Farmgirl Inspiration

Hello March, it’s nice to see you.  January and February can be the very hardest time of the year for farmgirls.  We have our gardens, our farms, our animals, our preserving, our home making, our crafting in the fall in anticipation for the holidays, we have our cooking, and our entertaining, and our pleasant fatigue.  Then there is January and February…hello March, it’s nice to see you!  Thank the Lord you’re back!

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Even though it is still cold and there is ice on the car and tomorrow it is going to snow, it is March and all things can come anew now, in my mind and in nature.  I have plans!  Oh glorious plans, and guess what?  I figured out a way to make them manifest.  My son texted me yesterday and said he would come help with the fencing.  I found an affordable way to get the outbuildings I wanted.  Yes, my gardens are about to take on some marvelous expansion and changes.

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Field fencing is a farmgirl’s friend because it is easy to put up and can be taken down if needed.  I am expanding the chicken yard.  I am fencing off another part of the backyard for a greenhouse, raised beds, and space for a rooster.  Doug isn’t thrilled we have a rooster.  But I think one in seven wasn’t bad!  I also have ducklings on order to pick up in April.  They are honest-to-god worthless (few eggs, eat ten times more than the chickens, are noisy, splash water everywhere), but dang, they are so cute!  The greenhouse will double as night quarters for the trouble makers and Captain the Rooster.  None of them can jump or fly up on things, so plants will be safe and the added humidity from the ducks’ water antics will create a nice space.  (Did I mention my husband doesn’t like ducks either?  I just look at him like I don’t speak English.)

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A shed is going up to fit all the yard tools in, which will make room for some outdoor furniture and hanging plants around the back porch.  Listen, y’all, I will do before and after pictures when all this is said and done, but right now it looks like a hundred and fifty pound puppy dug holes to China, ate all the outdoor pillows, destroyed a huge dog bed, and threw some trash around.  (Actually, that is what happened.)

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In the front yard, a large archway will have pumpkins and other climbers growing up it.  Add in a few twinkly lights and I will have an enchanted garden for sure.  I have added a couple hundred feet of gardens.  The stalks of the roses are all turning green.

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There is a loom downstairs.  I have friends that can show me how to use it.  I have always wanted to learn how to weave.  I painted a box with a lid for my son’s long time girlfriend for Christmas.  It has a dear clasp and longs to be filled with secret treasures.  I painted a scene from a vacation they took on the lid.  I would like to do more of those.  Maybe set up my sewing machine.  Craft ideas come to mind.

Inspiration to farmgirls is like medicine.  Maybe even breath, if I am not being too dramatic here.  What are you inspired to achieve this spring?

Store Fronts and Upside Down Paintings

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Right now is a waiting game (ugh, my favorite…) while we wait to see about the auction on our old house in Kiowa, the second interview for Doug, and what the universe has in store for us.  This morning we go see a house in Elizabeth that is zoned commercial.  If we can get it rezoned to mixed use (another waiting game!) it could be full of possibility.  It is a darling home from 1883.  The front of the house is set up like a store and the back has a kitchen and two other rooms and upstairs there are two quaint bedrooms under the eaves.  No shower and I do not know how hard it would be to convince the town to change the zoning but my imagination goes wild upon entering the grounds.  There is a large yard.  I mean large, Friends.  We could have a heck of an urban garden right on highway 86 in town!

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My paintings are hanging at Grumpy’s coffee shop and I notice they are getting a little slim.  One sold before I could get it hung up!  I would like to paint and I have always wanted an art gallery.  I have a new idea for an apothecary.  Not one that has perfectly labeled bottles and exact ingredients and an online store but jars and spigots of single extracts where I can mix things for folks as they come in and offer teas and blends plus some fun creams and salves.  Folks know me in town well enough now that I don’t have to have the perfect store front for herbal remedies; they can just come on in and get a custom blend for the ailment they have.  I could also resume my homesteading classes, my herbal classes, and any other idea I come up with!  I can sell my books as well.  All while not leaving my home and farm.  Makes the mind wander with possibility, doesn’t it?

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Well before I start dreaming too much before my third cup of coffee, we better go see the inside first.  I have been in there before visiting prior businesses but not with an eye for staying there.  Who knows what is planned for us but in the meantime I wish I had a place to paint.

I have a fun tip for all of you to try your hand at drawing or painting that I learned in middle school.  Turn a page out of a magazine or a photograph or anything you want to paint upside down and draw it.  You will be amazed at how it turns out!  When your mind stops telling you how it should look and you draw it how it actually looks your work will turn out brilliantly.  This works great for photographs of people where your mind really wants to step in and boss your paint brushes around but once you flip that photo your hand has to draw it exactly as it is.

Well, my world is certainly upside down and my mind is still trying to tell me how it should look!  Let’s see what the universe paints for me….

The hanging sign in front might read-

Farmgirl

School-Art-Farm-Books-Herbal Remedies

On Pumpkin Hollow Farm….

Inspiring Art of Nature and Holiday

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-18 degrees outside with wind chill.  Since we cannot fly to the tropics we are keeping busy on this wintery day!  Jack Frost’s creativity and beautiful artwork in the windows inspired some of my own.

