A Day in the Life of a Farm Wife (and why homesteading is the best life)

The early morning dawn brings with it the sound of roosters crowing around the village. The smell of wood smoke fills the air as the fire comes alive with a whoosh in the wood stove to start the day. A kettle of water is put on for coffee. Out into the early morn, a scarf pulled around the neck, the chickens are let out. They scurry by and gleefully pounce on scratch being thrown. Next up are the goats, and the sound of “mah”ing brings a smile to the farmer’s face. The sheep try to body check the others out of the way in order to get to the hay first. The sheep are distracted while the goats are led to their stanchions in their turn. The gentle sound of milk hitting the metal bucket methodically starts the day and inspires prayers of gratitude. A sleepy farmer can easily balance their head against the warm side of a goat happily chomping on sweet feed. Back inside, the milk is strained into half gallon jars and placed in the milk fridge. Boiling water is poured over fresh coffee grounds, and the cats and dog are fed and watered. Hot coffee is poured into a mug.

This is the average morning of a homesteader. If one has children, then they are tending to the youngsters as well. This was our life during the first years of our homesteading. For the last four years in the city, we have not been able to have anything but chickens, but here on our new farm, we are happily plotting the loafing shed and the pasture fencing for the “mah”ing of goats and the low “mom”ing of sheep. (Have you actually heard farm animals? It does make you wonder where the children’s books came up with their animal sounds.) We have homesteaded in each place we have lived, from country to city and back to the country. We build the infrastructure of our homestead and farm. The wood stove is coming in two weeks. The fencing this week. The loafing shed in two weeks. The goats and sheep? When we find them. Most likely in the spring. And our hen continues to crow.

Our 1st homestead

The rest of the day for a homesteader is filled with satisfying chores. Keep the fire going. Plan supper. Make bread. Clean the house. Plan what to pack for hubby’s lunch tomorrow. Care for animals. Do laundry. Hang on the line. In growing months, tend to gardens-plan, plant, weed, harvest, preserve. In winter months, catch up on sewing, make Yule presents, craft, crochet, and write.

There is a joyful cadence to homesteading. A well versed schedule of chores, work, play, and rest. Of being present. Immersed in the cycle of life and death, joy and pain, intensely taking part in the life before us, and savoring every bit of it.

My granddaughter always chooses what she wants to me to order (everything)!

Yes, from old fashioned skills come real peace that truly cannot be found anywhere else. We step back from the craziness of the world, and stoke the fire, make cheese, harvest grapes, bake bread. We spend less, save more, have a lower footprint, and a lighter heart. We tend to be heathier, eating fresher food, breathing fresher air, making real connections with neighbors and holding family close. We appreciate and communicate with the natural world. We teach others how to do the same.

The joyful sound of newly canned preserves, their tops popping tight, lining the counter. The smells of manure, hay, wood smoke, coffee, bread, roasted chicken. The sight of mountain views and sunsets and skies of stars and baby goats entering the world. The feel of a sheep’s fleece and how the yarn slides through one’s fingers at the spinning wheel, and a soft kitten’s fur against one’s skin. The taste of really, really fresh, homegrown food and drinks. The sound of the baby laugh when the dog licks her or the squeal of delight as the older child finds the perfect pumpkin in the patch.

Our first homestead when we farmed the whole yard!

Yes, this is why we homestead. It is why we come back to it each time we move. It is truly a good life. For us, it is the only life.

We Sold a Goat and Now We’re Out Drinking (a field trip)

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The light filters through the vibrant greens of trees in the park across the street through the large windows.  I sit in Jives Coffee Lounge in Old Colorado City admiring its black ceiling, wooden floors, amazing coffee (dark chocolate mocha with cinnamon, ginger, and paprika…died and went to coffee heaven), guitars in the corner, comfy lush chairs, sprites painted across the walls.  Youth reverberates through this neighborhood infusing it with spirit, hope, unlimited potential and dreams.  The rain lets up.  An older artist in painted smock walks down the sidewalk.  I suddenly long for canvas.  The library beckons from the corner and shops line the main corridor.  Festive twinkly lights outline yards and the urban homesteading scene is alive and thriving in this little pocket of Colorado Springs.  Goats are allowed, as are chickens, and clotheslines, and bicycles with baskets.  Bees, backyards, and life fill the West Side.  If I were to move to the city, this is where I’ll go.  But alas, they probably haven’t allowed sheep yet.

