Divine Purpose Calling (and listening to yours)

There are ideas that come to mind that sound exciting and fun.  Things to try, to become, to do.  Most ideas are fleeting (like my wanting to become a chef), but sometimes an idea comes and puts down its coffee, puts up its feet, and stays.  It may have always been there.  It just doesn’t go away.  That is divine purpose.

I came across a project I did when I was about six or seven years old.  I wrote that I was going to be a teacher.  I stayed in for recess in first grade to tutor reading.  I lined my dolls up for school and took class pictures of them as I got older with my first camera with the 110 film.  I shifted between wanting to be a nurse or a teacher all through high school.  I accepted a modeling contract and started a family instead.  Then a dance company.  Then I became an herbalist, which richly satisfied my love of things holistically medical and healing.  And here I am.

I went to school when I was thirty.  I was going to be a teacher (after I got the crazy idea of being a music pastor out of my head).  Then I had to leave school to get a job and continue raising my kids.  I signed up again a few years later and dropped it before I could start.  Again a few years later.  Again a few months ago.  I get into my head the “what if’s.”  You know these?  What if I can’t even keep a job?  What if I won’t like it?  What if I will be too old?  What if I am not smart enough?  What if I don’t get as much time with my granddaughters?  What if it bankrupts me?  The what if’s get more preposterous as they go.  (“But you do teach,” people remind me.  I want to teach in a college setting though.)

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We all have a divine purpose.  In the book, Awaken the Spirit Within by Rebecca Rosen, the author describes our divine purpose as being an extension of God.  To show that infinite, beautiful love and care upon everyone placed in our path and to master the lessons we came here to learn.  Some paths or careers will place us in a way that we can do that better.  For me, I have a great love of late teen, early twenties aged young people.  I love their spirits, their ideas, their newness.  At my granddaughter’s birthday party, there were probably twenty or more of this age group and I always (and am often called Mama) feel like a mother hen to them.  I love them.

I recall well the teachers I have had over my life who for one reason or another did not like me.  They were horrible and did everything they could to sabotage me.  I also remember each person that took time out of their life to help mentor me or to encourage me.  That is the person I want to be in other’s lives.  That is what I can really excel at.  That is my divine purpose.  To be able to see the best in students (especially those brave enough to go to college to pursue a dream), to be able to help instill confidence and encourage them sets them up to succeed and therefore fulfill their divine purpose better.

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Last year and the beginning of this year were tough emotionally because I have been holding onto the past.  I had become very angry that so many out of state and city people had moved into my beautiful small town- the only place I have ever felt like was home- and drove up the prices so high that many locals were forced to leave.  I go visit my daughter and- I kid you not- get about run off the road by an Audi or BMW every dang time.  I miss the slow trucks of ranchers.  I miss the scenic vistas pre mini-mansion.  I miss my town.  I have been bitter that I don’t have a business with my daughter anymore.  I loved being with her.  I loved having a shop with her.  I loved being a full time herbalist.  But, things change.

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Just as my front yard was rearranged yesterday with sixty plus mile an hour winds, my life is being rearranged.  And that is okay!  I asked myself, “Well, do you want to move back to Elizabeth?”  If that is really what I want to do, I can.  I answered myself sheepishly, “Well, no.  I love the climate here, and the people, and my house and my low mortgage payment.”  (Sometimes you have give yourself a talkin’ to.)  Do I want to start up an apothecary with Shyanne again?  I am exhausted thinking about it.  I see her every few weeks or so.  It’s not like I lost my child.  And this big beautiful future looms ahead, nudging me towards the next divine step.  I can be an herbalist, I can be a mother, I can be anything.  So, I signed up for school to be a teacher.  Now, y’all keep me accountable and don’t let me chicken out again!  I just know (hope) that I will be teaching college (in New Mexico) one day.

What ideas never leave you?  What is Spirit nudging you towards?  What do you need to release in order to move forward?  What is your dream?

