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!

Field Trip to a Farm to Adopt Lambs (a tale of ridiculously cute animals)

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Guess who came to live at Pumpkin Hollow Farm?

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A funky sign met us first.  Blessed Bit of Earth Farm is owned by Kevin and Kim Babcock outside of Elizabeth, Colorado.  Incidentally three doors down farm-wise from Emily and Maryjane.  We picked up our grandbaby and headed over there for a farm tour.

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We first met Grandpa, oh goodness, I don’t remember his real name.  He is a Colorado Mountain Dog.  A breed developed specifically to combine the strong traits of an outdoor loving guard dog with the loyal and gentle traits of a family and child-friendly dog.  He was lovely.  A large dog that reminded me of a blend of Great Pyrenees and Yellow Lab.

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They breed these lovely dogs to share the unique aspects of this breed.  They just had puppies and we were thrilled to see them.

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If they weren’t $850 we may have ended up with a fuller car.

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The Churro and Finn sheep roamed the pastures with a menagerie of other animals.  At Blessed Bit of Earth Farm you will find chickens, ducks, I just noticed that horse in the background, and the sheep and goats they raise.

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I love this idea, a trampoline for shade (and perhaps a little fun when the folks aren’t looking)!

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Into the barn we crept. The sweet smell of clean hay and bedding, the warmth of the sheep and goats and the sweetness of newborn lambs met us in the filtered light.  Barn cats tried to steal our attention.

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Two of the mommies had broken out of their stalls and were running about attempting to keep their babies from us.

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But alas, we had ours picked out.  One from each mama.

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We said goodbye to the rest of the kids and headed down the dirt road with our new babies.

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We then went to visit our friend, Vickie, at her shop, The Smells Good Store, in Castle Rock.  Her large Great Dane didn’t know what to make of these little screaming creatures!

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Introducing Sven (doesn’t he look like a reindeer?)

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And Olaf… the snowman.  We already have Elsa, why not?

We then had a flat tire on the way home and had to stop at a Discount Tire.  With a cute two year old running around and two screaming lambs we will not soon be forgotten!  Timing, I tell you!

The babies have learned to use the baby bottles and are quite satisfied.  Sven is rather lovey, Olaf a bit more reserved.  Both adorable.  They have wonderful fiber for me to spin and lots of adorable antics to make my heart melt.

We have lambs.  They are in the house so they don’t freeze, get beat up by the goats, or eaten by coyotes.  They have wet on my slippers and on the couch.  Baby season is upon us!

 

Feeling Sheepish

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The animals that I have long dreamed of for our farm have been chickens (check), ducks (April 11th), alpacas (I guess we’ll try again), donkeys (yes donkeys), and a draft horse to haul wood and for me and Maryjane to ride!  The latter two will have to wait but the last animals we have been thinking of are sheep.

Like I said before, I do tend to act hastily, even rashly, when giving things away.  I have read too many of those stupid articles that promise forever happiness if you shed all of your earthly belongings.  I figured I didn’t have alpacas, I didn’t have sheep, I couldn’t afford roving, it was high summer and I didn’t have to time to spin.  I promptly sold the spinning wheel (and I mean promptly, that sucker sold same day).  A trip down Craigslist shows a lot of ISO’s (in search of) and less wheels.  The wheels available are either chintzy or more than what I paid for initially.  Who knew they were so hot?  But, as with all things, we will put it back out there and I shall find another spinning wheel.

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We have put dibs on two not yet born infants.  They shall enter this fine world mid-March.  At five days they will come to Pumpkin Hollow Farm with their bottles in tow and will require our utmost care and attention…and snuggles, and baby talk.  We are getting sheep.

We still need to take this year’s farm plan over to the landlord’s house to get approved.  We also do not know exact costs of said farm animal menagerie I speak of.  Well, the ducks are five bucks.  But, I know that if we desire it and plan and save we will have our wish.

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Let me introduce you to the breed we are getting.  These are Finnsheep.

The breed is several hundred years old.  They are known for being able to find roughage in not so lush areas as well as be able to withstand harsh climates.  They are known for having several lambs in a litter.  They are predominantly white (they look a smidge like my Saanen goats, don’t you think?) but do come in other colors as well.  Their fleece is light but spins up very well and blends nicely with other fibers.  Well, people, it looks like my fiber mania is taking back over.

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They don’t have horns, which is nice, don’t want them to be taking out alpaca knees, or mama’s.  They don’t need their tail docked.  The rams are super friendly and will eat right out of your hand.  We like super friendly animals around here.  We will likely get two ram lambs but if they should have a female available, for obvious reasons, I would like to have one of each.

We are in our planning stages still but if all goes well, we will have quite a fun farm to visit and learn at.  I’ll keep you posted on this year’s farm plan and please feel free to comment on your favorite farm animals and the ones you hope to get this year!

 

 

Fiber Animals- Take 2

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Isn’t January a time of reminisce and future plans?  There isn’t much to do so we review our progress, our successes, our hopes, dreams, and ideas.  Two years ago in January we posted about alpacas.  Doug and I had been avidly attending alpaca festivals, visiting farms, yarn stores, and reading up and dreaming of the day that we would get our very own marionette-like animals.  I would while away the hours spinning on my old fashioned wheel, knitting socks from our very own fiber from our very own alpacas. *Sigh.

Look who wanted in this morning!

We adopted two alpacas, a sweet boy named Natali, and a young one named Cody.  The brown one was a Suri and the second a Huacaya.  The Huacaya was going to be our main fiber boy.  A big, fluffy white alpaca would be great for hand dying my own fiber with plant dyes.  A garden was going to be created with plants specifically for dyes.

