The Farm Sanctuary

20171019_132845I can’t find anything written about it but word from the farmgirls in town is that we can now have two goats or sheep and up to twelve chickens.  Being such a farming community I was surprised that the town was so behind Colorado Springs and Denver when it came to legalizing farm animals in town.

Now this new news may not mean anything to our immediate future.  First and foremost we must pay off our debt.  I have a pretty lofty goal of paying off everything but the house this year.  Fifty grand is not easy to come by but I am determined to scrape and save and send farewell payments to our student loans.  Debt is most certainly a jailor and it is keeping us from our dreams.

And that dream might just be a farm sanctuary.  Years ago, huddled in the cold basement of a friend’s house who was letting us live there until we could get back on our feet, we drew out an elaborate plan one cool autumn night.  A farm.  The only thing we have ever wanted.  Rented farms were fun and disastrous.  Not having money made it difficult as well.  We imagined and created a farm that was a non-profit.  Something folks could get behind.  Our family-run farm would be complete with large vegetable, herb, and perennial gardens.  There would be a building to teach classes like homesteading arts, gardening, art, writing, cooking, herbalism, and preserving.  A place to serve meals and a place to house interns.   A general store would sell preserves and tinctures and produce.

The animals we accumulated on our past farms were never to eat.  At the end we had twenty-four chickens, two sheep for wool and entertainment, two goats for milking, and four ducks for eggs and laughs.  This time around we wouldn’t have the milking goats.  Cashew milk tastes pretty good.  But there are plenty of little boy goats that may need rescuing.  A wethered (neutered) goat is just like a puppy.  I eat the eggs of my beautiful chickens because, honest to god, they don’t care.  Eggs from the store-even organic, free range- come from horrid, cruel environments.  But my hens are named, snuggled, and live out their whole life with me.

If the animals are in a safe, happy environment and people can come to a farm and have a great vegan meal and play with farm animals and see the souls, personalities, and life behind each individual, that could make a profound difference.  To show folks that one person can make a tremendous impact on the environment, saving endangered species, save the lives of thousands of animals over their lifetime, and completely restore their own health would be the best possible work for me.

I know this is a big dream.  (Add to it that we want it in a warmer climate like southern California) I don’t usually dream quite this big.  It probably will not start this complete but will manifest and grow into itself.  We have been learning and preparing for this dream for the past ten years.  Here on this little urban sanctuary I have room for a few more rescued chickens.  Perhaps some ducks.  Maybe a wether.  Really, not much more if even that.

But first things first.  Create a written plan.  Learn how to start a non-profit.  Pay off debt.  Dream big.  Enjoy the present.

Getting Back to Simple (and paying off debt)

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We are firm believers in the powers of intention and manifestation.  You can paint your life however you wish.  We were desperately trying to manifest more income.  On the full moon we generally each light a candle of gratitude and ask for what we would like to see in our life.  Usually it’s more income.  Then it kind of hit me, we have actually doubled our income since June when Doug found a job.  Our online business has picked up and my work down south has too so it’s not a matter of making more money.  I realized we have been spending more money!

Oh, it’s so easy to do, isn’t it?  There was the debt to start paying again, of course, but there are plenty of places money falls through the cracks.  When I first started this blog over five years ago we were seriously starting to homestead.  Before we moved from that house I was canning four hundred jars of produce, growing food and ninety percent of my medicine herbs, had chickens, and Doug milked goats each morning.  I learned to make cheese.  I hand washed our clothes in an old wash bin with a handy plunger-like item that got our clothes far cleaner than the washer.  (We had all our kids at home and a grandbaby on the way so we did go get a washer.  Our washer here still doesn’t clean for anything.)  I made our body products (we sell them in our shop), cleaning products, sewed and handmade presents, and had like minded friends near by.

Being frugal is so much a part of being a homesteader.  Having some money set aside to get by is only a part of it.  I want to get rid of all of our debt (except the house) this year, fifteen months max.  My ideas never go as planned, but it is a good goal!  Debt is our jailor.