 

 

Making Your Own Chili Powder and Cornmeal (from seed to plant to pantry)

Drying staples is a way to preserve the harvest and has been done, presumably, since the beginning of time.  Come autumn, at just about the moment that I think I cannot possibly water one more plant or can one more thing, frost is at the doorstep.  I gather in baskets the remaining produce and carry it to the still-warm kitchen.  There will be peppers.  And there will be corn that I purposely left too long on the stalk.

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The corn came in a humble seed package at the farmer’s market.  Aztec blue corn.  I love crowing Indian corn and usually it is for popcorn, but this one is specifically for, essentially, growing blue corn meal.  I pulled the husks over their heads, removed most of the silk, and hung them up to dry on a hook in the kitchen.

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If you have been following me for any number of years y’all know that my heart belongs to New Mexico.  The terroir is so familiar to me that I can identify a New Mexican wine or chile in a blind taste test.  My friend brought me back two large ristras from Taos, New Mexico to adorn our front porch when we first moved in.

I learned that the winds out here are fierce in the spring and Mother Nature likes to trim trees and clear out debris (like lawn chairs and stuff).  She got a hold of my ristras and shook ’em like nobody’s business.  Now, I have had a notoriously difficult time of growing peppers over the years.  But there in my paths, window boxes, and in rogue spots of the garden amongst herbs and zucchini were thriving pepper plants that she had planted from seed.  “Show off,” I muttered under my breath.  I sit there tending to each seed with exact care, squinting to read the backs of seed packets, and still failing and there goes Mother Earth, flinging seeds into the barren soil seven weeks before the last frost and coming out with amazing results.  I could learn a thing or two from her.

But then happy day, I am growing New Mexican chilies!  It turns out that this very spot of land that I reside on is nearly exactly like the land in New Mexico.  The same altitude, the same soil, the same elements of the places there I love.  Not like the farmlands just east of me, nor like the dusty plains west of me.  Right here, I have a little New Mexico-in-Colorado oasis.

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I am getting better at growing peppers and last year I brought in quite a few.  Last year was not a good growing year though.  In the spring the temperatures rose to a hundred degrees and hovered there straight through till frost.  The inconsistent watering didn’t help, and I got some kind of rot on the bottom of the peppers.  But I still managed to save some.  They sat on my cutting board on the kitchen counter up until yesterday.  They had all turned a lovely, passionate red and were dry.  Once chilies are dried, they lose that volatile oil that burns the heck out of your skin when you touch them, but still take care not to get the chili powder in your face or under your nails.

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Chop off the very top stem and using a sharp paring knife pull out the seeds.  Keep these because we are planting them in a few months!

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Throw the chilies in a food processor, coffee grinder, or other grinding mechanism.  I used the grain pitcher with my Vitamix.  I like my chili powder nice and fine.

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Normally I keep the New Mexican chile separate from the others but some of them had rotted so I didn’t have a lot.  I blended the Pueblo chilies with poblanos and the red chilies from New Mexico.  The taste is spectacular.  Hints of tomato and earth, smoky, not too hot, and better because it was from my own garden.  I sprinkle it on potatoes and everything else under the sun.

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As for the corn, use your fingernail to easily dislodge each kernel, taking care not to pull too much chaff in with it.  I put the seeds in a strainer with bigger holes.  As you shake, blow gently on the kernels and the chaff will blow out.  Place corn in blender or food processor and grind to a fine powder.  That earthy, corn flavor is great.  I used it in my pizza crust last night blended with regular flour.  Save one ear for planting this year!

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Growing, harvesting, drying, grinding, cooking with, saving seeds, planting- all these beautiful, ancient practices connect us with our ancestors and help us feel connected to the earth and our food.  Soon we will be in the garden again!

Have Dog, Will Travel

20171209_105230We spent the weekend in Taos with this fine fellow, who at three and a half months of age looks to be a small polar bear.  He was very popular.  Gandalf particularly loved it the last day we were there after we realized the shops were all dog friendly and he didn’t need his vest.  If he doesn’t have his vest on he gets a lot more cuddling.  That is what Gandalf does best.

