A Simple Life

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We were at our favorite Celtic festival this weekend.  For two days we step back in time.  We feel a swell of pride and odd recognition as we hear the familiar bag pipes sound.  Outfits of different eras swish in the morning air through the woods.  We find our clan (Mackay) and bid everyone well.  It is an annual time of catching up with old friends and seeing glimpses of a simpler time as we toast with our mead and listen to the fiddlers and harpists play.

As I drive home, flying down the highway, I see the abandoned homesteads and outbuildings that line the railroad tracks.

All our modern conveniences do not add up to happiness.  We still work the same hours but with less meaningful work and constant stress.  I think our bodies were made to be more physical, our tasks plenty.  Our evenings filled with music and books by the fire instead of stressful television shows.  Home cooked meals and clothes on the line and chickens waiting for scratch and friends coming to call on Sunday afternoon.  There was joy in simplicity and we were not so inundated with brain washing media and mass panic.

I could see the ghosts of the farm women in their aprons taking a pail of milk into the farm kitchen.  The men throwing hay to the sheep.  A trusty farm dog by his side.

At the festival our friends did demonstrations of sheep herding with their incredible Border Collies.  A tradition as old as the Highlands.

We do not have to fall into the day to day modern but can choose to live more simply.  We can choose to unplug the television, hang up a clothes line, put a pot of beans on, cancel cable.  We can choose to dress simpler, eat simpler, enjoy simpler activities like having friends over to laugh by the fire or take a walk in the evening.  We can shut off the news and don our aprons and embrace our inner wisdom and enjoy a simple life.

For many of the greatest joys are from holding a warm egg just laid in your hands, or clipping herbs for tea, or seeing how many tomatoes are ready to harvest.  Some of our greatest joys are in an embrace, a smile, a plate of locally grown food, and a day consumed with inner peace.

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.

Meet the New Farm Dog- Take 2

 

20171019_132845It seems strange that I could not bond with the little red heeler.  He would try to bite me if I snuggled him or picked him up, sometimes viciously.  He would go after dogs at Petsmart unprovoked.  As I nursed the bite on my finger and watched him chase the cats, I wondered what I had gotten into.  Maybe because I didn’t choose him, or maybe we just had personality differences.  He may have only been ten weeks old and cute as a button, but we just weren’t friends.  So, when my cousin, Julie came over to spend the day with me I could not have been more surprised at how he acted with her.  It was his long lost mom.  He playfully bounced at her feet, wanted to be picked up, and she loved him too.  He didn’t look back as she bundled him up with his toys and took him home!  He loves her older Golden Retriever and her cat.  Julie and her husband have three grown children at the house and they all love him.  He found his forever home.  I am so happy!20171019_132853

Now, my daughter, Shyanne and her boyfriend, Jacob think that I sabotaged the relationship because I only love BIG floofy dogs (not a typo, that is my word.)  Jacob’s husky is my logo for White Wolf and I still am not over the loss of my wolves from over twenty years ago.  I would be stupid to get a husky or a wolf in the city and with my lifestyle.  But, there was another big dog that would be perfect for me.  And my friends, Amy and Rob, had a litter of perfect, large, floofy Great Pyrenees puppies.

I used to board their goats and one of the goats met me when I got there and stayed by my side the whole time.  I was so happy to see Tank, the wethered Nubian that I bottle fed every few hours.

Amy and Rob’s farm is called Lavender Moon Farm and they raise turkeys and sell honey.  We were all going to co-farm at one point together and I am really proud of them for what they have built.  It was great being around sheep and goats again.  Amy and I visited while the puppies played and hid under my skirts (as all babies and livestock love to do!) as I carefully chose the right puppy for me and Doug.

20171019_13062420171019_133704The parents were so lovely and gentle and the father kept pawing me, which is endearing to me, and his little son did the same and I knew that was the one.  Gandalf will come home to meet Merlin and the other cats and chickens in a few weeks after he finishes nursing.

20171019_130937My goodness, at eight weeks old he is a handsome fellow.  I buried my face in his thick, polar bear fur and he didn’t mind a bit.  I found my farmdog.

 

The Littlest Farmgirl Strikes Again (and choosing backyard chickens)

How does a nearly four year old remember life on a farm so vividly two years ago?

“We need to get goats,” she says casually.

“We can’t have goats here,” I replied, “but guess what we are getting?”

“A cow?”