But it’s not just about money.  Once we moved around and lost and found ourselves again I had stopped making our own things.  Our skin is drier, we are paying five times more for organic body products when I can make my own.  Same with cleaning products.  I seem to have forgotten how to be frugal.  Frugalness is eco-friendly, healthier, savvier, and freer.  It is in the Homesteader’s Ten Commandments.

I hadn’t been to the library for a year because I have been playing at the book store (expensive!) and I decided that was a good first step.  Walking out of the library with a pile of books and movies makes me feel like I’m robbing the place!  Free knowledge!  I picked up a gem (which I may have to buy) called “Little House Living” by Merissa A. Alink.  As things run out I make the homemade version.  Her book is inspiring.  I have already made the dish soap (took five seconds and very little cash).  I could have written this book four years ago.  I love it and I love that it’s getting me back on track.  I love her rice mix, and her youth, and her story, and her recipes.  She shows us (or reshows us) that it takes no time at all to make your own things and the benefits far outweigh the minimum time and cost.

We will get that debt paid off and I will get back to my Little House on the Prairie self.  It’s good for the soul.

What are some ways that you stay frugal?

 

Ten Days in Seven

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Perhaps it stems from my active imagination.  Just last night I dreamt up a new business idea that spreads the love of farming to young children and would be very popular.  What if we had Farmgirl birthday parties?  I could bring a baby animal and farmgirl treats and as the farmgirl myself (little kids love my flowy dresses and aprons), I could have a little side job.  Add that to my list!

Or perhaps it was out of necessity as entrepreneurs before Doug went back to work that we had to make every idea and hobby a business of some sort because that is how we made it, a little here, a little there.

A homesteading school, a BIG farm (as Maryjane describes it) that can have camps and visitors and provide food for the community (and us), and…birthday parties…and, oh yea, my shop and my herbal school, and I should be able to fit in a cup of coffee and a shower on Tuesdays maybe.

I think I need a ten day week.  A ten day week would allow me to fulfill all my business ideas and have plenty of time to garden and read and watch my grandbaby.  I know I am not the only one out there with a shortage of time.  With too short of time we all really only have time to do what we really love.

With the empty canvas ahead of us, we are planning our farm, but what kind of farm?  We think our best farm was in Kiowa.  A large plot in a small town with a huge pumpkin patch on a main road, with chickens and goats in the back yard.  It was fun, it was easy.  What I am is a plant medicine healer.  My shop is the cornerstone of my existence, as is being a mother/grandmother/wife.  A homestead is our life, our breath, what we really, really want and naturally live as, but can just provide for us.  Outside of that I have room for one more thing.  Maybe finish more books or take longer walks.  Maybe I don’t need fifteen businesses.  Maybe I can just live within seven days.  And in the meantime, I will live for today….while secretly planning chicken breeds.

The Job to Make a Dream

After our farm dream temporarily came to a halt (which ended up being a very good thing as gigantic windmills were installed across the street looming over the farm, the propane tank accidentally blew up, and the distance and dream were just not quite right…hind sight…a very good thing indeed.  Sometimes we have to be assisted out of the wrong path and placed in the right path rather forcefully) Doug dutifully went back to work as I opened the shop so that we could get back on our feet.  There were no IT jobs to be had at the time and the company that returned his call and interviewed him was at a large corporate coffee shop.  He had experience working at our local coffee shop and it seemed a perfect job for him.  However living on just a bit over minimum wage was proving to be frustrating for the work involved.  He wasn’t happy.

A few weeks ago my cousin was rounding up our old pool team to start in the spring and Doug got on the phone with one of those friends, who I believe Doug has known since birth as their dads have played cards together for some odd fifty years.  He owns an IT company.  He has been wanting Doug to work for him forever but we couldn’t get a hold of him last year and he didn’t know what had happened with us, and the timing just wasn’t right.  Doug promised his company six months.  It is now six months, his notice is in, and Doug will be working back in the field he really knows and thrives in.