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To register your pup as an emotion support dog simply go to a site like ESAregistration.org and sign them up, pay for the vest, and you can then bring your trusted friend around with you.  There are no requirements, no questions; simply upload a photo of your dog and who the handler is.  No one has ever questioned us and by law they can’t keep us from entering an establishment.  Gandalf may not be a seeing eye dog but he has his own work, spreading happiness to all he meets!

Taos was in all its holiday glory with the lights and bonfires in place.  The shops were dressed festive and the luminarias were lined across the rooftops and along the paths.  There is just something about New Mexico for me.  I cross the state line (now only two hours away) and I am in my own place of inspiration and peace.  As if the vibration of the rocks and trees and sagebrush match the frequency of my blood.  One day I will be there to stay.  But I am where I am supposed to be right now and a weekend away was good for the soul.

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It was a great opportunity to train Gandalf and he was worn out by the end of our trip.  He was a really good boy, except once!  I let him off the leash because we were about to play ball so he usually keeps his eye on the bright orange tennis ball but then something else caught his eye.  A giant tarp.  That covered the out of season swimming pool!  He ran onto it, like a giant trampoline he raced from one end to the other, his ears back, a big goofy smile on his face, until finally, two heart attacks later, Doug was able to yank him off the side.  No harm done, and hilarious to recall, but not so funny as I stopped breathing praying the tarp would hold that giant puppy!

Here are a few tips for traveling with your dog.

Get an emotional support dog registration or wait until summer when patios are open at restaurants.

Even with the vest, try to find a hotel that already accepts dogs.  (I highly recommend Blue Sky Resort if you are heading to Taos.)

We drove our mini-van so we could lay his bed out, food and water, and toys.  It was much easier to drive around with him!

Carry a baby bag with a bag of food, a quart of water, some treats, a toy, a few washrags, and a few plastic bowls.

Purchase a harness. When training my granddog (a crazy border collie/heeler) and now with my Great Pyrenees, a harness is a life saver!  They can’t pull, you have the leverage, and they know they have to be good kids once you put it on them!

Reward sitting, laying down, and any other good behavior with small treats.

Don’t get stressed out.  Just have fun with your companion!

20171208_131142Even small dogs can be Emotional Support Dogs.  Some dogs were not meant to hang out at home all the time.  Without company and things to do behavior problems arise.  And if you are going to have a puppy, may as well make him a friend and travel companion.  I am glad we decided to get dog!

Note: I must say that I am surprised at the number of nasty remarks I receive about this post (and mind you they will never see the light of day).  I want to make it quite clear that I still stand behind this post.  Did you know that a fully trained, recognized service dog will run between $25,000-$50,000?  There are many people that I know, from wheelchair bound to post-war PTSD, that need a service dog.  Having an emotional support dog is very valuable to many people.  My puppy is now over a year old, over a hundred pounds, and barks all the time, so he isn’t going with me anywhere more than the bank or dog park.  But he really helped me deal with fear and anxiety and if someone needs a support dog, then they should have one.  End of story.   

Farmgirl’s Pueblo Green Chile

20170926_153841I lift the spoon from the crockpot to taste and the aroma instantly transports me.  I close my eyes and I am in the plaza of Santa Fe.  I reopen them and I am in my kitchen in Pueblo.

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Here in Pueblo, Colorado they take their chilies as seriously as New Mexicans.  I am growing New Mexican red chilies in my gardens but to say that I prefer them would be fightin’ words in these parts.  I picked up Pueblo chili seeds for next year!

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The climate here is very similar to New Mexico and chilies grow great.  The Pueblo Chili Festival is taken as seriously as the State Fair.  Doug and I went and checked it out, took in the aromas of roasting chilies, and the many, many booths of salsas, ristras, and beans.  We brought home a basket of chilies, onions, garlic, and a big bag of local pinto beans.

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And then I made the best green chili of my life.  Here is the recipe!