“Uh, no.”

“How will we get milk?” she exclaims!

“We are getting sheep though.” she continues.

“Uh, we can’t have sheep here.”

She sighed as if mustering patience for me.  “But I love sheep!” she exclaims again.

“We are getting chickens!” I said brightly.

She told me all about chickens and how we get their eggs and take care of the chicks and feed them.  The sunny opening of the soon-to-be shed beckons and I can nearly see the ladies pecking the ground in the sunlight, rolling in the dirt, and having their lively conversations.  Today we go to the feed store and reserve our chicks.  Two of our favorite breeds were our originals, Golden Buffs and Jersey Giants.  Neither breed is very interested in flying the coop and they are dang near cuddly.  They are also great layers.

Trying to appease the child I said, “Well, I think we can have ducks…”

“Oh good!  We’ll get a little swimming pool for them again..” Maryjane told me how we will care for them and did some quacking for good measure.  My goodness, what a memory.

Once a Farmgirl, always a Farmgirl.

A Looming Adventure

 

loomY’all know I am always up for a new hobby.  My friend, Lisa (our California vacation host), came to Colorado to clear out her daughter’s storage unit.  Her daughter is in Asia teaching English.  She doesn’t want to give up the loom, Lisa doesn’t want to ship it to China, so guess who is going to hold onto it?

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I have always been interested in looms.  I love the large, elaborate one at Los Golondrinas in New Mexico.  I had sheep, Sven and Olaf, to try my hand at sheering and wool though we lost our rented farm when they were only six months old and had to give them up.  We had two ornery alpacas that kicked.  They are now lawn mowers in Limon.  I bought and sold two spinning wheels that went to friends for between nothing and cheap.  Just the wrong timing for me in the world of fiber arts.  Heck, I can’t even knit.  I can crochet a bit though.  And I have studied the herbs to grow to use as natural dyes.  And I love yarn.  And once I get into our new homestead next Thursday I will try to figure out this lovely loom.

The Littlest Farmgirl and the Petting Zoo

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“What’s this, Grammie?” (except she doesn’t say r’s yet) Maryjane asked me as she stood before the sweetest cria we had ever seen.

“An alpaca,” I replied.

“Oh, hi!” she said to the baby as she gave her a kiss on the neck.

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Children would come near the animals then scream and jump back. Meanwhile, Maryjane Rose greeted and kissed each and every animal.  She was in heaven among all of the farm animals, especially the sheep.

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She rode the horses in the endless circle and each time she came around I heard her little voice singing, “Yee haw!…Yee haw!…”

It’s so sweet to see things through the eyes of a little Farmgirl.

 

Happy Birthday to the Littlest Farmgirl

This kid.

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This kid is three years old today.  From the moment she was born, our world lit up, much like a firecracker, with this little spunky, fun, highly smart, lovely little girl.

When asked what she wants for her birthday she will reply, “Sheep.  Big ones.”

She has been a farmgirl from birth (after all, she was named for the magazine, Maryjane’s Farm).  She was lain in the dirt while we gardened around her.  Sat in the holes the dog dug with her shovel.  Fed the chicken and gathered eggs by six months old.  Rode sheep around their pen.  Milked goats.  Cooed over ducklings.  Harvested vegetables.  Loves the rodeo.  She was pretty perturbed with me that I wasn’t going to be on a farm today with her sheep.  I told her when she was four, she’d have a farm.  She doesn’t live with me, but you know, what is Grammie and Papa’s is pretty much Maryjane’s!

She does yoga when time allows, breaths deep, knows herbs and how to help people, is planning her garden, pow-wow dances, and dreams of sheep.  She is my sweet little friend and we are so blessed to have her in our life.

So, here’s to getting Maryjane’s Farm.  Happy Birthday, Maryjane Rose!

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Farmgirl School Turns Three

Last week Farmgirl School celebrated its third birthday.  I have been writing this blog for over three years.  It is amazing to think how much has happened in that span of time.  Doug and I became farmers.  We learned how to milk goats, care for chickens, watched Maryjane ride the sheep, chased ducks, grew veggies like crazy, chopped wood, canned, preserved, and made a good go at homesteading.

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I have never been what you would call a private person.  Can a writer actually be?  So you also followed along as we raised three teenagers and became grandparents, our greatest honor to date.  We became homeless.  You cried with us and supported us.  You cheered as we opened a new shop and got our verve back.

