Heading Home (moving back to our favorite place)

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There are things we have really missed since moving out to this homestead in Calhan.  We miss the people of Elbert County.  We are there quite often for this or that, our bank is there, our daughters work there, but we are also far away.  I love going to the grocery store and it taking two hours because I know someone in every aisle and stop and visit with them.  I love knowing everyone in a restaurant.  The ladies at the bank ask how the kids are.  I miss the smiling faces of the girls at the library.  I love Elbert, Kiowa, and Elizabeth and their shared camaraderie and all the people they hold.

Our wonderful, long-time friends are letting us move into their guest room this week.  We will be two blocks from our friend who has sweet Isabelle the goat.  Back in a small town where we can walk to the convenience store and the library, take in the sunrises, and wave to folks walking by at dusk.  A place to garden and a place to paint.  Friends to laugh with.

We are heading home.

Being Set Free (a thrilling week long adventure)

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We are strong believers in karma, whatever you put out will come back, usually ten fold, and we watch ourselves pretty closely.  We really try to put out only positive and happy vibes.  So this came as such a shock to us.  We were so friendly, put so much work and money here, why did we lose so much?  It’s laughably ironic that I write about and that we went from so close to self reliance to completely reliant.  Completely.  Reliant.

As each thing leaves the house I am saddened as it feels that the memory is lost with it too.  Our trip to California, that sweet Christmas gift, antique shopping in Evergreen, our friendships, all walking out the door for practically nothing.  Of course those memories and people are still with me, in the literal or spiritual sense and as we unburden our existence with so many material things, we feel lighter.

And I wonder if the karma coming to us is not bad, it’s a gift.  It’s good.  I have written about our day in the life of a homesteader, and our businesses, and our to-do lists.  They exhaust my friends just reading them.  We are being set free from ourselves!

I am daring to imagine an existence where my morning starts the same, with coffee on the porch with my cat, and writing, but then doesn’t turn into a frenzy of trying to keep up.  In this little cottage we do not need 500+ preserved food items to be put up.  We do not need to chop 4 cords of wood.  We do not have to milk twice a day.  We do not have to make enough money to feed all the hungry farm animals.  We do not have to make cheese and soap and lotion and try to find the strength to do yet another farmer’s market.  We are being set free.  So long have Doug and I worked sun up to sun down with businesses, committees, children, and homesteading.  We love it, but the idea of something different does intrigue us.  If I want to do those some of those things, I can.  If I don’t, then we can walk around town and find ourselves listening to live music in the park on Tuesday nights.  We are being set free.

We will be working on building a tiny house.  We will be co-creating beautiful, practically maintenance-free gardens, we will be teaching, but we will be doing it slowly and methodically in the middle of a town where we can find new teachers and friends and find each other in our honeymoon cottage.  What a gift.

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This week on this blog I would like to write about various ways to set ourselves free.  How to find a closer connection to Creator, mental and emotional releases, herbal teas for spiritual use, easy ways to strengthen the body, to bring back health, to bring on inspiration and to make some dreams start coming true, and just setting ourselves free from anything that weighs us down.  I hope you’ll join me!  It’s going to be a freeing week!

Farmgirl School Turns Two

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Time does scurry along, doesn’t it?  My second anniversary starting this blog came and went this week.  This blog has become a seamless beginning to my morning, an outlet to the world and new friends, and a way to share our crazy farm happenings.

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But a blog is nothing if it doesn’t have readers and I am always so humbled and grateful that I have readers.  Thank you from the bottom of my spiral scribbling, chicken hoarding, pumpkin growing heart.  It is always fun to look at the stats this time of year and see what numbers Farmgirl School has obtained.  495 followers (up 200+ from last year), 51,552 hits to my blog (up over 30,000!) and the three most popular blog posts of the year were Ten Things to Know Before Moving to a Small town, How Much is it to Have a Farm Animal, and A Visit to an Amish Home. 

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This last year was particularly eventful and you were with us every second with support and cheers of encouragement.  You learned about our journey to our first farm, dreamed with me about our invisible homestead, cried with me when my farm girl in crime and dear friend, Nancy died.  Then when our goat and other animals died too.  You were there when Maryjane turned one, when Shyanne graduated, when my son, Andy, got married, when the interns came, through the planning and skill learning of getting ready for God to grant our greatest prayer of a homestead, and the day we learned we had found one to rent, you cheered us on and sent congratulations!

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The world got smaller as I started writing to a fellow blogger and met her last week for the first time.  I have met some of my readers at farmer’s markets.  I have found a whole new set of friends and family as the spance of time and space shortened, friends around the world and the country, all from writing.

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I am so happy when I learn that I have inspired people to move to the country, pursue their dreams, become herbalists, get chickens, or that I am brightening the days of those that just want to laugh at our antics and remain where they are at!