We finish our coffees, close our books, and get back in the truck to go get chicken feed.  A stop here and a stop there and we still don’t want to go home.  We head out to Bar Louie for a happy hour drink and a snack.

For a moment we are city people, sitting on bar stools, holding hands, watching the rain on the outdoor patios, imagining sun and summer.  Never have we been so late to plant.  I swirl the red wine in my glass as he tells me about a rule change in the NFL.  The waiter comes over and inquires whether we’ve come out for dinner.

“No,” I say, “We are farmers and this is supposed to be our busiest month.  But we can’t plant in all this rain so we sold a goat and now we’re out drinking.”

Silent pause.

“That sounds like a good story line.” he says.

(Elsa was picked up by five extremely thrilled homeschooled children and their mom to start her life in New Mexico yesterday.  Elsa never really liked it here once we moved.  She was used to being literally in the back yard and she just wasn’t getting all of the attention she had grown accustomed to.  She jumped in their mini-van and was off!)

Here’s to the sun coming out today!

The Screwy Sweet Weekend

"Why can't I come in?" Elsa wondered.

Today the weather breaks.  I believe that was our last freeze and cold spell until next autumn.  I hope so.  I plan to get all the summer crops in in the next few days.  We don’t have a long growing season here and we have to hustle once it’s time to plant.  I will go access the damage from the hail, the freeze, the ice storm, and the flooding of the past few days.  Seedlings were ripped out of the smaller beds, the basil is dead, as our some of the tomato starts but I haven’t looked in the greenhouse or the main garden yet.  The other night we actually had a severe thunderstorm with hail warning, a flash flood warning, and a winter storm warning all at the same time.  That is farming in Colorado, folks.  The High Plains is one of the most difficult to farm.  I always joke that if we moved closer to sea level I would be brilliant at farming and baking because I am so used to making it hard on myself by doing it all in Colorado!  But this is home.

The other screwy incident this weekend was our baby goat.  There were no responses from anyone to buy him.  No one wants a boy.  Now that it is so popular to have goats here I thought they would all sell quickly but it turns out everyone else is breeding and selling them too!  I was starting to believe we would have a new wether when I decided on a whim to see if he had had a sex change.  And sure enough, as I squealed and ran her around to show Doug and Shyanne, he was a she.  In the dark, rainy, muddy stall I must have gotten confused.  Glad I checked.  She will sell now.  She is a beautiful red Saanen.

We are having trouble milking Elsa.  She is engorged and chapped and it takes two of us to milk her and we only get two cups.  Yesterday I put my pain salve on her and pinned her against the gate so that I could get as much milk out to relieve the pressure.  I was in tears.  She wasn’t happy.  I get to go do it again this morning.  This cold has not helped her utters.  I hope the pain salve did its job last night and healed the skin.  Doug is the milker, but with two does freshening I am to milk Elsa.  A new milking farmgirl and a new mama who just wants sweet feed and not to be touched do not make a good combination.  It will get easier with time, I am sure.

Mother’s Day was sweet.  Andy was snowed into Denver.  He wants me to move closer.  He sent me a sweet message.  I received a homemade sign from Shyanne that reads, “Home is Where Mama is” and Emily got me a kettle to put on the wood stove top.  Doug found me a baking oven that fits on top of a wood or propane stove.  Doug is building me an outdoor kitchen soon and it will make a great addition.  A peek at a well outfitted camping store can supply many homesteader needs.

I have lost my old, cracked IPOD with the camera so I haven’t been able take any pictures for you.  I hope it comes out of hiding soon!

I have a guitar lesson today.  It makes me happy.  I think I will make cheese today as well.  May you all have a brilliantly happy day and all warm weather and sunshine ahead!

Guess Who Came Home for Christmas!

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This farm just hasn’t seemed like a farm lately.  The chickens are still running amok and always hungry, the farm dog is sleeping, the cats are mousing, but something was missing.  We sure missed our goats!  About a month and a half ago they went to see about some men.  We hadn’t a clue what we were looking for regarding heat cycles so Isabelle’s original owner agreed to let the girls stay there and she would make sure they were bred.

