How a Farmgirl got Her Groove Back

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It seems a very long time ago that I stood outside on our prairie farm screaming.  I watched the last of the chickens be swooped up and driven away by other farmers who didn’t rent their farms.  The sheep were gone.  The goats were gone.  My dog had died.  I continued to give away or sell my precious antiques for next to nothing, all of my homesteading items, my life.  We moved into our friend’s guest bedroom.  And the landlords continued their scam on other people.  Ah well, that was a long time ago.  Two years.  A lot can happen in two years.

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We would have never studied under Native American elders that became great friends.  We would have never opened our Apothecary, White Wolf Medicine.  We would have never thought to move to Pueblo.  We OWN our own home now.  The American dream is still very much alive.

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Odd looking pumpkin!

 

I certainly didn’t plan on moving to the city.  I am a country girl through and through but the great Unknown knew darn well that if I wanted people coming to me for medicines and teas, they weren’t going to drive out to the middle of nowhere.  This central location in town sure keeps me busy.  People know where to find me.  I am so blessed.

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We could have easily fallen into a city lifestyle.  We sold our truck.  Bought a Fiat.  Doug has an IT job.  But the shed was so easy to make into a chicken coop.  The yard quickly became gardens.  The back is planned as an orchard.  Hundreds of jars of preserves are already lining the shelves of the root cellar.  The clothes line does just fine.  The dishwasher is wasting space.  The cuckoo clock tells the time.  The light from the oil lamp is soothing.  Suddenly I look up and I am a Farmgirl again.

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I guess Pumpkin Hollow Farm never really went away.

Dealing with a Broken Refrigerator Farmgirl Style

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Fifty-five degrees.  Well, that’s not good.  The refrigerator should probably be colder than that.

We do not presently have the money for a new one.  I slurp my lukewarm milk from my bowl of cereal.  I panic.

I go outside, sit down, face to the sun, feet on the ground and quiet down.  Then I laughed.  Do I not speak for entire weekends about this type of thing?  Am I not nicknamed the Farmgirl?  At the last show we were at, more people recognized me as the Farmgirl then White Wolf.  Have I not read every homesteading and pioneering history book I can get my hands on?  Are my ancestors laughing right now?  If anyone can handle this, it ought to me. Don’t I pride myself on knowing how live simply and without much electricity?  I have been in the city for a year…I’m rusty.

Okay, first things first.  Calm down and get another cup of coffee!  We are alright!

Two.  Defrost the meats in the freezer (before the refrigerator dies completely) and can them.  I found some good blog sites on canning hamburger.

I can preserve most things in the fridge and freezer.  Cheese doesn’t mind 55 degrees, that is the temperature I aged mine at when we had our little dairy.  The milk…not so much.

Invest in a cooler!  I wish there were ice trucks still.  I wish I had added Ice House to my house hunting criteria!  Get ice from the store.  Switch to non-dairy milks that do not go off so quickly.

Now from there, perhaps it is an easy fix and it might be worth it to call a repair man?  In the meantime, stop panicking and bring out my inner pioneer!  We can do this.  But, let’s do it before food poisoning tries to take over, shall we?

 

Farmgirl Fashionista

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In a world of jeans and yoga pants I suppose I stand out a bit.  I think folks are both mesmerized and baffled by my attire.  I was at the library last month and a mom came up to me, big eyes, all excited, and asked, “Is there going to be story time?” Heck if I know.  I looked down at my layered skirts, apron, old fashioned boots, and remembered my Santa hat and realized she thought I was in costume!

Maryjane wears her apron around with me and it is not uncommon for us to be asked if were just in a parade or festival.  Do we bake?  Why on earth would we be parading around as such?  Well, let me explain.  Let’s go through the elements of the Farmgirl attire.

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#1 Long skirt- This is important because I am too tall to find jeans that fit right.  I never stop moving so jeans aren’t exactly comfortable.  A long skirt is comfortable and practical.  Ever since Maryjane was about twelve months old she hides under my skirts.  Her hands wrapped around my leg, she giggles thinking no one can see her, her little feet sticking out.  As she gets taller and older I know this is limited now and I relish feeling her cold hands on my leg, that giggling, her security from the world hidden next to my leg.  It is a very maternal feeling and I know all too well she will grow out of it soon.  (I buy my skirts at the Elizabeth Celtic Festival.  It is a rather simple pattern that uses elastic or string to cinch the waist.)

#2 Slips- In a world of too tight skirts and panty lines, I do still love the look of a beautiful cotton slip.  Mine has a long swath of eyelet around the bottom.  It is feminine and beautiful.  I also wear a full skirt under my regular skirt as well.  Why?  Well, I am cool in the summer with the layers, and warm in the winter with the layers.  It makes my dress swish.  It is lovely and modest and sexy all at the same time.  And at my age, I don’t care what the style is.  I like the old fashioned look.

