The Multi-Generational Legacy of Farming and Homesteading

The garden once Gandalf moves to the goat and sheep yard.

I wish we had started homesteading and farming long ago. It would be nice to have a multi-generational legacy of land and tradition that becomes genetically ingrained in the children and is always a sense of comfort and a place to return. My eldest child grew up near the beginning of our journey so he had little experience with the farm (though he can grow anything), but perhaps he had some connection, because he would like a farm of his own some day. My middle child tends to pots of tomatoes and peppers, herbs and flowers that flourish on her second floor deck as she watches the deer cross her yard in her mountain-like neighborhood. My youngest daughter was around the most and seeing her hold a newborn goat for the first time was to watch a thirteen year old melt. So enthralled with farm life she became, and she and her husband are adamant about getting a farm and homesteading off grid. And of course, my granddaughter, has been a farmgirl since birth. Photo shoots with goats her first year and farmer’s markets in bonnets. Bottle feeding goats her second year, gardening her third, and so forth. She is the most excited about our new farm. Her baby sister will love it here too, I just know it. So, better late than never!

I will tell you a secret though; moving here to this gorgeous piece of land, I considered (gasp) not homesteading or farming (for like a week). Hang up my farmstead aprons and become a “normal” wife. I could get a job and wear smart pant suits and buy cans of food (instead of pulling them from the root cellar) and keep all the land as it is. I sat out on the back porch with my farm dog (who is a little bored without charges as am I) and looked out across the cedars and cactus, across the deep valleys, up the mountain tops, across the larger-than-life western sky, and then started envisioning things. Ah yes, normalcy didn’t last for long, because that (pointing) would be the perfect place for goats and sheep. That area could be kept wild for the bunnies and natural medicine. There is the vineyard, of course. There is the huge pumpkin patch and corn field as you enter the property. Here is the garden. There is where the clothes line will go. And so forth. Doug had the same ideas, so it wasn’t long until in our minds, a fully functioning homestead and farm was painted and planned. Homesteading and farming is hard work, but it is deeply satisfying, soul enriching, life giving work. And comes with wonderful things like homemade cheese and wine.

The goat and sheep yard
The vineyard
I can see this shed with a huge mural of pumpkins on the side! Need to contract my girls!
Welcome to our farm.

My grandparents grew up on farms (and had no desire to ever step foot on one again) and I was fascinated by their stories, always asking questions. The “normal” today is actually just the status quo. Farming and homesteading were not only the norm, but the expected, in every generation from my grandparents back. And I am honored to be a part of it. We will start this generational wisdom over starting here. Because it is important work. Environmentally, emotionally, sustainably, and beautifully important. Watch us grow!

What is your favorite aspect of homesteading/farming?

The New Farm (starting from scratch)

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I always have good intentions.  I spent the winter learning everything I could about Permaculture and how to incorporate it into our new farm.  I was on fire about it!  The inner garden we did not dig.  We piled on six inches of straw.  To plant I opened up part of the straw along rows to fill in with organic garden soil and plant in that.  The beds will stay well mulched.  The new garden soil will be covered around the plants as soon as they are up and strong.  Eventually the whole garden will settle in and each year we will just add new layers of soiled straw and leaves and let the years work themselves into great soil.

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I saved boxes all winter and threw them into the garden.  Once they were all broken down they sure didn’t cover much space between the beds.  The weeds are peeking around it.  I would need a lot more boxes, and a box cutter to cut them to size, and a lot more patience.  More straw, I think, is the answer for the remaining paths (that is my answer to everything).

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Then I looked out upon the large pumpkin patch we are creating.  It will be a Three Sisters garden complete with five different kinds of pumpkins crawling along the ground and three different heirloom beans climbing organic sweet corn stalks.  The grass is now thick and I am sadly lacking in time or cardboard boxes.  I think we will have to rototill.

The thing about Permaculture is one starts slowly.  Creating one bed at a time.  We now farm for a living.  I have a half acre of vegetables, fruit, and herbs to finish getting in.  I don’t have time to build raised beds for ridiculously long rows of pumpkins or wait six months for a lasagna garden!

I won’t be able to do the whole farm in Permaculture this year.  Some lessons are best taught over time.  Long, windy initial rows will be rototilled into the never before planted area of the yard.  I will add aged horse manure and gardening soil and plant.  I will mulch well.  We will have a good comparison between the inner no-till garden and the traditional tilled rows this year.

Next year I hope not to have to till.  I will keep working up and adding layers of compost.  This year though, we will just do what we know, pray for Mother Nature’s blessing, light the candle for San Isidro (the patron saint of farming), and enjoy all the blessings that come from our humble patch of rented land.