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Goats have a twenty day heat cycle and on the eighteenth day of being at boarding school, Isabelle and Larry hooked up like long lost lovers and a few more Elsas may be born the end of April.  Elsa was not as easy to detect when she was in heat.  She is rather shy and wasn’t entirely impressed with the strutting boys.  I agreed to let the girls stay another twenty days.  We were already in for hay and Larry fees, may as well see if we couldn’t get Elsa knocked up too.  And around the 18th day she and a real shrimpy, but very good looking, Alpine got it on.  Not the original boy I had planned.  He is one of Larry’s sons, which I guess would make them half siblings….wait a ticket, didn’t think that one out….hmm.  He is a teenager himself and neither of them had any idea what they were doing, as can be true of any species at that age, but the owner of this fine barn and brothel had high hopes that she took.  So, in five months time, at the beginning of May for Miss Elsa, a baby or three may be born.

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My favorite part of Spring is finally getting my hands back in the soil and the ever enchanting miracle of baby animals everywhere we look and go, and on our own farmstead too.  Raise your glass of eggnog for my girlies and let’s wish them a healthy pregnancy and easy births!

The Making of a Future Farmgirl

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Her smile widened as she shoved weeds through the holes in the chain link.  Little giggles filled the air as the goats took the greens from her and chomped appreciatively.

Our neighbor is getting married this weekend and some of her guests came over last night after arriving from southern California.  The smallest guest is probably seven years old, her long red hair perfectly in place with a headband, smartly dressed, with little freckles on her smiling face.  She stood mesmerized by the farm animals wandering our back yard.

We had just come home from a long farmers market and were lounging on the lawn chairs slightly hidden by the lilac bush.  Anti-social at the moment as we were so very exhausted.  After a bit though, my passion for sharing this lifestyle with others, especially children, got the better of me and I wandered over to her with a baby chicken.

“Would you like to see one of our chicks?” I asked her.  Her eyes lit up as she ran her petite hands over the soft plume of feathers.  I introduced her to the goats and called them by name.  She laughed at Isabelle standing off by herself yelling towards the back door.  She was summoning Doug to come milk her.

The little girl’s parents each took a turn coming over and talking to me, ever watchful of their young charge.  Doug came out with the milk bucket and the little girl got excited.  We invited her over to watch Doug milk.  We had the dad just lift her over the fence.  She followed me, practically dancing, petting chickens along the way.  As we approached the garage, the dad looked worried and in about twenty seconds appeared at the garage door.  We taught the little girl how to milk and we all laughed out loud each time the milk went flying in a different direction from her tiny fingers.  I then offered her a glass of chocolate milk from the kitchen.

“We’ll wait out here,” declared her dad.

“Suit yourself, but we have eight cats in here!”  I could tell the little girl wanted to come in but was content watching the ducklings until I returned.  She gulped down the chocolate milk, tried to pet the ducks, and decided she might become a farmer.

The two went back to their party.  When I went out to close up the chickens at dusk, she was still at the fence feeding the goats strands of weeds through the chain link, a million miles from home.

 

Goats: Take 2!

petting goats

Most of you have read about our adventures with two of the most adorable goats (on the couch) that God ever put on this earth.  Less cute running down the street and through the fairgrounds and hanging out at the neighbor’s house.  For six weeks we bottle fed, adored, cuddled, cussed under our breath, and showed off our newborn goats at farmer’s markets.  They were fun, but we couldn’t keep them in the yard.  So, for their own safety and the sanity of our neighbors and ourselves, we sent them back to my friend, Jill’s house.  They went to a loving new home.

Loretta

Fast forward four months.  The fence is higher, the holes in the field fence smaller, anything near the fence that can act as a spring board is put up.  A new gate separates two pastures.  The alpacas and chickens in one, the new goats in the other.  Their expensive weather proof igloo is in place and we are ready for our second try at goats.

new goats

Jill dropped off two of the most adorable goats (we think all animals are the most adorable), one expecting late February.  They follow us around the yard, let Maryjane pet them, and are very good tempered.  Not near as wild as the little buggers we had last summer, and not quite as loud.  They are content and playful, soft and sweet.