He will be making a decent wage and the dream of buying our own farm (the size of said farm…urban or rural is still questionable) is back in motion…save, save, save.  I love watching this saga unfold.

 

The Frantic Mom’s Guide to Dinner

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Too bad supper doesn’t roll around when we have excess energy instead of at the end of the day!  “Should we just go out?” one ponders.  But if $40 is to go towards gas and not a so-so restaurant than mama has to get in the kitchen and figure it out.  Pour a glass of wine, Mama, I will walk you through an easy dinner using just what you have in the kitchen.

Choose a protein- hamburgers, veggie burgers, veggie chicken, chicken breasts, salmon, bean patties, whatever you can find.  I found a package of Ahi tuna in the freezer.

Make a sauce for the protein- Find jelly in the fridge or pantry.  Apricot, chokecherry, jalapeno, apple, blueberry, peach….Now combine it with bbq sauce or soy sauce.  The jelly should be the highest ratio.  Add a dried spice like chipotle, red chile, garlic, dill, basil…be creative.  Add a little broth or white wine to thin to desired consistency or use a jar of jelly that didn’t set!  Done.  Top cooked protein.

Meanwhile choose a frozen or fresh vegetable- artichokes, green beans, carrots, cabbage, anything tastes great with this method.  In the boiling water add a few cloves of garlic, a sprinkling of chipotle, 2 tablespoons of lemon extract (lemons soaked in vodka for two months) or fresh lemons, and sea salt.  The water infuses the vegetables lightly.  A bit of butter and salt is all it takes to transform the vegetables.

IMG_2146Make a pilaf.  I used buckwheat which cooks in 20 minutes.  Rice works too.  Cook in rich broth with raisins and salt until ready, add walnuts and walnut oil or any nut or fruit.

In twenty minutes or so you have a gourmet, delicious, nutritious meal on the table while saving money because it uses what is already there.  Now you have time to start Christmas cards after supper!

5 Steps To Becoming a Homesteader (or just simplifying your life)

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1.Write down your goals. 

Do you want to quit your job?  Move to the country?  Have an urban farm?  Homestead on the weekends?  Live a more peaceful, mindful life? 

We have been on the path to simplicity and homesteading for about seven years now.  It started with reading books like “Animal, Vegetable, Mineral” by Barbara Kingsolver and wanting to learn to can and grow all of our own food.  I started canning (badly) and started a sad little garden in the city.  I got better!

Our goals were to leave our corporate world and busy suburban lifestyle.  When Doug had a nervous breakdown our timeline sped up.  Our goals constantly change and morph each year.  We have a pretty extreme list of homesteading goals right now.  I have no way of knowing if they will work, but I have written them down and am working towards them.  Ask and you shall receive!

  • Find a place with a small house that has a wood stove.  Wood cook stove?  Even better.  Said house should be around $850 a month.  Don’t laugh, it could happen.
  • Small house would be on a bit of land.  I need a full acre of garden.  A quarter acre at the moment provides us with 90% of our vegetables during the summer and early fall, and 80% of the medicinal herbs I use.  Another quarter acre could be the remaining herbs I need to grow, and additional fresh eating vegetables, plus a pond.  A green house and hoop houses could inhabit part of the remaining half acre and a large preservation garden (everything I need to can) and a spice garden (Lord, do I spend a lot on spices!) could round out this menagerie of growing Eden.  An orchard would be added as well and then of course we need room to walk about, have our goats, chickens, and ducks, and be able to ride our bikes to town.
  • A composting toilet and gray water systems could be in place.  We will use as little electricity as possible.
  • This will be a haven for our friends, children, grandchildren, and wildlife.

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2. Learn two skills. 

