How to Make a House a Home (decorating styles)

The thought of starting over both exhausts and excites me.  I am moving to a simple box of a home with an acre of wildness.  I asked a friend of mine who lives out there about wildlife.  “I suppose I will be back with wildlife,” I wrote.  “Deer?  Coyotes?” I ventured.

She wrote back, “Deer, coyotes, foxes, raccoons, bears, mountain lions, hawks, owls.”

My chickens are toast, I thought.

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Outside of fencing in the chickens, the rest of the gardens will wait.  Fencing, soil, amendments, and careful planning over the winter’s months will result in a full fledged gardening and farm animal movement.  In the meantime, I turn to the house.

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In my mind’s eye, I see it burgundy with white trim, dark brown rustic shutters, and a wrap around porch.  I have no doubt that will come to be, but first, we work indoors!

How do you get the feel of a house?  How do you choose your decorating and design in a new place?  It is easy in old houses.  The old wood floors and crooked lines and personality shine through.  Doug was surprised that I liked the house we chose.  He commented that I don’t usually like new.

The house we spent eight years in after being married and when our children were young was an ugly bi-level in a suburb.  The photos of the place were on the internet as we peeked at real estate recently.  Gone were my murals and whimsical painted cupboards.  Also gone were the broken hand rails and the bare sub-floor.  That house swiftly fell apart the moment we bought it.  We were astounded by the new recessed lighting, sharp looking kitchen, soft carpet, and beige walls.  It was very rich looking and very…boring.  That house was all about homeschooling and raising children.  The downstairs was an art room and library with cement floors they could ride their scooters on.  The upstairs was open for entertaining and was full of color.  I don’t miss it though.  Once we made our exit to the country, I didn’t think I’d be back in the city!

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Back in the city, in a fancy apartment that looked out across the skyline of mountains that we rented for a year while saving up for a house, I decorated with eastern Indian motifs.  Golds and sharp pinks, black and white designs, and an area for yoga so that I could look out at the mountains and wonder how our life got turned so around that I was living in an apartment a few miles from that first house!  The colors were stimulating and inspiring.  A country look would not have worked.  And that was my calming place to get my mind right after so much loss.

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My design inspiration for my current house.  I kept it on my fridge for a year dreaming of my own homestead.

Here in this home, that used to be a farmhouse, the design is simple.  We moved in with practically nothing and it didn’t take long to fill it with hand me downs and antiques.  It is colorful with chili ristras and my bright paintings, yet serene with comfy seating and lots of plants, thanks to all the natural light.  The decor is incredibly eclectic, bouncing from Amish country to New Mexican to old farmhouse.

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New house decorating inspiration.

We are now moving to a circa 1993 (my baby was born in 1993) home with brand new greige paint (the newest trend- grey/beige blend), and fresh floors, and newer appliances, and not a hint of personality.  But I can find it, harness it, use it to create a new home.

The house has an incredible view of the surrounding mountains.  The acre is filled with cactus and cedar and other southwest, desert plants.  Snowfall will create a breathtaking view.

We are at a different stage of our life now.  We want to have enough beds to host all of our children in hopes of big country Christmases.  I want the house to feel welcoming, calming, inspiring, grown up, with a sense of fun and whimsy placed here and there.  A homestead, but modern farmhouse style.  I will take the greige and use it as my base of ideas.  Creams, dark woods, and warm knits will give it a hygge (Nordic) feel.  A mix of industrial, Nordic farmhouse, and cabin elements with lots of light and coziness.

Clear the clutter will be my motto and striking single pieces will replace lots of stuff.  We have our eye on a large, tall book shelf complete with a ladder.  The high ceilings will allow it.  Image it filled with all of my brewing herbal extracts with suspended plants, and stained glass-like jars of canned goods lining the shelves.  I am painting my dark piano cream.

Our shelves of books will line a wall in our new office/sewing room with a pull out couch.  The guest room will boast a stunning queen sized bunk bed.  The television will sit on a roll cart that can easily be put in a closet.  I despise having to decorate around a blasted, ugly television!  An oriental rug in the slim kitchen and blackboard doors on the pantry.  The oil lamps keep getting knocked over by a very large farm dog, so they will be replaced (*sigh) with elegant lamps.  Whimsical vintage signs and things we love, like drawings from Maryjane, greenery, and photographs.  Yes, this will be a lovely home.

The inspection on our new house is today and I will take along a measuring tape and graph paper to measure and plan.  This is my favorite part of moving!

Here are a few tips on how to find the personality and decorating style for your home.

1- Find the story behind the house.  Use surrounding scenery and house style to find the personality of the home.

2- Where are you in life?  Raising kids or working from home will all change the needs of the house.