Farmgirl’s Pueblo Green Chili

You will need 8 chilies.  I used 5 (supposedly) mild green chilies, 2 poblano, and 1 sweet pepper.  You can roast on the grill, in the oven, or on a gas stove top.  Use tongs to blacken the skin all around and then immediately place in a freezer bag.  The steam loosens the skin.

Brown half a pound of stew meat, cut up smaller, dredged in 3/4 of a cup of masa mixed with a little salt and pepper, in a few tablespoons of olive oil.  Put in crockpot.

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In same pan sauté with a little more oil 1/2 an onion.  Add to crockpot.

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Mince 6 cloves of garlic.

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To prepare chilies, scrape skin off with the side of a knife.  Slice open and remove seeds.  Cut up chilies.

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Add all to crockpot with 2 cups of diced, peeled tomatoes with juice (I was tired by then so I just opened one of the jars I already canned).

Add 3 cups of broth (I used my homemade corn and red chili broth)

1 T salt

1 ts pepper

2 ts oregano

1 ts cumin

Add 1/2 cup of beans.

Pour in rest of masa used for dredging.

Cook on low for 8 hours.  Sneak a taste every so often because it is so good.

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A cold beer and goat cheese cooled the heat from the chilies.  Fritos made it a little closer to Frito pie from New Mexico.  If you close your eyes you will find yourself basking in the sun in the plaza of Sant….um, I mean Pueblo!

The Front Porch

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Look what my friend, Alvin, brought me from New Mexico!  The porch is the welcoming committee of the home.  If it is cluttered with junk and trash, it will set the stage for what one would find in the home.  If it is plain and empty, it does not feel very welcoming.

My grandmother’s porch was the ideal porch to me.  When we would drive to her house I would look for the goose.  She had a goose planter on the railing that differentiated grandma and grandpa’s house from all the rest.  A trellis on the south side of the porch held bundles of bright trumpet vine and the porch swing tucked beneath was a sanctuary, a corner of enchantment.

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This is just the beginning  of our porch.  The ristras set the stage for the home.  My great love of the southwest, the brightly colored peppers show there is life and joy in the home.  A few chairs grace the porch now, but a trellis of trumpet vine and a swing will be added this spring.  A cool place to hide away with a book or a glass of sweet tea is an important aspect of any good front porch.

The Dance

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I can’t tell you how wonderful this conference is so far.  I am enjoying the beautiful mountain air and the many classes.  The classes on practical uses and materia medicas have been filled with mostly with information I already know but there is an amazing shamanic and spiritual use of herbs being taught and a charisma among the herbalists and healers that is truly healing and a balm to the spirit.  My spirit was broken the past few months.

When I get back I will start setting up my new shop in Elizabeth by the post office.  A friend of ours invited us to rent his walkout basement in Elizabeth.  He is a respected Native elder and I will learn much from him.  To stand on his land is to be totally immersed in wild medicinal plants.  A secret place.

The next half of my life will be a little wilder.  A few less decorating books and dinner parties and more walking in pine needles and watching birds.  Wild herbalism in my shop.  Something to meet the needs of every single person that walks in.  Powerful plant medicines and natural healing.  More quiet, less bills, more mindful, more learning, less stress, more herbs, less interference.

Now, my friends, I must don my owl wings and head to the Fairy Masquerade Ball.  Margie is less than excited but I can’t wait to dance.

And I’ll continue dancing…

Herb Conference, Owl Wings, and Store Fronts

Things are getting exciting around here now, Friends.  And word of our adventures is buzzing around town already.  Doug was stopped several times yesterday to find out about where we are going to live and about the store.  One couple stopped him at the grocery store and told him it was a good thing we didn’t buy that little house last week.  They live next door to it and the roof is about to collapse and the house is filled with asbestos!  Wow, close call there!  I will tell you next week where we are going to live.