Thank goodness it is spring.

The Spookable Home

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I love decorating, I love holidays.  I do not have a vacation home, or a weekend home, I barely get the rent paid on this beauty.  Our home is our retreat and I want it to be fun and whimsical!

My bear holds a candle to greet folks coming by in the evening.

My bear holds a candle to greet folks coming by in the evening.

My decorating style momentarily would have to be deemed Vintage Farmhouse Adobe.  My Halloween decorating style would have to called Charming Spook.

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We have always loved Halloween around here.  Not the scary, gory, stay up all night watching horror movies kind, but the Charlie Brown pumpkin patch, Martha Stewart deco, stay up all night watching Winnie the Pooh Halloween kind of spooky.

A line of small pumpkins and a cauldron greet visitors.

A line of small pumpkins and a cauldron greet visitors.

When the kids were little we plastered the walls with cardboard cutouts and fake spider webs.  Boxes of costumes stood at the ready to be worn any day during October.  The kids would come home from school one day to the house filled with scary music (Mickey Mouse Halloween tape) and I would be at the stove stirring a pot of Witch’s Brew with my witch hat on.  A large cardboard cutout of a witch hung above the dining room table on her broom and we called her grandma.  Every square inch of house decorated with something charmingly scary.

Last year's scarecrow with Bret (Emily's boyfriend), Emily (in blue), Shyanne, and Andrew.

Last year’s scarecrow with Bret (Emily’s boyfriend), Emily (in blue), Shyanne, and Andrew.

We go to a historic park that puts on a pumpkin patch and festival every year.  And I mean, every year.  We are taking Maryjane for the first time this year.  Sadly, Andrew will be in Tennessee for the weekend with his friend and will miss our yearly outing.  Last year, the house was oddly empty.  The kids were here, but not here.  Too old to play witches, the recipe for my witch’s brew already known (apple cider heated with pumpkin pie spice), and trick or treating with mom and dad out of the question, we had a sad holiday.  We didn’t decorate much.  The kids never came home to carve pumpkins.  We left a large bowl of candy on the stoop and went to Red Lobster.  It was depressing.

Maryjane in her new costume.

Maryjane in her new costume.

This year, the kids are still not here but I want the house to emanate Halloween as Doug and I love it too.  And when the kids do come by, particularly Maryjane, there will be whimsical fun for all.  I started by planting a very large pumpkin patch spanning the entire front yard.  It is now full of orange orbs and dying leaves.  Very spooky.  A simple sign stating it to be haunted is all it takes to make it fit the holiday.  I left the corn stalks up because they just scream spooky evening with their tall shadows in the dark.

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We don’t have the walls plastered with cardboard or window clings.  We may not have five carved pumpkins.  But, I did want to have an air of spooky fun throughout the house.  This can be easily done with just a few touches.

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I like to decorate with a mix of vintage touches, natural elements, and lights.  I abhor overhead lighting.  My every day oil lamps and candles play the part of old Halloween house just fine.  A few pieces we have picked up over the years like miniature cauldrons, metal signs, and dark candelabras help bring the spirit of the season in without it looking cluttered or cheesy.

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A leaf covered table cloth and a generous scattering of pumpkins help make the place feel like Autumn.

My favorite decorations are my two black cats, Clara and Booboo.

My favorite decorations are my two black cats, Clara and Booboo.

Getting those blankets out and throwing them haphazardly over seating, a black cat, and a pile of books invites people to curl up and relax.

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Indian corn on the table, orange twinkly lights, and pumpkin pie spice coffee.  Happy Spooking!

Pumpkin Eating

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I love pumpkins!  I feel like Linus from Charlie Brown about now.  I will wait in my pumpkin patch for the Great Pumpkin because I have the most sincerest pumpkin patch of all.  Here’s the interesting thing…it’s not Halloween.  The pumpkins are not supposed to be done yet!  With all the beautiful weather we have had this summer, everything is ready to be harvested!  I’ll be taking some pumpkins to the farmer’s market this week for sure.

I picked one that was for sure ready (vine died and it just practically fell off) and brought its beautiful orange self in the house holding it in the air like I had just won a trophy.  There are a few things I can do now….

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I can eat it for dinner.  Or I might want to can it for winter.  If I cannot wait then this is my favorite way to prepare it:

Slice it in half, take out the seeds (Roast them later or give them to the chickies.) and lay them face down on a cookie sheet.  Bake in the oven for 30 minutes at 350 degrees and then flip over.  A few pats of butter, a couple tablespoons of brown sugar, a teaspoon or so of pumpkin pie spice and maybe a few walnuts or pecans and back in the oven it goes to bake another 20 minutes.  Add a bit of heavy cream in each half and bake another 10 minutes until well done and tender.  Whallah.  Crust-less Pumpkin pie.