There was a vast amount of information about homesteading lost with our past generations.  We just don’t know how to do many of the basic skills and farmstead chores anymore.  Find a mentor or a class or a great book and make a goal to learn two things.  Two things a month, or two things a year, whatever works for you.   

A few years ago on this homestead I wanted chickens and to preserve almost all of our food for winter.  The next year I wanted goats and alpacas and to learn to spin.  I learned to spin, didn’t like it, didn’t care for the alpacas, gave away the alpacas, fell in love with goats, got more chickens, and canned over 500 items.  Homesteading is constant rearranging of goals.  This year we got bees and ducks and started growing almost all of our medicinal herbs.  We dug up the driveway to make more space to garden.  Last year we dug up the front and side yards.  Last year I learned to make soft cheese, this year hard cheese.  Doug has learned fencing methods and how to milk a goat.

We have learned what we enjoy, what we don’t, what’s a waste of time, what’s imperative to our homesteading journey.  Learning everything at once is not possible and would be overwhelming.  Just pick two skills.  What do you want to learn?

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3. Get Money Savvy    

Rethink your finances.  Get out of debt.  Stay out of debt.  But don’t wait for pristine credit before you make the jump.

Our BIGGEST mistake that will continue to haunt us for years to come was getting into debt.  We had fourteen credit cards, owned our house (or the bank did), had two car payments and had amazing, perfect credit.  Ironic, isn’t it?  We took the Dave Ramsey program at our church six years ago and it changed our lives.  We paid off and cut up all of our credit cards.  We do not have any still.  We paid off a lot of debt.  We then lost our house and one of our cars in the crash and our credit went to crap.  Which didn’t matter at the time because we were content renting for half the price of our house in Parker.  We have everything we need but there is the little matter of $50 grand from the second mortgage that still says it is an open account and $25,000 for the student loans we still owe.  There should be a money back guarantee.  If you don’t use your degree you should get a refund.  I do not see, with the interest rates the way they are, how we would ever in this lifetime pay these off.  If you are in debt, get out.  If you are not, do not venture into that pitfall.

Save a hundred dollars a month.  Pay yourself first.  Put it in a coffee can or the bank.

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4.  Simplify.  REALLY Simplify!

Every hour you work is money spent on something.  How many hours do you have to work to make enough to pay for the car?  Gas?  The house?  Cable?  Cell phones?  Restaurants?  Is it worth it?  What do you need?  How much time would you like?

It goes against every grain of our society to make less.  The mantra is make more, spend more, the more you make the more you can give, the more you can have, the more secure you will be.  Wrong.  I highly recommend you read “Radical Simplicity” by Jim Merkel.  It outlines our footprint on this planet as well as radically simplifying your life.  If you work less, you leave more work for others.  If you consume less, you leave more for others.  If you have less, you have to work less (this does not include the good kind of work on your own time on a farmstead).  The less you consume, the less resources you take from the planet, less pollution, less animal habitat loss, less unfairness.  Do you need a huge house?  Do you need to buy all of that packaged stuff?  Does it really bring happiness?

My goals are to lessen even more.  We are stressing over bills still and have too much stuff.  What is it with the seven sets of (gorgeous) antique dishes in my cupboards?  All the clothes I don’t wear?  The jewelry I don’t wear?  Where is our money going?  I am now writing it all down, the spending for each day.  See where the leaks are.  See what we don’t need.  What we don’t need to buy.  How much is everything really costing us?

And despite the stressing of leaching money, I want to make less.  No, I have not lost my mind.  I want to stay beneath the poverty line.  I have all the food I need, I am looking at lessening my rent, getting rid of my water bill and most of the electric bill, driving less, less gas money and wear and tear.  High taxes?  Don’t have them.  Where is your money going?

I am ready to simplify even more.  Make less money.  Offer medicines on a donation basis so that everyone can afford them.  Does cable television make us happy?  We don’t really watch it, so no.  That glass of wine in the evenings?  Yes, I don’t have to give that up.  By freeing up your money and where you spend it, you have only what you need and love.  And lots of time to watch the sunset and play with baby goats.

