Before You Give to a Charity (really helping those in need)

homeless

‘Tis the time of year for charities.  To give to those less fortunate.  To share some of our blessings.

We often gave money to organizations that helped the homeless.  Then we became homeless ourselves after losing our rented farm.  We opted not to go on welfare, but rather to work very hard to get jobs and get back on our feet.  About this time two years ago we were out of money and hungry.  You can only eat so many dollar burritos from Taco Bell with found change.  We looked into getting a food basket from a local charity that distributed them.  I didn’t have a coat, I was freezing.  We were really struggling and not a single organization could or would help us.  They gave everything to the “poorest” in the county.  Well, you couldn’t have been poorer than us at that moment.  You have to work pretty dang hard to be the poorest in the county.  You have to get on welfare and food stamps, and you can’t try to find work or you would lose your pay out every month.  No thanks.

Then we have the homeless organizations that we gave to.  Those are intended to serve the perfectly able folks with signs-who make more money than anyone I know- on the corners of busy streets.  We did a farmer’s market for years in a park that was popular with the homeless.  They stole, took drugs in the park, excitedly went and got free food from the food kitchen, and had no desire to change their lives.  Or they wouldn’t be homeless anymore.  It was a lifestyle they chose.  They were the first to admit it.  And that really surprised us.

Now, this all sounds a little harsh, but let me be clear, there are people out there that need your help.  They just don’t have cardboard signs and are working hard to try and make it.  They are the elderly on your block who would love company and a meal with someone.  It’s the single mom who can’t afford new coats for her swiftly growing children.  It’s the friend at work whose wife is sick and they need help with meals and cleaning the house but would never ask.  There are people all around you who could use a bit of charity and mercy and help.

Only a few cents goes to the people large charities serve.  If you were to just look around you could have a much more powerful impact, make a personal connection, and strengthen the community you are in.  I will forever be grateful to my old neighbors who showed up at my shop with a box of home canned food, squash, a winter coat, and a hug.

Before you write a check to a big charity, look around and see if anyone near you could use a little holiday help.  We all need a little help here and there.

(Thank you to all of our friends that pitched in back then with money, a place to stay, a dinner, and hugs.  We never imagined we would have been in that situation.  Amazing how much can change in such a short time. We are really grateful for all we have now.)

 

How to Make Kombucha (and Home on the Range)

We drove out past Elbert to our friends’ house and arrived on their doorstep just as it started to rain.  The turkey followed to see what we were up to.  One of her pups had gotten into the calf pen but couldn’t get out.  Her other sweet dog snuggled up to the wood stove in their large dog house.  Two calves lay under a tarp trying to gather strength.  Two were in the field jumping in the rain.  One had died earlier that day.  Mud started to form around the ranch.  Evening had come.

Inside, the house was filled with children squealing by, grown ups gathered in the kitchen, beers being passed out.  Neighbors dropping by, laundry on the couch waiting to be folded, chili on the stove, laughter in the air, farm life.  While Doug entertained the kids with his juggling act, Alli showed me how to make kombucha.

This was important because Doug and I have gotten somewhat addicted to the stuff and at three dollars a bottle (x2 every day), it was high time I learned.  What is kombucha, you ask?

Jpeg

Kombucha is a sweetened, fermented tea beverage that has been around and has been enjoyed for over 2000 years.  It contains a SCOBY (a Symbiotic Colony Of Bacteria and Yeast) or mother, much like vinegar.  And like vinegar it contains about .06% alcohol.  Quite negligible.  The mother looks like a mushroom and contains probiotics used to detoxify and aid the digestive system and other organs.  It contains glucosamine which helps with joints and the skeletal system.  (Any good thing undergoes scrutiny in the US, pestering from authorities, and non-sense speculations, but as in herbalism, anything that has healed for thousands of years is good enough for me.)  I feel better, more energetic, and healthier when I drink the stuff.  Alli taught me to make a gallon at a time.

  • Boil 3 1/2 quarts of water
  • Add one extra large tea bag and one cup of sugar.
  • Turn off heat and let tea brew until it is at room temperature.
  • In clean gallon container add 2 cups of reserved kombucha.
  • Pour in tea.
  • Separate SCOBY on a clean plate with clean hands and place part in friend’s new batch, and in her own new batch.  You only need to separate it when it is over 1/2 inch thick or when friends come by seeking mothers. (She started hers by using a live bottle of kombucha from the store and let it sit in the tea mixture for three weeks.)
  • Let sit for 5-7 days on counter with cheesecloth secured over opening.
  • Every week, brew a new batch and add the reserved 2 cups and move SCOBY over to new gallon jar.

With finished kombucha, place in a jar 3/4 full and add frozen fruit, lemons, or ginger…anything that sounds delicious and let sit on the counter for three days until carbonated.

After that made we wandered downstairs to see the baby turkeys.  Alli picked up one of the little birds to show us.  Round the clock bottle feeding calves, endless chores and housework, she smiled, “It’s a lot of chaos, but we’re having a great time.”