Or for later, bake 30 minutes on one side, 30 minutes on the other but don’t add any of the previously listed delicious ingredients.  Now stick in the fridge overnight to cool.  Scoop out flesh, put in food processor or Vitamix and puree.  Pour into pint jars leaving 1 inch head space.  Pour three inches of water into pressure canner and process jars at 10 lbs. of pressure (25 lbs. of pressure at high altitude, Colorado people!) for 65 minutes.  Now you will have jars of fresh pumpkin to put into coconut pumpkin soup, or delicious pumpkin pie, or anything else that calls for a can of pumpkin.

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I got one jar out of my medium sized pie pumpkin.  I better go out and harvest some more!

Pumpkin Hollow Farm

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Autumn may be my favorite time of year but this month sure is close.  To spend all day with my hands covered in dirt planting seeds that will become food is my favorite pastime.  Not until my tired post-Winter body finally yelled, “Enough!” did I grab a beer and head to the porch to see all we had accomplished.  Emily and I spent the whole weekend digging up the front yard.  While others tend meticulously to the non-native grass borders, applying weed and feed and watering, Emily and I had different plans.  A full working farm on our minds.

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Steve brought over their rototiller for us to borrow and we put Doug to work plowing eleven long rows.  We went back through digging and releasing weeds and crabgrass creating a divot in the dirt that we then filled with organic garden soil and blended it all together.

Colonies of ants came forth, small black, monster black, and stingy red, eager to eat seeds that we would offer them.  I gave them cornmeal instead.  This works in the house as well.  They take the cornmeal back to their colony and I am afraid they do not return.  Now I am a peaceful girl.  I do not want to kill.  I have been vegetarian for twenty plus years.  In high school I cut my own hair and botched a section, shaving a small piece off by accident.  I had my sister shave a peace sign out of it.  She mistakenly only did two lines making it a Mercedes sign.  I had to use a marker to fill in the third.  (My father was incredibly mad!)  Anyways, I promote peace.  But ants can be really destructive in a garden and a nuisance in the house.  Rather than bringing out toxic chemicals, Raid or who knows what else, simply sprinkle cornmeal about.  Works like a charm.

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Then in went the seeds.  Black Aztec corn and multi-colored Smoke Signals corn seeds went in for festive Autumn décor and cornmeal.  Bantam corn went in for sweet eating.  All heirlooms.  Next to them went Bird’s Egg speckled beans that were brought over by covered wagon, large brown Dutch beans for winter simmering in a Dutch oven, and small, white cannellini beans for sage and white bean soup.  Six different tomatoes.  I do hope the “Mortgage Lifter” tomato does its job!  Six different peppers.  Orange watermelon, cantaloupe, zucchini.  All organic.

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Since the farm is called Pumpkin Hollow, the rows in front of the house will be overflowing with tangles of delightful color.  The Most Sincere Pumpkin Patch in the world, were you to ask Linus from Charlie Brown’s Halloween special.  Strawberry colored princess pumpkins, Jack Be Littles, Heirloom pumpkins, organic sugar pumpkins, and today I seek out one more varietal.  Perhaps the awesome white Luminaria pumpkin.

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The front row nearest the sidewalk will have herbs scattered and clustered about for medicinal and culinary use.  A fence is planned around the perimeter of white picket with a welcoming arbor.  My dear friend, Rod, is creating wood burned signs for the farm.

We have been offered free alpacas and plan on getting their “barn” (the garage) ready.  I was showing Steve the tour of what our farm will look like (use your imagination)….here are the large garden beds, more in front, alpaca and goats, new fruit trees….He asked what I was doing with our oversized dirt driveway.  “Festival Parking!” I exclaimed.  Can you see it?  A roadside stand.  A pumpkin festival.  Field trips for children at the nearby school where they can go back in time and see how to hand wash clothes, make butter, spin wool.  The piano and fiddle playing folk songs.  Period pioneer dress.  Vegetables growing everywhere and fuzzy farm animals.  Education, inspiration, teach kids that food comes from the earth, not the grocery store.

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We have never missed our annual pumpkin festival that we attend with the children every year.  This year Maryjane will go with us.  Us big kids and Maryjane making a scarecrow and touring the old structures at Four Mile Historic Park.  I would love to create a place like that for young families to make memories.

In the meantime, I have pumpkins to plant.