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All these things have been a great gift to me.  I read an interview with the author of “The Alchemist” who talked about finding one’s true calling in life.  One true passion.  Not becoming a mommy, or a job necessarily, but what your one true purpose is.  It is the one thing that you do not have to fight, or think about, that comes completely naturally, that is a part of your very being.  Mine is to write.  I am a writer.  Every thought process and happening in my life floats across the screen in my mind as a blog post or poem, as a letter, in words.  A writer can write but is much more fulfilled when there are readers.

Thank you for sharing our life with us.  For following in our adventures and for letting me pursue my one true purpose.

Our Farmstead (a new chapter)

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The house smells faintly of wood smoke.  It is beautiful here.  Serene.  Earlier when taking my greyhound for a walk through the acres of tall grass, he startled a large owl.  It fled from a massive willow and swept overhead across the pasture, it’s long grey wings soaring.  The skyline is seemingly painted.  Such a sense of surreality to it all.  The sun rising over the prairie, those luminous mountain peaks, the glorious rose fire of sunset, the glittering city lights in the distance.   The night sky is dark and mysteriously layered.  There is space here for finding peace.  Space for finding self.

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Such an odd thing to move without one’s children.  Granted they are adults and don’t live at home anymore and I am a mere forty-two minutes away if one were counting (further from my son and daughter-in-law in Denver) but still quite accessible and a new era begins.  It has never been just Doug and I.

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As I walk up the long ramp of the deck to enter the house I feel as though I am walking up a dock, a sense of vacation permeates this place.  Entering through the door and into the warm kitchen, quaintly decorated, I feel as if I have rented a cabin for the weekend.  I may have to return home Monday.  But in fact, this is home.  What a wondrous thing.

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I don’t feel like this is a farm.  In fact, the idea of having a farm exhausts me.  This past year I attempted to grow enough vegetables for market, to start a CSA for milk and vegetables.  To sell dozens of eggs.  I could only grow enough food for us.  I only had enough milk for our use and for making cheese.  The chickens went on strike.  Interns are no longer in my future.  I like my space too much.  I will continue to teach classes.  I will have friends over for tea.  I will grow enough for us, have another milker to sell fresh goat’s milk next year, and now that the chickens are penned up in an eight food high large coop and yard, I should be able to locate their eggs!  No, I do not want a farm.  This is a farmstead.  A homestead with farm animals and a large garden.  It is a place to sustain ourselves and to teach others how to do the same.  A place to find inspiration and joy.  New memories to come.  Our farmstead, our homestead, our new place is here.  I can hardly believe I am not dreaming.

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.

The Magic of Soap and Paint

Here are some before and after pictures of our new homestead.  I will post pictures after I have finished decorating as well once we move in.  One doesn’t need much to make an old, dilapidated looking house look fresh and inviting…like home.  A bucket of soapy water, a few gallons of paint, and some friends can make an amazing difference!

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A few more pictures…

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We decided to leave the bedroom green.  It is lovely and serene.

We decided to leave the bedroom green. It is lovely and serene.

This bathroom was dark brown and took two full hours to clean!

This bathroom was dark brown and took two full hours to clean!

Tomorrow we transfer a truck load of medicinal herbs and fix fencing.  Two week countdown….

 

 

Making and Canning Juice (and moving box fun)

We were gifted three boxes of apples, a windfall from our friends’ tree.  After putting up eight jars of sliced apples, nine jars of applesauce, and drying a load of apples, I still had a box and a half.  Doug and I go through a fair amount of juice and organic juice is not cheap y’all.  Here’s how to make delicious juices from windfalls, purchased boxes of fruit, and/or frozen fruit to keep all winter.  It’s ridiculously easy.

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Load up a large pot 2/3 full of fruit.  I sliced apples in half (I did not even bother to core them, I just made sure they didn’t have bugs in them!) and did one batch of just apple.  The second batch I threw in the contents of the partial bags of frozen fruit in the freezer.  Cranberries, raspberries, and a few strawberries joined the mix, adding their own festive color.  A couple of cinnamon sticks and a cup of brown sugar for fun went in as well.  Fill the pot to a few inches from the top with water and boil lightly for two hours.  Pour into clean quart jars, wipe the rims off, replace the lids and place in a large pot with water covering the jars.  Boil for 10 minutes.  Add 1 minute per 1000 feet above sea level.  I boiled for 17 minutes.

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Once the lids seal, mark them and place them in the pantry.  They are good for at least two years and you didn’t waste a single fruit!

On another note, we are busy packing and getting ready to move to our new homestead.  I had to share a few pictures Doug snapped of the moving box fun going on at our house.  There is either a baby or a cat or both in various boxes.  I guess they want to make sure we take them!

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Our Homesteading Journey (what we have learned, what we still need to learn!)

We always called this our practice farm.  The place we would learn valuable homesteading skills while still living in town so that when our homestead came forth we would know a great deal before diving in head first into a cold winter with a wood stove.