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While we are inside trying to stay warm it seemed a very good time to put on some music, turn on the propane heater to help the stove along, and work on Christmas presents and art.

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Last month I had an idea.  I am both fascinated and sad looking at old, dilapidated homesteads, long ago abandoned by the road side.  The idea was to take photos of these homesteads then transpose a scene of what it may have looked like in its hay day via paint and a bit of imagination.  So one day I had my camera and asked Doug to stop at one of them.  I am not much of a law breaker (outside of selling raw milk by share) and I was nervous about trespassing.  I kept asking Doug, “Is someone here?”  There were no windows or doors on the property so of course the answer was no, save for the coyote pup that dodged under the foundation and a few pheasants that disappeared from our camera lens.  I wish I had relaxed and taken better photos but what I came up with sparked my imagination.

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This is the old barn on the place.  I placed a piece of glass over it and drew this scene…

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The photo is underneath to show what it looks like now and the paint shows what it might have looked like then.

Doug put on the Perry Como Christmas album, the heat is starting to penetrate our chilled skin, outside the world is a magical wonderland, inside is a holiday workshop.

What do you like to do on cold days inside?

Painted Letters

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It’s too cold still to be gardening here and most of my projects are completed for the winter.  This is the time of year that I recoup, reinspire, rediscover.  I hope you have followed along and completed your lists of things you love, things you are okay with, things you dislike, and things you want to try.  If not, click here!  We have written poetry, and broken writing rules, and today we paint.

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I finished the book “Paris Letters” by Janice Macleod, a lovely tale about a young woman that sold everything she had, and took the leap to Paris.  Where, incidentally, she meets a romantic and not bad looking fellow.  She began to carry watercolors around with her and painted scenes that became stationary for her Paris Letters.

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After completing my list of what I love to do, what I am okay doing, what I dislike doing, what I want to try, I was surprised to see painting on my okay with, not what I can’t wait to do list.  I think by the time I find all the paints, the canvas, the easel, and drag everything where I want it, I am too tired to paint.  Presently, my paintings are being displayed at the local coffee shop.  I did expect to have all new paintings there, but alas I have not painted in a year!

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I decided to go get a two dollar pack of watercolors and watercolor paper.  It fits in my ginormous bag that I carry with me everywhere (filled with books, tinctures, salves, day timer, phone, and Maryjane’s toys).  I put water into a small canning jar and put that in my bag too.  I can easily sit and paint at the spur of the moment.  In two weeks, I have completed five paintings.  None that should win awards, but perhaps delight the recipient.

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I painted an elementary picture of Elsa, the baby goat, beneath an elm tree for my pen pal, Holly.  (Want to be my pen pal?  Click on the pen pal post!)  I painted a rosemary plant and wrote a heartfelt letter to Nancy before she died.  I painted a simple tea cup while at the coffee shop and sent it to my other pen pal, Debbie.  I painted a duck yesterday at the coffee shop and wrote a letter to my great aunt Lila.  Then last night I painted a cast iron skillet for my great aunt Donna.

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Aunt Donna called me a week and a half ago after reading the Homesteading Oven post and said, “Now I know you don’t like electronics, but you need an oven!  How can Shyanne bake without an oven?”  And so, my dear aunt graciously and generously bought us a stove.  So, the skillet will go out in the mail today to serve as a thank you note.

All of a sudden I am painting again and connecting with people.  I encourage you to pick up a two dollar watercolor kit and fool around painting in the coffee shop.  We have time.  It’s not time to garden yet.

Blackboard Doors (and other ideas with paint)

I love easy craft projects that have big impact.  I have been mulling around this idea for a long time.  I wish I hadn’t waited so long!  I love how the doors look.  All you need is a small can of blackboard paint.

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I painted the door leading from the kitchen to the laundry/cat room.  I thought it might be too dark in a room with white cupboards and light wall paper but the final look is dramatic and actually matches the old look of the kitchen.  It brought out the black vintage handles on the antique island and makes a stunning statement in an otherwise plain kitchen.

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I then moved on to the door between the Apothecary and the girls’ bathroom.  We have a bulletin board in the Apothecary that holds all of our orders, tax license, calendar, and notes but it is filled pretty consistently.  The door serves as a blatant place to write my to-do list so that I can stop procrastinating and get stuff done!

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With the left over paint I could paint flower pots to write what they hold. I could paint picture frames and write the date and name of the person, or draw little chalk flowers around it, or give as a gift with a witty saying like, “Happy Birthday!”  I could paint small pieces of wood and use them with produce displays to state prices.  I could paint our antique dining room table!! I could get carried away.

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?

From Taos with Love

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The sun is hot, it is good.  It warms the chill from my bones.  The ice from winter melting into something resembling relaxation.  Awe.  Inspiration.