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#3 Apron- If you do not wear an apron each day how do you find your phone and keys?  Mine would be lost in my purse, possibly forever.  I also can carry a tissue, my to-do list, and a few flowers I harvested.  The original reason for an apron was to cover a woman’s dress, for she probably only had two, one for every day and one for church.  The apron is easier to wash and keeps clothes cleaner, meaning if you haven’t traipsed through mud, you can hang your skirt back up. (Mine were made by an Amish woman and her daughters, a neighbor of a blog reader.  Some of mine I made, or were gifts, or hand me downs, and some really quite old that belonged to Kat’s grandmother.)

#4 Old fashioned boots- Stickers, weeds, rain, snow, cold or hot weather, farming, shoveling, and a cute addition to any farmgirl attire.  (I got mine at Big R.)

We farmgirls have lots to do, from taking care of the homestead, cooking for folks, farming, and for me, being the local folk healer, so wearing beautiful, comfortable clothes is just one perk of being a farmgirl.

The Things that Form Us (and weaving them into life)

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The Holly Hobby lunch box stood behind the vendor whispering.  She whispered of kindergarten, and my old Holly Hobby book, and my favorite quilt pattern.  Of coloring books and the bonnet I still have that my grandmother sewed for me on my fifth birthday.

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“Will you take $10?” I asked meekly.  With a silent question to her partner and a nod she smiled and handed me the lunch box.  I began to cry, which surprised me, but the rush of childhood and innocence and fresh beginnings so moved me at that moment.

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Looking at her dress and apron and her early influence on my life, is she the reason I have such a love for pioneers and the old fashioned?

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Up until my twenties I had never heard that I was possibly Native American.  It wasn’t until I became an herbalist that I started searching for that link. Where does my odd clairvoyance come from?  Where does my innate knowledge of plant medicines come from?  I know now it comes from both sides.  I need to find help to break my genealogy addiction!  I was excited to see that I am the granddaughter of a Cherokee chief but I am not sure what role that plays in my present life!  Is the knowledge and personalities, just as DNA, passed through our grandmothers and grandfathers into us?  That would seem as probable as getting blond hair from a relative through DNA.  Everything that goes into forming us is so complex and fascinating.  Through this journey we became involved in a wonderful Native community and place where both of us can worship.  We have made great friends and I have been honored with their trust of my plant medicines.

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Now standing looking out on the next chapter of our life, literally building each piece from scratch, it is easy to see what parts of us we want to use to create the next step of our life.  Choosing a job, Doug made the decision to not pursue the IT field and go for something different.  He has his third interview with Starbucks as a shift supervisor tomorrow.  If you know Doug, he is very talented in the computer field but he really thrives around coffee and customers.  He is happy and easy going and with benefits and a steady paycheck he will do great and create a fun environment for others working there too.

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I know my calling and I cannot wait to get a little shop open so that folks can find me.  A lot of people thought we disappeared when we left for Calhan and a lot of people have expressed excitement that I will be making medicines and being in one place where people can easily come for help.  We had our second showing on the house yesterday.  Everything is moving forward and as we build our life, we will incorporate gardens, and herbs, and art, simple living, and community.  For community has formed us too.

A Pioneer’s Life For Me

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I was dreading going into the goat pen.  Elsa has mastitis and we have been diligently treating it but that along with her spoiled little girl self makes it incredibly difficult to milk her.  It takes all of my strength to hold her as Doug milks her out.  All of our muscles are shaking by the end and she has kicked the milk bucket a few times.  Our clothes are covered in milk and goat hair and I am often near tears.  Last night as I looked up before going in the pen a beautiful sight transpired.  The same one that made us feel we made the right choice moving out here.  The brightest rainbow arched across the sky, seemingly right above us, from horizon to horizon it promised peace.  Its colors sparkled in the rain that fell in straight glistening showers downward watering the gardens.  The sun shone through it and all was bright.  Today we will tie her back legs.

I love the peacefulness of home.  Now that Emily has moved back in, we drive considerably less.  We feel better in our bustling schedule around this homestead.  I love the heaviness of the cast iron skillet as I prepare eggs fresh from the coop and slice warm bread that I baked.  Dandelions, or other produce later, are mixed into the eggs throughout the season along with homemade cheese.  I hope fresh fruit will join these.  We look across our table and see how much of it we produced.  We are aptly satisfied and proud yet strive to produce nearly everything we consume.  Of course we shall rely on the humble farmer that provides the grains for our table.  The coffee from far away.  The teas exotic.  But our year long sustenance grows each season on this homestead as we produce more and more.