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5. Just Do It!

No more five year plan, maybe next year, only if he gets a raise, or when the kids move out.  There are no guarantees you will live long enough to live the life you really want.  Now is the time to act!

What can I say?  I have friends my age in their forties heading on to the Great Beyond and ones in their eighties who are too tired to do any more.  What is the best time to pursue your goals, cut your spending drastically, move to the place of your dreams, and start living self sufficiently?  Now is a real good time.  And if you cannot move yet or don’t want to, if you don’t want to quit your job or change much at all, just learn a few skills.  Cheese making?  Crocheting?  And urban garden?  Simplifying and homesteading can be done on many levels.

 

 

 

Funding and Getting the Life You Want

What is your dream life?  To live in a high rise apartment with a balcony of plants?  To live in a suburb surrounded by like-minded families?  To live in the country?  Life is really short.  Scarily so.  And in these fleeting moments, where do you want to wake up and spend your moments?  Where can you breathe?

What is your dream job?  A sleek 9-5 with all the perks?  Teaching or nursing?  Are you happy in the job you are in?  Perhaps you are retired or a housewife and you have money coming into the household.  There are always ways to make money.  May as well do something you love in order to make it.

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Change can be scary when we can’t see a clear path, but it always leads somewhere, and when following a dream, it tends to lead straight to that dream!  You don’t need a lot of money to follow a dream.  If it is meant to be, any money needed will show up just in the nick of time.

Now, how are we going to spend our money?  I have told you the story of our fancy living.  Our expensive mortgage, two car payments, upstanding jobs (where we were easily replaced….no job should take up so much space in your life) and our seemingly upscale lifestyle.  Cruises, expensive dinners, really bored kids.

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When we left it all, we were hanging on to an idea, a dream, and it played out before our eyes.  The house coming up for rent, the shop coming up for rent, the farmer’s markets being fantastic.  But that is just house and finances (granted, while helping people along the way).  How do we want to spend our money?  How do we want to live our life?

We go on more little trips and mini-vacations than anyone we know.  We have this split personality where we want to be homebodies and farm and live a simple life….while traveling.  Actually, we don’t want to travel all the time, but we have found solace and renewal in overnight or two stays throughout the year.

We barter for stays at a Bed and Breakfast in Boulder Canyon.  We go to the hot springs for the day in Idaho Springs.  We go to holiday festivals.  We stay a few days in Colorado Springs (45 minutes away).  We play hard, we work hard, we rest hard.  How do we pay for it?

We don’t have smart phones, Iphones, tremendously fast internet (Not that we could out here anyway!), a ton of cable channels, or data on our phones.  Our phones are cheap, off Ebay, and do the trick.  They call out and usually accept calls coming in.  (Now, of course, if it were up to me, we’d have even less….compromise is important in a marriage though.)  With the money that almost everyone we know uses on these seemingly necessary objects, we visit new places.

You can live big on just a little by deciding what is important and what is not.  We don’t buy a lot of new clothes and if we do they are Walmart specials, thrift store, or on sale.  We have over 500,000 miles between our two cars.  (I should probably start budgeting for a new truck.)  We don’t have car payments.  We live in a community where my rent seems like a lot, but it is nearly half of what we were paying in the suburbs.  We provide our own health insurance in the form of herbal medicines.

When we eat out, it is at the nicest restaurants.  We go to bed and breakfasts.  We play.  We have a modest emergency fund, clothes, a roof over our heads, a lot of food preserved for winter, and lots of memories.

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We took Bret, Emily and little Maryjane up to Manitou Springs overnight Monday.  It was their second anniversary.  We stayed at a very old, and beautiful bed and breakfast.  We took Maryjane to meet Santa at the North Pole.  We treated the kids to fondue at a restaurant voted the most romantic.  We made memories as a family.  We made our bond that much stronger and had a nice 24 hour rest.