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In the meantime, I am taking you on a field trip.  We are heading to Cloudcroft, New Mexico for the Traditions in Western Herbalism Conference tomorrow through Sunday.  I have applied to teach at this conference next year, but this year Margie and I are going to drive eight hours to the top of a mountain in my favorite state to learn all we can.  Some of the classes we are both interested in, such as Tree Medicine ,and Wound Management in the Field and at Home.  Some of them we differ on.  She’ll be taking Plant Saponins while I take an hour and a half herb walk through the desert.  There will be so many people to meet, and so much to listen to, and the scenery will likely breathe life back into me.  Doug starts his job today so he won’t be joining us.  I’ll miss him at the dance.  There is a Fairy Masquerade Ball and my friend made me wings for it!  Aren’t they amazing?

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This morning Margie and I are heading to a store front that I have had my eye on for five years but always thought it would be too expensive.  It is not.  It is in my price range, it is a great location in Elizabeth, and it is among friends.

So much going on but four days of mountain air and herbs will be just what I need to start moving full speed ahead when I get back.  Anyways, if you want to go to New Mexico with me, I’ll see you here Friday morning.  Margie and I leave at 3:30 am tomorrow!

Journey to Our First Farm-A Love Story (Part 2)

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We loaded the children up the first week of December in 2009 to find adventure and a new life in New Mexico.  I had already scouted out a few rentals in charming adobes for us and we were going to stay a week near the plaza in Santa Fe.  A week of rejuvenation is just what we needed.

As the snow fell softly outside the window, we sat in front of the kiva with its fire burning brightly and made a plan.  For me it involved a farm, a new life as an herbalist, and happy children living and playing in the land that we love.  For Doug, it was an effort to keep from crying or withdrawing.  He was still reeling from his final straw at the office.  Should he put his two weeks notice in?  Are they going to fire him?  What are we going to do?  He stressed and fought within himself the entire trip.  We weren’t sure if we could make it solely as herbalists.

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We had just completed our first summer of farmer’s markets on the weekends just for fun.  We had a small line of products that we had made and that worked for our family.  We didn’t expect them to take off the way they did and be so accepted at the Parker and Lone Tree Farmer’s markets.  It gave us hope.  Still, we didn’t have a huge clientele. (Partially because we forgot to put our phone number on the labels that first year!)  We had fallen in love with the herbals though and wanted it to be more of our life.

It had began simply enough.  A book on natural beauty.  Which led to herbal gifts, a class held at the local nursery.  Which led to picking up a book there called 101 Herbs that Heal by Tammi Hartung.  Which led to, “What?! That heals what?”  And the mission was on to learn everything I could about herbs.  Doug followed along.  He enjoyed the farmer’s markets and that we were helping people.  He learned through me.  I got a certification as an herbalist to offer some credibility to customers the year before.  We had a new career.  But one that really only made $200 a month outside of markets.

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Then the door closed.  On New Mexico anyway.  We received an email stating that there was a rather long waiting list for herbalists to get into the markets.  I wasn’t unique there.  I tried then to get my dance company into their schools as I had done in Douglas County.  Someone had beat me to it.  Then the clincher.  No one would return my calls about the rentals.  Not a single one.  We loaded the kids back up and headed back to our home we were about to lose.

“How about Elizabeth?” Doug asked.

“Elizabeth?” I responded.  (That’s not even close to New Mexico.) “Why there?”

Doug had grown up going to and working at a summer camp in Elbert (not far from Elizabeth) and had fond memories of the whole area.  It was only thirty minutes from where we currently lived and secretly he had not wanted to move so far away.

I was thumbing through a newspaper, actually looking for a job, when I came across an advertisement for a house in Elizabeth.  Four bedrooms, 2 baths, on a quarter acre.  I called.

I said kind of snottily, “Is your house still for rent?  I have nine cats.”

“Oh good, I love cats.  Yes, when can you move in?”….

Red Chile Sauce….yes please!

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When I first moved out of the house, I thought all things came packaged.  Oh wait, they did.  I bought all packaged food items.  I told my Aunt Donna that I loved alfredo sauce.  I told her a really good brand.  She said, “Oh, I just make it myself.  It is so easy and tastes better.”  I thought, ‘You can make alfredo sauce?’  And as the years rolled on…You can make bread?  You can make spaghetti sauce?  You can make all your own canned vegetables?  You can make your own gravy?  You can make your own red chile?  Now we’re talking.

