  Twice a day, no matter the weather or our plans, Isabelle must be milked.  It is nice to have a set schedule.  It also saves us money.  Every time we make plans to gallivant about, we remember that we need to be home at seven!

Friday: House Day and Prepare for Markets

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Friday we deep clean our house.  All laundry should be done by this day.  We fill product that we sold the day before in preparation for the markets and get the meals packed for the next few days.  We even may have the opportunity to go out to eat with friends or just sit under the elm tree with a book.

Saturday: Market Day and Class

We head to the local farmer’s market on Saturdays.  It is close to home and ends early so it is obviously my favorite one!  We see lots of folks that used to visit our store and friends from around town come by to say hello.

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Our herbalist classes are on Saturdays.  People drive from all over to take my course and learn how to turn weeds into medicine that can heal up broken ankles or get rid of a nasty infection.  The classes are always eclectic, filled with interesting and fascinating students.  The coming semester promises to be full and two of the students came all the way from New York.  Ethan and Stephanie drove an RV here to Colorado to stay and work with me on everything from homesteading, to farming, to being my apprentices in herbalism.  They are a tremendous help and lovely company.

In the winter and spring we trade off dinner at our house, Kat and Rod’s, or Rodney and Pat’s.  We call it family dinner even though Doug and I are not related but rather adopted into their family.  We miss them in the summer!  We do not see much of our families either and try to find times to call.  Summers here on a farmstead are very busy!  In the winter we are less busy.  We just keep up with all the housework and cooking, the filling orders and classes.  But we stay fairly close to home in order to take care of our animals.

Sunday: Big Market Day

This is our biggest market day and we pack more medicines and products in the car to cover what we sold Saturday.  We get up at 4:45 to milk and head out by 5:30 to secure our spot at the market.  The markets are non-stop talking on hot pavement and really wear us out but they are imperative to our survival as herbalists and homesteaders.

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We run our errands in town after the market on our way home.  The library or health food store might be visits we need to make.  We then go home and relax before dinner needs to be made and the animals cared for.

We again fall in bed exhausted.  There is no need for sleep medicine in this house.

Making Our Own Schedule

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We make our own schedule.  It is freeing and satisfying.  We work very, very hard but we also have the option to say, “You know what?  The floors aren’t getting swept today.  Let’s go hiking.”  Yesterday was one such day.  While Doug and Ethan ran errands in Denver, Stephanie, Emily, Maryjane and I took a beautiful hike.  I still got the canning done (finishing early this morning).  Last night Ethan and Stephanie came in from their RV and we all enjoyed dinner in front of a recorded “Last Comic Standing”.  Wine and laughter poured freely and we ended the night later than usual under the stars admiring the Milky Way and shooting stars.

This is why we farmstead.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wishing You A Simple Life!

Katie in the petting zoo  (The pictures denote simple things you can do for cheap…You can play at a petting zoo!)

From my first modeling contract twenty years ago, to expanding my dance company to two sites and eventually closing it a few years later from exhaustion (not really good at delegating, I taught every single class!), I was always trying to get more, get more, when we catch up we can slow down….you’ve probably said it yourself.

IMG00054  (Go for a walk or nice hike)

We made such a drastic change that we still get confused looks from friends and family about why we live where we do, in the size house that we do, with the business that we do.  Doug’s brother is pretty certain he should go get a “real” job.  We are used to the confusion though.  We only hope one day they will understand that for everything one has, every material item, every dollar spent is time off your life.  How many hours does it take to pay the car payment?  How many hours does it cost to purchase the new shoes?  There is always money to be made.  We can always make what we need, we just choose to make less so that we don’t spend our life working for things that are not permanent.  What a waste!  Life is short enough!  I would rather sit on the tree swing, taking in the sweet smell of lilacs in the spring, sipping hot coffee, and writing in a journal than stressing through rush hour to get to a job that doesn’t allow me to enjoy what I just worked for!  Our lack of bills and decreased spending has allowed me to breathe for the first time since I was a child.

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Of course there are things that need to be paid for.  Food, shelter, clothing, some outings, etc. so we must have a job.  All of us have a gift within us, usually more than one talent, that could suffice to make enough money to survive.  For us, it was making herbs into medicine and making luxurious body products safe enough to eat (but not very tasty), and now to teach those skills.  I also opened a new dance company with a smaller amount of students just so I can dance!  None of these businesses needed more money up front than we could come up with to start, no loans.  It looks as though we live below poverty level if you were to look at the numbers, but we have never been richer or happier!  It means that we have designated what gets cash and we never feel like we are suffering.  If I desperately feel like I need something, I will go make a little more to get it.

Doug and Eliza Doolittle  (Snuggle a kitty)

But I am happy with a packet of seeds, a deck of cards, a journal, pots of coffee or tea, okay, a bottle of wine, some popcorn, a vintage dress from the thrift store, the new “old” aprons that my friend gave me, a sliced radish with smoked sea salt, the tabby on my lap right now, and simplicity and peace in our household.  This may be your year to find what you love, pursue it, and give up the rest!  And I will try to simplify even more!

Happy New Year Everyone!

IMG00055 (Marvel at how beautiful nature is)