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Today I register for school.  I will continue learning.  I do not know where that path will lead me.  I do not know what path we are on.  I am praying it is leading us to some land where we can build a little house.  Maryjane wants sheep for Christmas.  I sure hope Santa sends me a place to have them!

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This next year in Farmgirl School ought to be really interesting!  I look forward to seeing it unfold!

Here are some of the stats.  They make a writer’s heart very grateful.

90,714 people have viewed this blog from over 100 countries.  Y’all were most interested in “10 Things You Should Know Before Moving to the Country” and “How Much Does it Cost to Have a Farm Animal.”  Closely followed by “How to Make Choke Cherry Wine” and “A Visit to an Amish Home.”  We all seem to be on the same page.  Thanks for sticking around!

Spinning My Wheels- Take 2 (from fluff to fiber)

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Jill’s friend was selling a spinning wheel.  I told myself I should not be spending so much money.  She had a carder available too.  Both of them were the same price I paid for my spinning wheel two years ago and each had only been used twice.  I figured that if we are crazy enough to jump off this cliff and give this homesteading full time thing a go, then we should just jump full out and see what happens.  If I fail it won’t be because I was five hundred bucks short.

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Do you recall my story?  Two years ago I bought a spinning wheel and two alpacas with the hopes of getting sheep.  Doug termed the name PackyWoo and we were going into the yarn business.  I had trouble getting the hang of spinning and was so frazzled at the time that I didn’t have the patience to learn.  The alpacas were not friendly and kicked, at about visiting kid height.  We were not able to sell them and lost all of that money.  We sold the spinning wheel for less than we paid.  It was a heartbreaking bust.  I didn’t know I was getting sheep.

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My sheep are the two craziest, cutest, little line backers around.  They love to romp and play and hug and nuzzle and get scritched (yes, that is how we say it).  They make me want some more sheep.  They make me want to create the dream I had dreamt before.  Raise the animal, sheer the animal, card the wool, spin the wool, grow the plants used for dye, color the yarn, and use it to knit or crochet hats, and blankets, and shawls, and sell some gorgeous yarn too.  I understand that only having two sheep will get me roughly a pair of socks.  But, I do this stuff for the love of it, not for the profit.  If they could help bring in a little income, they are welcome to.  If they just want to be freaking adorable and brighten my day, so be it.

In the meantime, I have a spinning wheel, a carder, two month old lambs, and a dream.  What could be better?

Spring on the Farm (with surprises, fun, and a great olive recipe!)

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Yesterday was blissfully warm and inviting.  The pastures are turning so green, the flies were out, a late rainstorm hung over the mountains.

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We enjoyed much of the day outdoors.  Shyanne moved back in a month ago, or so, and I must tell you it surprised me when Emily came back the other day…presumably for a long time.  I probably shouldn’t have jumped to find such a small house!  Doug is living with four females in eight hundred square feet!  I remind myself that my grandmother lived in a house like this one, the very same size, with twelve people.  Eight siblings, her mother, and aunt and uncle.  We are blessed to have children that trust us and know they can always stay with us.

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Maryjane and I took the goats and sheep for a walk so that Papa could get the goat pen mucked.  The tall willow beckoned with all its reading nooks, the black birds, finches, and robins sang masterfully with the meadowlark in lead.

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There is nothing like the joy of a child to bring peace to the soul.  The sheep love her and she them.  She loves it out here.  My worries quelled as I took deep spring breaths in and enjoyed the warmth on my bare arms.  The ducks played outdoors and the chickens roamed about.

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The highlight was the Italian lunch I prepared that we enjoyed on the porch.  Shyanne, Doug, I, and the baby (Mama was at work) devoured homemade individual pizzas with a fast crust I put together, last summer’s preserved pizza sauce, fresh mozzarella and topped hot with cold lettuce from the greenhouse that was drizzled with truffle oil, balsamic vinegar, and sea salt.  A triumph, people.  A glass of great wine from Napa Valley and olives.  Oh, I love olives.  Here is a great recipe for any time.

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Combine in a baking dish a variety of your favorite olives from the deli, green olives stuffed with garlic, kalamatas, Castelvetranos, and salty black ones.  Drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with fine breadcrumbs, parmesan, a bit of orange zest, and a touch of red pepper flakes.  Bake at 350 degrees for ten minutes or so.  Perfect with a great red wine on the porch in the sun with family!