A January Weekend

woodland park

Saturday shone bright and warm, full of tall snow capped mountains and warm, piercing sun that filled us with light.  We headed to Woodland Park for a winter market.  We haven’t been there since Nancy passed away and since we were the 5 Farmgirls.  I was surprised by the outpouring of support and joy in seeing us again.  We went as Pumpkin Hollow Farm and Garden Fairy Apothecary.  Each market worker hugged me as I came in.  Folks stopped by the table and recognized me.

woodland

“You’re the goat lady!” one gal said.

I wasn’t sure if she was remembering me or Nancy.

She said, “You used to come with your sister!”  Sister, yes, just not biological.

Farmgirls Color cropped

It was me that she meant because her son came over to the table and when she asked if he remembered me he replied enthusiastically, “Yes, she’s the goat lady!”  He remembered when I would bring the baby goats on a leash and let kids bottle feed them.  It left an impression and he was excited for this year’s goats to come to the market.

IMG_0679

It was good to be back and we look forward to the remaining winter markets and this summer Emily and Maryjane will be joining me once again at the Woodland Park farmer’s market.

IMG_0658
Sunday was a lovely day as well.  We taught a soap making class and friends came to visit.  Our Broncos did not win their game but Maryjane filled the disappointment with laughter.  She is full of fun and hugs and surprises.  Dressed in her Bronco best, she makes the most darling cheerleader.  She sat on the couch hooping and hollering next to Papa with a kitten on her lap.

IMG_0659

The snow began to fall thick and blanketing as we came home last night from dropping Maryjane off with her mother.  This morning a foot of snow lay glittering and peaceful across the expanse of space.  Doug was insistent that we could make it to Elizabeth for him to work at the coffee shop so we did our best to get out of the driveway only to get stuck in a snowdrift a mile down the road.  Our neighbor’s son came along and helped us out and we toddled back to the house ready to embrace the snow day at hand (which means housework and taxes but maybe a bit of reading and relaxing will take place too!).

IMG_0660

I am warmly humbled by old friends and acquaintances, reliable, friendly neighbors, and wintery weekends mixed with sun and snow.  Back in my snow globe away from the world I am warm and comforted by winter’s encompassing embrace.  Back to the garden books with a cup of hot chocolate I go.

 

Ten Things You Should Know When Moving to a Small Town

kiowa library

We  live in a small town in Colorado.  Actually three small towns act as one community out here.  Elizabeth is the first town where our shop was and where the most stores are.  More and more hoity toity houses are being built on the outskirts but the town is still holding its own charm and friendliness.  Head seven miles east and you will find our quaint town of Kiowa which has more friendly people than Santa’s Workshop.  Population 750.  A lot of that population lives in the mobile home park lovingly referred to as the Trailer Park.  No one cares where you live out here.  No one looks down on you, whether you live in a trailer, forty acres, or a cute rental on 2/3 of an acre.  Nine miles south of us is Elbert.  Another tiny town full of nice folks.  I could not imagine moving back to Denver where I grew up.  Small towns are the way to go.  Everyone knows your business, but they also know where your kids are at all times, if you need help, and are often your best cheerleaders.  Now if you are ready to move to a small town (or if you already live here, you can just read and nod your head) here are some things you should know.

baby deer

1. If an oncoming car flashes their lights at you it doesn’t necessarily mean that a speed trap is ahead, it usually means there are deer about to or crossing the road.  Slow the truck down.

2. Chickens outnumber squirrels here.

SAM_0806

3. A rooster crowing is lovely ambience.  Do not move here and complain about people having livestock.  We all moved to the country so we can have farm animals.

4. Do plan an extra hour per errand.  It is fun going into the bank, the library, or the grocery store and stopping in each aisle to chat with folks you know.

gun

5. When I first moved here, my only viewing of a gun was the one that I saw on my dad’s hip before heading to work (he is a sheriff).  Here, you might trip over one in the kitchen at the neighbor’s house, or have to move one out of the way to put your drink down, or find a few rifles lined up in their kid’s room.  (I’ll never forget when I saw my future son-in-law, Bret, carrying a ginormous black shotgun (or some kind of big gun).  “Is that real??” I exclaimed.  The look he gave me was of concern as he nodded yes and wondered if I lived under a rock or something.  I don’t think Maryjane is going to have many boyfriends.)

6. As a long, long time vegetarian (who may have recently slipped) be prepared for your friend’s cute little animals to possibly make an appearance on the table.  It takes a bit of getting used to.

7. Be prepared to know everyone at church.  Lots of people are religious here, but no one will try to convert you. You can do what you want.

8. Some of my friends really do drive around with a beer in the console.  This is probably not recommended though.

9. Be prepared to meet the best people you could imagine and have better relationships and connections once you get out of the city.  Be prepared to listen to old timer’s fascinating stories in the local saloon about what the town used to be like.

plains

10. Because it is Christmas time, I’d like to add a footnote.  If you intend to move to a small town in Colorado, don’t expect snow everywhere (unless you are in the mountains).  There are a lot of misconceptions out there like Denver is in the mountains (not true) and that we wade through snow all year.  We have roughly a handful of snows and they melt the next day.  We rarely have a white Christmas but rejoice when we do!

xmas

Saying Merry Christmas in a small town is not only acceptable but encouraged.  So Merry Christmas Y’all.  Thanks for reading!