3- What colors make you perk up?  What design elements (antiques, old/new signs, plants) make you smile?

4- Can you reuse what you have?  What do you need to buy?

5- Decorate with what you love.  Even if they don’t “match,” you will find that they end up seamlessly working with everything else.

6- Check out design and decorating books from the library and cut out decorating ideas you love from magazines.  I keep a huge binder of them and look at them each time I want to redecorate or move.

7- Fill your home with visiting friends, laughter, great books, candle light, and a kettle for tea.  Music, less electronics, and joy will make your home a respite from the world.  I think I might turn in my smart phone for a home phone and a record player.

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There’s Just Something About the Mountains

 

20171007_180402There’s just something about the lulling embrace of the mountains that cajoles my spirit into quiet.

There is a comfort wrapped in the songs of pines surrounding every side.

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A murder of crows sing raucously of encroachment.  A haunting and thrilling sound.

Two does jump airily by.

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There is just something about the West.  Sweeping desert valleys and climbing vistas of conifers and scrub oak in autumnal color.  The quaking aspen dances in the breeze.  Snow comes this eve.

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Perched on a balcony up high watching magpies caw as the sun crests the Colorado mountain ridge I breathe in the earthy pine air.  Pour another cup of coffee.  Wait for my family to wake up.  An hour from home, our weekend away to the mountains delightful and restorative in the fragrant woods of the West.

Mountains and Ditches

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I read an excerpt that asked the reader, “What would the title of your life be.”  I thought about it for a moment.  My life has been up and down.  My circumstances have dictated that I am either in the depths of despair face down in a ditch or atop most beautiful and inspiring mountain.  “That’s it!” I thought, Mountains and Ditches; the Story of an Eclectic Life! 

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This recent ditch was a doozy, as we pulled ourselves out of the muck and pulled our faces over the edge we could see the most beautiful mountain we have climbed yet.  My, the awe inspiring view was spectacular.  Here we are making our ascent through thick woods that impede our view but that are keeping us safe and comforted with sounds of bird song and a meandering path dotted with pieces of wisdom.  Around each bend are people that we know, oh so many of them, all with outstretched hands.  Coffee cups and meals are gifted and shelter and encouragement put in our pack.  Pieces of the path lining up here and there as we focus on our journey through the pines, the occasional barb grabbing at us but then the fresh air and life leading us forward.

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We turn a bend and someone helps my husband try to get a job, puts in a word, makes a recommendation, or simply utters a prayer for us.  We come across a stream and the crystal clear waters glisten and refresh.  We celebrate when I get offered a job at the library that works around my hours with the baby.  We walk on and enter a meadow.  A vast field of warmth and sunflowers and there are our friends willing to build us a shelter, one we can keep, and we are so overwhelmed and blessed that tears of joy water our view as we sit to rest on this mountain.

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A letter in the mail brings ever more tears to our eyes with generosity that we did not expect but sorely needed.  The stars twinkle overhead and occasionally the wind howls with threats from the ditch below but we turn our faces to the stars and keep walking up our new mountain.  The mourning dove still sounds her song but glimpses of the eagle soaring overhead bring us peace and smiles.  It’s been so sweet to see so many of you around bends and trees.  Thanks for journeying with us.  May your mountain be filled with sweet birdsong and fresh air today.

Setting Yourself Free (Part 5- Letting Go and Dreaming New)

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I have written many times about how to manifest your dreams.  Write them down, set a goal list, talk about them, and watch them turn into reality!  It is a science.  It works.  What I haven’t written about is what happens when that dream comes true then gets taken away?  How do you restart?  How do you manifest a new existence when the circumstances are being laid out for you.

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Someone responded on my blog post Sunday that they hope I find what I am looking for.  That bothered me all day because I did find what I was looking for!  I am living on my homestead!  I had trouble putting the hand clothes washer for sale.  What if I need it?  Folks, I haven’t used it in two years!  BUT, what if I get my off grid homestead and don’t have a washer?!  Things to think about, people.  I put it up for sale anyway.  I know we have nesting instincts and want to be prepared and all, but I am starting to look around and realize I am prepared to have a dinner party for seventy-five people! I have three tables, cupboards of dishes, closets of clothes when we only wear a few outfits, and things we just do not use.

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We went walking in Castlewood Canyon yesterday.  A miraculously beautiful and peaceful place, it balms the soul and brings calm with its breathtaking features.

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Doug and I talked and then fell into silence.  We would bring up ideas, then fall into silence.  For an hour we walked, sat, dreamed, talked.  This homestead isn’t really what we wanted after all.  If we are going to live thirty feet from someone on a homestead they need to be likeminded folks.  We also talked about how the most devastating part is behind us.  The loss of our animals was difficult and the death of our dream was too.  But now as each thing leaves the house, as we sell off one more piece of furniture, fill one more bag for charity, sell one more pile of things, we are beginning to feel something we really have never felt, liberated.  We are daring to dream of another existence.