Farmgirl’s Wanna Be in New Mexico on Vacation Red Chile

In a saucepan combine:

1/2 cup of red chile….this can be as mild or as spicy as you like.  I have a real mild chile powder from New Mexico that I use then add a teaspoon of chipotle powder.  Try using Mole, red chile with a bit of chocolate added, delicious!  You can buy powdered chile at the grocery store, health food store, or ethnic food stores.  (Note: look for red chile powder, paprika, etc. Not chili (with an “I”) powder.)

3 finely minced garlic cloves

1 teaspoon of cumin

2 teaspoons of oregano

A bit of salt and pepper (try smoked salt)

Pour one cup of water into the mixture slowly while whisking.  When well incorporated add another 3/4 cup of water.  Heat while constantly whisking over medium low heat until thickened and lightly boiling.

Store in canning jar in the refrigerator for a week or two.  Use as enchilada sauce, or drizzled over eggs, use to dip your homemade tortillas into, or as a base for soup!  The sky is the limit.  No more tasteless cans of enchilada sauce!

To Inspire a Farmgirl

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You thought the last place we went to was old!  The Puye Cliff Dwellings show the life of some rugged homesteaders!  900 AD-1600AD the ancestors of the Santa Claran people lived up on a mountain top in the summer in small rooms of one large building made of volcanic rock with a courtyard for dances.  They lived in the rock face in the winter.  The homes are extraordinary.  The people were farmers.  The altitude is the same as where I live.  There is no more complaining from me on the altitude or short growing season!  If they could do it, I can too.  They saved water in a pool.  Grew the Three Sisters that I have talked about, corn, squash, and beans.  They were raided by other tribes because they had vegetables!  Look at this amazing kitchen carved out of stone.  A thousand year old kitchen!  I cannot wrap my head around that.  But, I suppose my kitchen at home is not too small after all.  My stove is little easier to use than the one shown!

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I feel very blessed to have received this break.  Many of our farming grandmas would have had to take their break in the outhouse, find their inspiration while doing laundry.  To be able to come out to this glorious state and refuel is a gift.  I only needed to be inspired.  Lack of inspiration is a terrible thing for a right-brained person.  I can’t think of anything to cook, so we go out.  I can’t think of how to make the house feasible, so I try to move.  I can’t think of what to create, so I feel trapped and pout.  It ain’t pretty.  Here, I have stored up lots of vitamin D and a few years worth of inspiration.

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Everyone we tell that we are from Colorado says, “I love Colorado!”  “I wish I could live there!”  “I love Colorado, it’s just like here, only green.”  And then I realize, we all think the other side is greener!  The terrain is the same here as it is at home.  My love of here is the endless land without all of the building developement that haunts my state.  The adobe structures.  The people, the vegetarian chilis, the history!  But alas, we live in a wonderful place, surrounded by people we love.  That is where I belong.

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I am so inspired to get back home.  All doors closed on a homestead, so the one we have in town will have to do!  Doug flinches when I tell him all my plans as he despises change and would be happier if he just stumbled upon the house being completely rearranged.  The dining room is moving.  There is more room in the current dining room/living room and I need a place to paint and sew.  The art room and office are moving to the living/dining room and the dining room will be on the other side of the kitchen.  Space to create!  The shop is being slightly rearranged as well with my art being more prominent in the shop.  This piece of pottery inspired me to take up a little clay as well.

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It is time to set up the porches for outdoor living.  To get my seeds in the ground and the drip lines set up.  It is time to take the noisy teenage chickens out of the bathroom they are partying in and place them outdoors.  I was even granted permission from the town to have goats and sheep should I be so inclined.  So, the 2/3 of an acre homestead is on.  The Silly Chicken Farm remains and I can get back to writing about what I first set out to do.  Learn to be a farmgirl!  We’ll be home tomorrow!

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What refuels your inspiration?