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We bought two big bags of fiber from a friend of ours down the way to practice on.  I did not have the equipment to card the fiber and everything was so expensive to purchase.  So, we sent it to the mill.  The total cost to us was a whopping $20 a skein of yarn.  Let’s just say that was not a profitable adventure.

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I bought a beautiful spinning wheel, new, full price.  I practiced and practiced and used roving that a student of mine gave me.  My “yarn” looked lopsided, lumpy, and fell apart easily.

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The two alpacas were terrified of us.  The younger one kicked anyone that went by.  His leg cocked back was the exact height of a small child’s face.  Not good.  We had saved a lot of money (for us) to adopt these animals.  The farm folks that sold them to us had promised to help us and be a resource for us but were nowhere to be found when we had issues.  A mere four months later we had to give them away.  That’s right, gave them away for free.

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I was so upset over the whole situation that I also promptly sold my new spinning wheel for under cost.  I regret that now.  I do tend to make rash decisions rather quickly.

That was last spring when everything seemed to be going wrong.  Fast forward to a few days ago.  Knitting club at the coffee shop and we girls are talking about alpaca yarn and alpacas and my poor experience when two gals came across the room to greet one of the knitters.  They each have an alpaca ranch and we laughed at the coincidence since we were just talking about that.  We recalled my horrible experience and the alpaca ladies were horrified that that had occurred to us, especially after so many years of planning and dreaming.  We felt jipped.

One of the ladies offered me a free alpaca.  He has fabulous fleece, smaller than some, and is mentally handicapped.  Well, y’all know we are suckers for the misfit animals.  He apparently loves attention.  Of course, I don’t have her phone number but in a small town I bet we can locate it.  I had put it out of my head, not thinking Doug wanted to delve into the world of alpacas and fiber again, but yesterday he casually mentioned pasture fencing and special ed alpacas.  He loves alpacas and was every bit as disappointed as I was in our experiment.

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So, joining us on Pumpkin Hollow Farm (I need to go across the way to the owner’s house of this fine land and see if we can bring on more animals) may be a few sheep and a smiley alpaca.  Now I need to find another spinning wheel!

 

 

The Original Homestead Checklist

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First gather your friends and build a fabulous structure out of mud.  The small windows on the outside are so that intruders cannot easily get in.  It keeps children from sneaking in past curfew as well.  The small door is opened so that people can come in and out.  If you open both gates you can let in people with their horses and all their stuff.  Being hospitable is always important when homesteading.

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The front room is where business would be conducted.  You could come and get herbs or herbal medicines from us.  Get your broken arm set, or we could fix a wound, send you home with something for your sick child.  It would also serve as a guest room if anyone doesn’t want to travel home after dinner. (It’s a long horseback ride to Colorado.)

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A watch tower to see how your animals are doing, see the whole compound, see if you are about to be attacked by Indians, or more relevant, by traveling salesmen and Jehovah’s Witnesses.

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The original kitchen.  The fireplace (kiva) is in the corner.  It serves as a cookstove by placing hot embers beneath pots.  The heat rises to the shepherd’s bed above.  We would put grandpa there, a sick child, or a new lamb to keep warm above the fireplace.

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I did barter for a hand grinder for grains so that will make my life a little easier, but one could always get a couple of flat rocks and grind the corn and grains into flour.  It wouldn’t kill me to work out a little anyway.

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This is Maryjane’s swing for when I am watching her while working in the kitchen.  It is covered in sheepskin to keep her nice and toasty.  Here is something I learned, see that black vase in the background?  I can still order olive oil and have it come up from Mexico on the Camino Real.  Or, if I am a little strapped for cash I can always use lard.  It might be hard to be a vegetarian on this homestead!

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These good looking men are standing in front of the hornos, the outdoor ovens.  Simply start a fire in them and close it up.  When it is down to embers, sweep the embers out and put a small piece of wool in there.  If it burns, it is too hot.  When the wool becomes a light cinnamon color it is ready to place bread into.  No heating up the kitchen!  I wonder if Doug will build me one.

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Coming out of my refrigerator.  I am afraid it was rather empty.  I won’t even ask if Doug will build me one of these.

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These are Churro sheep.  They have great, thick wool that makes wonderful blankets, and I will take their word for it, good meat.

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They were exceptionally friendly and Mark had a great time petting them through the fence and speaking softly to them.  It was nice to see him taking a break from video games and out seeing animals and history.

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How fitting that the weavers, carders, and spinners were there.  I learned how to card my future wool and turn it into roving.

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Imagine all the beautiful, natural plant dyes out there at my fingertips!  Many plants we use for medicine can also be used to turn yarn into lively colors.

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Welcome to my future homestead. (or a variation of it.) A gentleman that tagged along with our group was baffled with my absolute awe of everything.  He said, “You wanting to live like this would last one day.”  I answered a bit too quickly, “You don’t know me!”

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Pat and I taking a break from our many chores on the homestead.

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The weather here is so beautiful and the vacation is most appreciated!  If you are in Santa Fe, I recommend that you visit Las Golondrinas.  It is a wonderful place to see how things were a few hundred years ago.  There are many things that we could implement now.  Sometimes I suspect technology has actually made our lives more difficult instead of easier.  We are losing time, are frazzled, and it seems to take longer to do simple tasks.  Getting back to a simpler path is my goal for this year.  To find that homestead.  To live healthier and more free.  To find what I want and live it.  My birthday is tomorrow so this makes me think harder on what I want to do the next year.  I feel like life is short and if we want to live a particular way, we ought to get going on it!

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This is my new favorite saint, San Ysidro.  The patron saint of farmers.  May this year be the year that we get a farm!  Chase your dreams, friends!

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