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Last weekend we took our daughters Shyanne and Emily as well as Bret and Maryjane to the pumpkin festival we attend each year.  We missed our son who was not able to attend for the first time, but we continued to make some memories, build a scarecrow, and had a few breakdowns as well as triumphs, just like when they were little.

In a few weeks we will be in California visiting our friends, staying in their home, cooking fresh meals, enjoying real seafood, and touring wineries.  Cheap airfare, generous friends sharing their home, and saving a little extra instead of spending it on other things will provide a five day memory making trip.

How do you want to live?  Where?  Doing what?  With whom?  Now is the time to take action and make your dreams come true.  Live how you want!

(Our journey has not come to a stand still.  Our shop has closed, our classes have picked up, we want that larger farm where we have no town restrictions and can homestead how we want!  We are still working and dreaming towards that…)

Saving Water

Kiowa, Colorado was on the cover of the Denver Post a bit back for making an especially bad decision.  In the early 2000’s, they were just so certain that the whole world was going to come out and develop and live in our quaint community (pop. 700) that they voted to build a water tower the size of France.  Then the economy crashed (and burned) and the population 700 (350 of whom live in a mobile home park) were left with the bill.

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People are no longer growing gardens, no victory gardens here, no corn, no crops to sustain us through the cold winter.  Water is too high.  We are one of the silly ones who continue to water because I am practicing to be a farmer and really want to have crops!  My bill last month for my quarter acre garden was $176.  Making my bags of lettuce $20 a piece.  Well, three dollars, but they should be twenty dollars!

This month has been brutal work-wise.  We are tired.  We have a new habit though of getting an iced cold glass from the freezer, filling it with cold beer, and watering the plants by hand while verbally catching up on what needs to be done next.  I was unsure if we were watering enough, but upon the poor man’s caliber (a finger stuck in to the dirt), we are wet two inches down.  We water with the sprinklers about once every two weeks to make sure all the surrounding bushes and trees get a good watering.

This month the town alerts me that my bill will not be so high!  Hallelujah!  Just by hand watering, we saved 5000 gallons of water!  (Now, I understand that not all of us have time to water a bazillion acres, but at least part of it with a cold beer?)  So, hand watering and a minute of rest will save us money and possibly sanity.  We’ll drink to that!  Here’s to twenty dollar lettuce.

Farmgirl Cocktail

Everywhere I look, people are presently changing jobs, or moving (or trying to), ending relationships, or having babies, or other really big life changes.  It’s like the earth shifted some and our realities and plans with it!  What everyone seems to have in common though is that we are all working really hard and pinching pennies!  I am exhausted just thinking about all of the farmer’s markets, shows, last few months of running the shop, preserving enough food to get us through the winter, saving enough money to get us through the winter, and keeping up with regular farmgirl chores.  I could use a cocktail.  But I can’t be running around to wine bars with my friends anymore.  Time to settle in.  Invite some folks over and sit on the back deck and take a break!  And pull out my friend Rodney’s easy margarita recipe.
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Rodney’s Excellent Easy Margarita

1 tube of limeade frozen concentrate

Stick in fridge until it is about half thawed then pour contents into blender.

Fill tube twice with water and pour in, once with tequila and pour in then fill tube 1/3 with triple sec.  Blend, serve, mmmm……

(Now mind you, Rodney makes these a tad stronger but this is my variation so that I do not get too tipsy.  Not pretty.)

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Combine plain goat cheese with chopped green chilies and serve with crackers or chips.  Chop up tomatoes, cilantro, onion, and garlic for easy salsa.  Take one container of sour cream and add tons of garlic powder, onion powder, nutritional yeast, taco seasoning, anything really, and blend well for a fantastic easy dip.  Fresh fruit or grilled corn are easy accompaniments.  Enjoy your summer and friends!