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Perhaps I can speak at herb conferences.  Perhaps we can be so light on possessions that it is nothing to pick up and head around the country writing about farms.  Or visiting friends.  We are free.  We need to get a backpack.

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For the next 18 months or so I am going to step back from my ego.  Seek out teachers for herbalism and Permaculture and whatever else the wide world thinks I ought to learn.  Guitar lessons, continue my wine classes, who knows?  Improve my art and maybe get my things in a gallery?  Or just enjoy homesteading with my co-homesteading compatriots.  I want to be more quiet, more helpful, more creative.  There are wine bars, and restaurants, and ice cream shops all down the strip near our new home that beckons to be tried out.  Each and every one.

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I will be with my husband.  My closest friend.  I could walk with him forever.  What do we need with all these possessions?

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A lot of folks right now have had major transitions or on the brink of them.  Maybe take a little time today to write down what you would like to do (or not do) in the next year.  Then gather up a bag for charity and let some things go.  Let us let ourselves go.

The Forever Farmgirl (keeping the faith, new beginnings, and the ongoing homestead)

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I wonder if life thus far has been preparing us for this.  Doug and I love bed and breakfasts.  We travel when we can and see as many as we can.  We even considered opening our own.  We lived through the coldest winter of our lives and came out stronger and loving the sun even more.  We have been practicing and perfecting every homestead skill we can think of in order to be more self reliant and to encourage others to do the same by teaching these skills.  We have amazed even ourselves by being able to grow food in the harshest of situations, on gravel driveways, and in discarded buckets.  We can split wood, take care of animals, make and grow our own food, preserve, and have learned that we really want to live very simply.

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My herbal business has changed and morphed over the years as has my knowledge and what I want to do with it.  I was able to sell my business and grow my herbal school.  The women in the course this semester have brought out so much in me that I was afraid to teach before for fear of scaring folks off!  I am teaching herbs to not only heal physical ailments but also mental, emotional, and spiritual as well in order to achieve a more balanced life and a new level of health and inner peace.  Teaching folks how to tap into their intuition and personal strengths has made teaching all the more valuable to me.  I changed the name of my school this year to the Homesteader’s Pharmacy School at Pumpkin Hollow Farm because there is a school in Boulder with a very similar name to my previous name, North American School of Clinical Herbalism.  But this, just as this final practice farm, was just a transitional name.  The new name of my Herbalist School is going to be Sacred Owl School of Original Medicine and will teach students how to not only know how to handle physical ailments, but how to use intuition and other means of holistic knowledge to really help themselves and their loved ones.

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I sometimes forget in the midst of intense heartache and changes that worrying is really quite useless, that the universe works in amazing ways and the Creator always helps guide.  Someone called me the other day and signed himself and his wife up for the fall Herbalist Course.  He didn’t care where we were moving, they would drive there to take the class.  When I asked how he heard of me he said that a woman in a grocery store gave them my information.  So many things are coming together without my knowledge or help that I cannot help but be astounded and amazed at how this life works when one is able to step back and look in from a new perspective.

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I will always be a farmgirl.  Doug and I will always have a homestead, whether it be in the middle of Denver, or in the beautiful mountain town of Cascade.  We love this lifestyle too much to attract any other kind of lifestyle.  Our life will reflect our greatest desires.  We will always teach.  That is my greatest gift and passion.  The possibility on the horizon pertains to a possible purchase of a three story Victorian bed and breakfast by friends that would be turned into a holistic bed and breakfast, meeting center, retreat center, and working homestead with classes.  The four of us have the right skill sets to be a power house team.  Goats would still be milked, chickens fed, organic gardens would fill the property.  Yoga, spiritual retreats, delicious food, tea on the large southern style porch, a cabin in back for us to live in complete with artist’s loft.  A dream come true?  We will see! Our fingers are crossed and breath held.  But we must exhale and inhale the wisdom that all things work together to bring us what we most desire and to help us to help as many people as possible.  We have each other and no matter where we end up it will be just right!

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Farmgirlschool is alive and well.

The overwhelming number of responses and emails and phone calls have been very heartening for us.  Thank you for your support, prayers, and encouragement.  We are excited about what is on the horizon!

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A Field Trip to the Hot Springs

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The mountains were alight with the glow that only comes from thick blankets of snow.  An illuminant feel to the air, light and free, while whipping through the valleys of highways to get to our destination.  We had escaped.