Look who wanted in this morning!

Look who wanted in this morning!

It’s beginning to look a lot like a farm around here!

Pondering Goats…and baby pics

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One of the most delightful things about spring are the babies!  So sweet and innocent, so new to this world.  The mama in me wants more babies.  Not the human kind; I am happy being a grandma!  But the furry kind.  These are pictures of Nancy’s two new additions to her farm.  The most darling little goats, the size of a poodle.  Besides having new playful kids brightening up her farm, she will also now be in butter, milk, and cheese once again.  This appeals to me.

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I am allowed to have a goat where I live.  We could finagle a large section of the yard and a little house.  We could get miniature goats and try to keep them from escaping into the fairgrounds or the highway.  We could enjoy their antics and laugh despite ourselves at their naughtiness.  But there are questions for me to ask.  Where the heck do you get a baby goat?  It’s not like they are in the grocery store parking lot next to infant barn kitties.  Where do you get a pair of goats?  Would I be able to sell a baby if my mama goat only had boys?  Or would I become the local goat shelter and have fifty-two crazy little boys running about the property….not a drop of milk in sight?  Where do you sell goats anyway if you have too many?  The grocery store parking lot?  Oh, I have questions.  But I had questions when it came to getting chickens.  When it came to opening up my own shop.  I still am asking questions about bees. (They will be here in a few weeks!)  I have questions about goats.  Would I have to get permission from Doug?  Or would it be like when I brought home kittens, and just sprung it on him, “Guess what’s in the bathroom?”  He is a sucker for babies.  I guess he already knows my mind is reeling with new baby thoughts.  Tis spring after all!

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Some more baby pictures:  This is the baby cow we are treating for an eye issue.  Shorter than my greyhound and a little chunk, she is four weeks old with big sweet eyes with a bit of fun in them.

And of course our own babies of the season.

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And my favorite,

Maryjane

Happy Spring!

The Well Behaved Goat

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He went from being a cute little guy to something of a nuisance.  Like an oversized six year old, giggling and trying to wrestle, he started pushing me around.  It was unfortunate that my back was against the metal bars of the stall.  I could practically feel the bruises forming!  His horns, thankfully nubs, were happily slamming into my hip as if I were another little boy goat wanting to play.  I could not push him very far, he was definitely stronger than me.  And as I was intermittently yelling for Doug and cussing at the six year old, I started thinking about when we get our own farm animals.

I imagined myself with a whole herd of unruly goats, throwing me into bars and permanently damaging my hip.  We were pet sitting for our friends at the time.  Doug just laughed when I told him because the day before the same goat had got him right in the stomach and I had at the time….laughed.  There’s karma for ya.  The goats are rescues from the Denver Zoo.  Nubians, the size of a very large dog, the mentality of a pre-schooler, and the escapee smarts of Houdini.  My friend, Nancy, says that it was just bad behavior on that goat’s part and that her Nubians do not do any such thing.  I did think that we could maybe get dwarf Nubians.  Doug said they will just take out our kneecaps instead!

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We really like goats though.  We tend to choose the naughtiest kitten at the shelter to bring home, the misfit dogs, etc.  We laugh at the goat’s antics (maybe because they don’t belong to us!) and watch their ever-childlike silliness.  We would like a few of our own.  We do not want any part in supporting factory farms and it would be nice to have our own daily milk that can be turned into butter or cheese or buttermilk or any number of dairy wonders that we generally refrain from!  How nice to add to my routine twice daily milkings.  The feel of a new baby in my arms like the one Emily is holding in the picture.  That was taken at Nancy’s house last year when her goats gave birth to two sets of triplets.  It was cute overload.  It was something I would like to see at our homestead one day.

Now, if I don’t want to get into the milk business, just provide for me and Doug and straggling children and grandchildren, how much do I really need?  Will a dwarf Nubian give, say two tablespoons of milk per day or a gallon?  What other breeds are there?  Is there a goat that can give fiber and good milk?  Please share any experiences you have had, friends.  Where in the world is my wonderous, well behaved, friendly, milk giving, fiber giving, hornless goat?