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Things we have learned on our Practice Farm:

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1. We learned that chickens are not as scary to take care of as previously expected.  In fact they are easier than cats and dogs to care for.  They also add amazing amounts of entertainment to the yard and many a good meal of delicious eggs.

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2. We are able to farm anywhere.  Even in a sandy, weed covered plot in town with extremely expensive water.  A piece of land that sits at over 6500 feet above sea level and where not many folks are crazy enough to farm.  Those of us that do around here hold a remarkable bond.

3.  We can survive running our own business.  If we are passionate, glean bills like mad people, and keep a simple lifestyle, we can live on quite a little sum.

4. We can provide almost all of our own food with a little help from our friends.  We now can over five hundred items to eat over the winter.  We pay half the price of the health food store and support local farmers and ranchers by purchasing humanely raised meats.We can buy from local farms what we do not produce.  This year we produced a good portion of our food supplying all vegetables for summer and into fall and some to can for winter.  In the summer we also dine on fresh eggs and homemade cheese from our own goat’s milk.

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5. We learned that we have an addiction to goats.  They are like outdoor puppies, full of fun and lots of affection.  And they give delicious milk for heavenly cheese.

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6. We are no longer afraid of hoards of bees.  10,000 bees is actually quite quaint and awfully fun to watch work.

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7. Ducks are a hoot.  Perhaps not very practical though.

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8.  We are able to sustain tremendous loss.  Losses and deaths of friends, financial losses, losses of beloved animals.  Losses of bits of ourselves and somehow come out a bit stronger, if not weepier, and hold them close in our hearts.

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9.  Grandchildren are the best healing agent.  They simply make life brighter and more colorful (particularly when they write on the walls).  Graduations, weddings, and family make life very rich.

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10. We could never go back to the city.  We actually exhale as we enter the open prairie.

11.  The most important thing we have learned on this journey is that if you write out and put out to the world your desires, the universe conspires to put everything in place so that you may have it.  Be careful what you wish for but prepare to be blessed!

Things we will be learning on our new Homestead:

I cannot believe that everything we asked for came true.  A small, old house (1905) with the square footage we requested (850 square feet).  A wood cook stove, a well, a pantry, two bedrooms, a chicken coop, goat pens, places to walk with the goats, a view (of Pikes Peak was my exact request and I am quite close to it).  A large fenced garden, close to a small town but not terribly far from the city (in case of momentary lapses in judgment whereupon we find ourselves gorging on fondue and seeing a mediocre movie) and a great library district.  Doug wants to be near a place to shoot pool and a good breakfast joint (I guess I can’t say that in Colorado anymore; I mean restaurant).

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1. First and foremost we better figure out the wood cook stove.  It takes wood and coal.  Where does one get coal?  How much do we need?  What the heck is a damper?  Am I going to freeze to death?

2. Doug will be mastering the art of chopping wood (hello lumber jack!) and hauling mass amounts of water.

3.  Many skills I do not know I need that I will inevitably need and which you, my dear reader, shall be the first to learn along with me.  What a journey we are heading on!  So glad you are with us.  We will be moving our name and sign to our new homestead.

Welcome to The Cottage at Pumpkin Hollow Farm…

Surprise Fall Crops, Moveable Gardens, and the Moveable Farm

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I planted seeds every couple of weeks until mid-July in rows where the seeds didn’t germinate or after crops were harvested.  In the long rows where I had harvested garlic I had planted snow peas, radishes, carrots, beets, and pattypan squash.  Then I forgot that I planted them!  So, imagine my pleasant surprise when I came across a row of delicious radishes crowning from the soil and happy pea shoots waving at me.

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It pays to get an extra seed packet of spring crops and plant them later so that you get doubled the harvest of vegetables.  It doesn’t cost much, there seems to always be an open foot of row here and there and maybe you will forget and then be surprised.  I do know that many of the fall crops I planted, like the turnips and chard, did not come up.  I am sure the birds had a lovely lunch.

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Two Christmases ago Doug bought me a huge cast iron cauldron.  I wondered what he was trying to tell me. (I had expected a large carved wooden bear to add to my collection, so imagine my surprise!)  It has stood on the porch since then only coming out to the yard on Halloween.  Wouldn’t want to give the neighbors the wrong impression.

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I decided to bring the cauldron out.  I planted pepper plants and herbs in it.  I always worried it would be too heavy to move once I planted in it.  It takes two men to move it empty.  It has holes in it already.  It makes a great planter.  Why not empty the soil out when it is time to move it?  It is a great planter, I should have used it earlier!

The landlords are selling the house.  We will be moving our farm.  We have told them we will be out by spring in order to give us some time to save enough money to move and clear some things out.  I will want to move all of my herb gardens to the new homestead.  Sometimes I feel panic come over me but then I remember that we put it out there that we wanted a homestead.  One much cheaper than this one, one with a wood stove and a well, a barn, places to walk.  It is coming!  I am excited to find it.