We didn’t get as much snow as everyone else and we figured if we could get through the drift on the driveway and if the dirt road had been plowed it would smooth sailing up the roads to the mountains.  The two hour drive was beautiful, the glistening snow fresh and the roads were not treacherous as we had feared.  We were on our way to the Indian Hot Springs in Idaho Springs, Colorado.

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So often folks think of Glenwood Springs as the hot springs of the mountains but this beautiful respite is often overlooked.  The priest at my parish when I was a child, Father Weibel, would take my siblings and I to the hot springs for fun.  It was always exciting and we would end the outings with a stop at the A&W, now a Barbeque joint.  We have taken our children to the hot springs since they were small and have enjoyed many a stay here for birthdays and anniversaries.

You would have to live in an old homestead to think it the Ritz, but the quaintness and the rusticity of the place is endearing and a lovely, peaceful getaway.  We stayed in a room in the main building.  The ones across the street are complete with full baths and such but they remind me of a motel and I rather enjoy the idea of staying in ancient rooms with push lights, windows with views up the mountains and wood paneling.  Presidents likely stayed in these rooms.  They have half baths but if you are swimming in the lovely hot springs the whole time, who needs their own shower?

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Thanks to the snow storm, many guests had cancelled so we had the pool to ourselves twice during our visit.  The temperature was so cold outdoors that under the greenhouse canopy of tropical plants steam rose up from the lagoon-like pool creating a feel of stranded island and romance.  It was heavenly and warm, the hot mineral springs loosening my aching shoulders from too many hours of typing.  In passionate embrace we took in the smells of soil, the large palm trees tucked under the corrugated roof with condensation dripping lightly into the warm water.  The only sound was from the gush of searing hot water coming from one end and the light wading of water from our fingertips.

After nearly thirty years of going to this beautiful holiday spot, I recommend that you go on weekdays and avoid weekends and holidays as it gets very crowded.  A random Tuesday or snowy Sunday night will find you mostly alone.  There are caves and clothing optional, gender specific areas, which we haven’t ventured to yet only because we like swimming together.  They have a package for $109 for the night Sundays through Thursdays which includes unlimited access to the pool and caves, an overnight room, and a $25 gift certificate to a choice of four restaurants for dinner.  A wonderful price for a wonderful place for escape!

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The Magical Homestead (and spreading positivity)

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We have moved to the most beautiful place on Earth, I am certain.  I feel overwhelmingly blessed to have been given such a gift.  It is a different world out here.

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The certain way the prairie hills undulate and the distance from neighbors makes it feel very much like we are alone out here, the sky seems to fall at a curve leaving us to believe we are ever in a snow globe.

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The chickens are snug in their warm coop and the goats look like abominable snowmen with their thick fleece.  The views from their pens are utterly graceful and lovely.

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I have found myself wanting to stay in this marvelous time capsule forever.  To breathe in fresh air and hear nothing but wildlife rustling in the brush.  Snow shaking softly from trees.

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Today we are taking a little trip though.  A ride through the mountains to our favorite hot springs in Idaho Springs.  Just a daytime jaunt.  A bit over a year ago my favorite graduating class gave me a gift certificate there and I can’t wait to feel the warm mineral waters on my skin.

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The world has seemed a mite colder as of late.  So much negativity.  Today won’t you join me and consciously put out solely positivity into the social media world and in your meetings with people?  How many compliments shall we give unbidden?  I think I will give four to strangers.  The world is a wonderful place, let us add to the magic and spread joy.

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(Doug captured some beautiful scenes in our yard, don’t you think?)

 

Transition, Exhaustion, and God’s Great Canvas

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We are moving to our dream house.  This is the scene looking across the goat pens and chicken coop.  It is breathtaking and inspiring.

We are so very tired, I’m afraid.  We have been taking loads out to the new house every day along with our regular farmer’s markets, farm chores, and household chores, and fixing up the new house.  I have great muscles I haven’t seen in some time and even though we are fatigued, we can see the end of the our current transition.

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The end of this transition has been a long year full of more friend’s passings and animal losses (another friend and my favorite cat this week) and this year has been ever so arduous.  It has been full of fantastic joys though as well.  Like being able to watch Maryjane so much and having such a close little bond with her.  Like finding the exact homestead we prayed for.  Our son getting married, and our daughter graduating.  Watching them all work and grow up and find their passions, healthy and beautiful children.  The homestead angels that have come to our rescue out of the blue.  Friends that have taken time to come help us paint.  To help us move a load or two to the new house.  To help us finish tasks that have us exhausted.  To come teach us how to use our stove.  Our friends are many and we are so blessed.

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I am looking forward to being able to sit on this bench, perhaps with a cup of coffee and a writing book, or maybe a sketch book, and exhale.  To look out upon this amazing canvas and breath in the beauty and rest quietly and whisper words of thanks.