The milk hits the bucket in a sing-song tune as Isabelle stands sweetly on the stand.  She occasionally turns to kiss Doug’s ear.  She loves him and seems to want to impress him.  This year she is giving over a gallon a day of fresh milk.  I pour the warm milk into his coffee once inside.  The creamy morning treat warms the farmer.  These simple pleasures transcend the ordinary ones we knew growing up.  Last night after Doug had fallen asleep I sat in the rocking chair my father gave my mother upon learning that she was with child over forty-one years ago.  I sat in front of the wood stove and let it warm me as I relaxed into my book, the oil lamp highlighting the page, a cup of hot tea by my side.  The house and land is quiet.  My muscles are tired but my mind is joyous.  There is cheese pressing, bread dough rising, and at least the dishes are done.  I am reading an Amish book.

I have sat in an Amish home and read accounts.  They are not unlike mine.  Keeping the world out is something I strive for.  The news stays in its dramatic studios of fear.  Anger, stress, and sadness dissipate quicker here.  We are not immune to financial wonderings and relationship woes but here in this setting they work themselves out and the spirit is restored quickly.  We pray openly here and are thankful for our blessings.  We call on the Lord for signs, for help, and for comfort and receive them as we listen softly in the night by oil lamp and quiet.

The aprons hang on the wall and tell stories, I decide which one I wish to don this day.  I have long skirts, and long slips, and layers to make them stand out because they are comfortable, and feminine, and fine.  The apron pocket holds what I need as I bustle from clothes line to barn yard to kitchen.  Three meals a day grace the table and the children always know they can come home to a hot meal, peace and quiet, and an escape from the world beyond.

The counties out here argue over fracking, over wind mills, over water.  Not here! they say.  Yet folks will not give up their luxuries and want these means of fancies and want destruction to get them so long as they cannot see them.  We work on our own solution, to use less.  To find alternative ways.  And the classical music plays softly in the kitchen and the electric kettle often gets turned on but bird song could fill the musical need and a kettle whistling from wood stove could suffice.  And the world could howl outside our door but our respite remains here in our pioneer ways.  I put on my sun bonnet and head outdoors to plant.

What Is A Homestead and Why Is It So Important To Be Self Reliant?

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“What is a homestead?” my friend asked.  The question threw me off guard, cause, geez, everyone knows what a homestead is.  It’s uh….you know…a place where…I decided to consult the dictionary.

homestead

[hohm-sted, -stid] /ˈhoʊm stɛd, -stɪd/   
noun
1.

a dwelling with its land and buildings, occupied by the owner as a home and exempted by a homestead law from seizure or sale for debt.
2.

any dwelling with its land and buildings where a family makes its home.
3.

a tract of land acquired under the Homestead Act.
4.

a house in an urban area acquired under a homesteading program.
verb (used with object)
5.

to acquire or settle on (land) as a homestead:

Pioneers homesteaded the valley.
verb (used without object)
6.

to acquire or settle on a homestead:

They homesteaded many years ago.
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And that, my friends, did not help me either because, frankly, I don’t own anything.  I do not get to keep this land no matter how much I work it (unless I come into a vast amount of money!) and the second definition pretty well means any house in the suburbs is a homestead!  So, what really is a homestead?  What is homesteading?
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The best way to answer this is to look at the general consensus.  I have many friends who are what we would consider homesteaders.  A homestead is a place where one tries to become more self sufficient.  I wonder why that it is not in the dictionary.  Still rather vague.  Can an apartment with a balcony of vegetables be considered a homestead?  Can a house in the city with a few chickens and a garden be considered a homestead?  Certainly a place in the country with a large garden, goats, chickens, sheep, and cows is considered a homestead, right?  I suppose everyone would answer this question differently.  So, here is homesteading to me.
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A homestead is a respite, a home with land to be able to succeed at becoming more self-sufficient.  This place can be rented or bought.  This place provides a basis for producing what one needs to live.  So, homesteading is the verb here where one works to become less reliant on modern society and more secure in their own home as opposed to spending more time working outside the home and relying on utility providers, grocery stores, et cetera for their needs.  It is possible that this could take a lifetime.  But it is worth the effort.
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I often hear the argument that it is impossible to be self-sufficient.  I suppose that depends on your definition.  Would you consider the Ingalls from “Little House on the Prairie” self-sufficient?  I bet you would.  They did go to the general store at times to pick up flour, and cornmeal, sugar, and a bit of candy plus some fabric.  The question would be, if the store was not available, would they be alright?  The answer would be yes.  They would be alright, at least for a time.  Would you consider the Amish self-reliant?  I bet you would say yes.  The home I visited of an Amish family last year was very simple.  They had food stored in a makeshift root cellar (like mine), shelves of beautifully colored jars of produce (like mine), enough wood to get through winter (like us), and propane to light their house, run their stove, refrigerator, and sewing machine.  That is what threw me off!  We use propane to help offset the heat and to run the refrigerator.  It is very expensive and is getting quite nerve-rackingly low.  Are we self reliant?  Not yet, in my book.
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Why is it important?  I mean, really, what is the big deal?  A lot of folks are not really ready to give up their luxuries.  Our bathroom was 35 degrees this morning.  This is not for the faint of heart.  My bottom is still cold.  But, it’s important to me to become self reliant for two reasons.
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One: working for other people is too uncertain.  We make our own business, our own crafts, our own classes, and yes we have to have faith that folks will buy or sign up, but we control our destiny and our mornings.  The more we have to be away from the house working for someone else, the less we can do here, so the less self reliant we are.  We must make our living off of our homestead.  Our living is a lot different than what it was ten years ago.  To us a living was over $55,000 with a mortgage, car payments, utilities, food prices, gas prices, and all the other things we “needed”.  Now our living is around $24,000 if we want to be comfortable with wood, homegrown food, fish, necessary items for our business, gas, rent, and animal feed.  That is the first thing folks that want to homestead must realize.  Be prepared to live on less.  There is much to be done at the house.  Canning, home business, chopping wood, year round growing of plants, animal care,  But there is nothing sweeter than not worrying about where your next meal will come from and never sitting in a cubicle again.
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The second reason it is so important to me to become self reliant is because I need to be able to take care of us and our children if necessary in an emergency.  This could be a wide spread power outage or blizzard, or I often have dreams that there will be a war here.  As much as that scares the heck out of me, I would rather have a house full of necessities and not be wondering how I would get to the grocery store or if we were going to freeze to death.  I do not know if folks realize the folly in relying on large companies for your necessities.  If it all came down to the wire, they don’t give a hoot about your family and it would be quite wise to have a way to access water, heat, food, clothing, and protection.
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Each year we do a homestead checklist and see what we need to do to become more self reliant.  Realize that I do not think that solar panels and their non-decomposing batteries, or wind power with its bird and bat killing capabilities are the answer.  Living with less reliance on oil and gas is our goal.
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  • We have a wood cooktop/propane oven.  A homesteader’s dream?  Yes.  But, I do not want to rely on propane and the small wood compartment does not do much to heat this house.  44 degrees in the living room is just a bit too freaking cold for me.  Our stove can be cooked on, heat a small portion of the house, could heat water if necessary, and is great, however, this year we will secure (somehow) a real wood cook stove that will sit in the living room that I can bake and cook on plus heat the rest of the house.

 

  • Since we stopped eating meat I was able to clear out an entire freezer.  The remaining refrigerator/freezer holds milk, fish, cheese, condiments, and vegetables.  Can one can fish?  Can I can all the vegetables/fruits next year?  How would we keep the milk cold?  Particularly when milking starts again.  I need an ice house.  The back bedroom would seriously serve as a fridge right now though!  We really need that other wood stove.

 

  • We have several wells on the property.  We have a tiny bit of water saved in canning jars, but is there a way to access the wells without electricity?  We are also incorporating a water harvest system this year.

 

  • I have a hand washing unit for laundry and a great clothes line plus a huge drying rack for inside if the electricity went out.  (We haven’t used in a dryer in seven years.) We could live without the television and internet if he had too.

 

  • I grew about a third of the items we preserved this year.  I would like to grow sixty percent this year and plant several fruit and nut trees and berry bushes.  I would also like to try my hand at growing mushrooms.  I will incorporate container gardening, cold frames, and our garden plot to grow everything we love to eat.  I would like to get a green house as well.  That would really boost our production.

 

  • I am kicking myself, y’all, for selling my spinning wheel!  I would like to get sheep and work on spinning again.  I would like to learn to knit this year and make us some fabulous sweaters and socks.  There is so much discarded fabric out there. I have tons myself.  I would like to increase my sewing skills so that I can make more of our clothes.

 

  • We would like to make the fences more secure this year so that we can let the animals graze on the ten acres.  That would cut down on how much hay they need.

 

  • I need to find a way to advertise and promote my classes so that we can pay for things like gas and car insurance, grains, animal feed, things like that.

 

  • We will start cutting our own wood and collecting wood this year instead of paying so much to have cords delivered.

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Well, I am sure there is more, but that is a good start and each year we get closer and closer to being self reliant.  Maybe that is the answer.  Maybe self-sufficient and self-reliant are two different things.  Either way, there is a great feeling of accomplishment and inner peace while performing simple tasks and caring for those you love on your own homestead.

Wishing you a prosperous and peaceful homestead this coming year!