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Yesterday we stopped  in Taos on our way to Espanola.  There were a few sites we wanted to see that we missed on prior trips to New Mexico.  I am standing in front of the (adorably small…I would have been a giant in the 1700’s!) doors of La Hacienda de los Martinez.  A beautiful home built hundreds of years ago with two large courtyards and astoundingly simple beauty.  The kitchen was my favorite with its kiva in the corner, coals taken from it and placed under pots of food to cook, the heat rising to warm the bed above.  The root cellar was a room with a small window the same level as the rest of the house.  No fireplace, no door originally there, just a nice cool adobe room.  This is a picture of the grain room.  Large bins held barley, corn, and wheat.

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I am interested in how people lived a hundred, two hundred years ago.  I want to know how they preserved food and avoided the grocery store, how they made yarn, fabric, clothing, rugs.  How did they build their homes to be cool in the summer and warm in the winter?  What a great time to live that we can avoid the harshness of the new frontier, its diseases and horror, but live as simply as our predecessors and employ some of the same techniques to care for our own families.

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The art in New Mexico, the landscape, the colors, the history, the culture (something we don’t have too much of back home), the food, the spiritual vibe inspires me.  We had to stop and purchase a small notebook for me to write all of the paintings I want to create and the ideas I have.

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Welcome to St. Francis de Asis, our most recent spiritual adventure.  The church itself is breathtaking, as are all the churches there.  Many of my paintings are of these lovely, handcrafted churches.  But this church holds its own gift.  A painting.  Painted 117 years ago, it has baffled scientists and sceptics alike.  There is absolutely no reason why it appears the way it does.  In the light, it looks like a rustic, old painting of Jesus.  The canvas is coming off a little on the bottom, the paint slightly cracked from years of standing solemnly in places all over the world.  When the docent turned the lights out,  it started to take shape.  The background glows, the sea moves, the figure of Jesus is a dark, billowing shadow, in three-dimensional awe.  A large cross is behind him.  Not in the original painting!  We can see the whole painting.  There are no tricks of the eye.  No glow in the dark paint.  No scientific explanation.  And Doug and I stand directly in front of it feeling like we are standing in the room with another figure.  In absolute awe.  Uncomfortable in our inability to process it.  The painting moves the very soul.

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Today Pat and Rodney, and their son Mark, who are in Santa Fe for vacation will meet us at Las Golondrinas for a private tour.  More miracle churches, shopping, and delicious fare.  May your day be filled with inspiration!

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Keeping the Dream Alive

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This is a painting I did of our future homestead.  Outdoor fireplace, garden, vineyard, enclosed courtyard, the barn is there too, you just can’t see it cause I didn’t paint it!  Just a small, cozy home for me and Doug and visiting kids and grandkids.  Someday folks, someday.

In the meantime, we are off to New Mexico before dawn.  Six days of delicious New Mexican food, green chili, margaritas, old museums, magical churches, and inspiration.  Less thinking, more living.  My next post will be from Espanola!

Lost Hobbies…what is yours?

Our living room with Sister Mary Francis

What was your hobby when you were a kid? What did you want to be when you grew up? What is something you are really good at? Your lost art?

When the kids started being gone more and I had to figure out what to do if I weren’t bossing people around and working, I started thinking of all the things I loved to do before I had kids.  I loved to dance (reopened my dance company), I loved to write (I am definitely writing more!), and I loved to paint.  So, a few years ago I gathered up supplies and started painting again.  How different my paintings are now then when I was in high school!  Landscapes and still lifes, fashion design and drawings of cats made way for paintings of farms and farm animals, of praying nuns and villages.  Looking at a painting one can see the artist’s soul, their utmost desires and needs, their joys and sadness, their inspirations.

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When we moved last March, everything was put up and I haven’t done many paintings of late.  How easy it is for us to get lost in our world of working, errands, play, children, spouses, to-do lists and lose the essence of our expression.

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My paintings will be shown at the coffee shop in Elizabeth next month.  I would love to have some new paintings out to show.  One can tell that I am not putting as much energy into painting as I could as I sell roughly one painting a year.  I can’t do art shows near our town because everyone only knows me as the herbalist.  Last year I did my first art show since school.  I kid you not, every single person came up and said, “Where are your tinctures?”  “Do you have any Allergy medicine?”  “No?  How about Stress and Blues?”  “Oh, who’s the artist?”  I would deter everyone to the shop.  Doug had a stellar day; I did nothing!  Then things got busy and the paints got put up.

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People are often intrigued by the paintings of the nuns.  Baffled and interested at the same time.  I paint nuns because I had every intention of becoming one.  After watching Haley Mills in “Trouble with Angels” I decided that is what I wanted to be.  I already made my way by myself to mass often.  I loved the peace and serenity one can find in prayer and the beauty of the Catholic church simply amplifies that.  I love helping people and it just all seemed to be a good fit.  Apparently being pregnant is frowned upon when becoming a nun, however!  And of course I realized my true path in life is as a mother and wife.  I cannot imagine anything better.  But my desire for peace and tranquility, for serenity and prayer comes through that set of paintings.

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The farm animals, the New Mexican paintings all speak of what I really want.  I have more paintings in my mind, one of my son Andrew, Maryjane needs to be immortalized in acrylic (though I could never do her justice), a table of brightly colored chilies, a barn, a child praying…..no pastels, only vivid colors.

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What hobbies do you hope to start up again?