Cowgirls, Colonial Dresses, Apples, Tinctures, and the Family Farm

Emily is driving “over the river and through the woods to grandmother’s” (Grammie’s) house this morning. We are taking my six year old granddaughter, Maryjane, to her first horseback riding lesson.

If you have been following me over the years, or if you know us, you know that Maryjane Rose came into this world a future rodeo queen. Or at least that is what she told us when she was two. She was upset when we moved to the city because there was no way she could fit a horse in our back yard. And she was overjoyed when we moved to the farm in August, her glimmers of horse-hope restored.

I struck up a conversation with the cute blond farmgirl who was cashiering at Tractor Supply and it turns out that she can give Maryjane lessons and that she lives a half a mile from me.

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I walked to the library yesterday. I spent the morning designing and sewing a long skirt for myself out of green and beige check. It is tied shut with four lace ribbons and the front has a high waist. I sewed on a lace hem. It looks a blend of Victorian and colonial- my style. It just needs a pinafore.

My eyes were tired and I wasn’t keen on jumping into housework. The air was a warm eighty degrees and I wanted to stretch my limbs, so off I went to walk the three quarters of a mile to pick up more books.

I passed an empty commercial building and in front were two large apple trees- all of the apples wasted, on the ground, and rotting. I made a mental note to come back next year and harvest them. I passed houses with trees with masses of untouched apples on them, now too late in the season to harvest.

I plan on planting plenty of apples and other fruit trees. It seems strange to me that I did not spend the summer harvesting, canning, or prepping for winter. That I am not exhausted, finishing up the farming chores, and looking forward to winter. I wear myself out daydreaming these days.

This time next year, I will be exhausted, because this beautiful plot of land will be teeming with vegetables, fruit and nut trees, and livestock. There will be no wasted space or apples on this land. This is our fourth homestead and we know what to expect and what to do better.

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I set up my jars of herbs that I had tinctured before we moved. Each medicinal herb carefully harvested and brewed. I had to order loose herbs for teas. Lord, have mercy, they are so expensive! I have been spoiled with my medicine gardens! Those will come next year as well. I signed up for a craft show and will take my humble medicines and books there to introduce myself to the area.

We did not expect to move. It came as a complete (and pleasant) surprise. One day we were sitting in a park in June with my students after visiting a medicinal herb farm and Doug and I wondered aloud how far Canon City was from his work in the Springs. Doug walked off and started talking to someone in the park who was from Penrose. Ten weeks later, our house is sold and we are living in Penrose. Funny how life works that way.

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A student brought me a chokecherry and gooseberry from her land to transplant as a gift. Aren’t plants the most fabulous gifts? I hope they thrive here. I know we will.

My beautiful family at our daughter’s wedding.

Farmsteading Scenes and Living Life Well

When we first began this journey, we went into it wholeheartedly and completely naive. We learned, we cried, we laughed. A homesteading/farmsteading lifestyle makes life amplified. The good is really amazing, healing, and life-giving; babies being born, fresh food from the garden, baby goats prancing sideways, a lamb’s comical yell, gathering fresh eggs from the coop, watching the sun set, waving at friendly neighbors, gathering wood to bring inside before an approaching storm, hanging clothes on the line while watching wildlife.

Crop losses, predators, freak accidents, money worries; there are a lot of things to worry about while being a homesteader. The neighbor’s wolf/husky got into my coop last night and killed my favorite chicken, Bubba. I was mad at myself for not closing the coop sooner. I was mad that I purposely chose this lifestyle! Where there is life- and farms are teeming with life- there is death. And it is much more in your face than apartment living. When we lived in an apartment, on our way to our next homestead, we had plenty of stresses and things to worry about then too. So, it really is a matter of how you want to live. This lifestyle gets ingrained in you, so that you have no other choice but to live like this. And we do love it.

Being a homesteader and farmer comes with a great sense of accomplishment. I tend to point out everything on a guest’s plate that I grew or handmade. I love the methodical motions of traditional domestic work. We appreciate the intense rush of love that comes over us when we see a baby being born. We appreciate seeing the horizon and knowing how to judge the weather by watching nature. Homesteading and farming is all about family, and living life to the fullest. If life is short, then I want to spend time bottle feeding precious infant goats, and being followed around by lambs and chickens. I want to laugh at duck antics while sipping homemade wine. I want to watch the fire swell up as it fills the wood stove. I love tying off the final piece of yarn to finish a project or snipping the last thread on a dress I have made.

If you are considering adopting this lifestyle- Do It! You won’t regret it. It costs some to get started but it pays itself back quickly. We save money, eat well, live healthier, have a happier marriage, a closer family, and a sense that we are really living. Start somewhere. Get chickens, or cheese making equipment, or get out yarn to make holiday presents. This is a very good life.

Everything in its Season

I long to get this show on the road. To get this new farm set up! Get the rototiller! Get the goats! Get the fencing done! Let’s get planting!

But, alas, it is October 2nd. I can plant hopeful bulbs of dancing tulips and sunshine yellow daffodils that will surprise me with delight come spring. That is all.

The wood stove is coming next week and the goat shed is coming too and we are slowly getting fencing done. I can see it all! I can see the corn in rows interspersed with pumpkins zooming along the front yard on green tendrils and vines. I can see the vineyard I have always wanted stretching out to the western sky. I can see the bright red tomatoes, the crisp lettuces dancing in the cool breeze, the baby goats and sheep jumping around the pasture in the sunlight. My polar bear dog with a job, finally.

I can see myself moving the dutch oven to make room for the kettle for a cup of tea and checking the fire. I can hear the vibrant shaking of the pressure canners putting away summer’s gifts. Wiping my hands on my apron and taking my granddaughters outside to play. Watching the sun set behind the wild pasture with rabbits shooting to and fro and turkey vultures swaying gently on the breeze overhead.

This is our fourth farm. Our fourth homestead. The second home of our own since beginning homesteading. This one on land. In the country. Our own. My heart soars with gratitude and excitement to get this farm set up! But alas, it is October 2nd.

The dark smoke billowed densely and ferociously off the mountain sides. The smell of it all filled the air. The wildfire was scarcely contained and my heart broke for the animals and trees and the wildness being consumed. Death and ending before our eyes as we drove to our mini-vacation spot. Next spring, there on the mountain, life will unfold. Everything in its season.

The aspens and oaks danced in brilliant colors of gold and red, creating patchworks across the mountainsides. That specific shade of bold autumn blue sans clouds stretched above everything and the west was in its ultimate splendor.

Our youngest daughter, her husband, and their new baby joined us for a few days at a beautiful place. A private spot where one can hike to various hot spring pools nestled along the mountain. Walking along the path we stopped to eat hawthorn berries and wild plums. Deer wandered past the pools, a fawn catching up with her mother. Birds flitted from thick tree to tree and life buzzed all around. It is a clothing optional resort and the feeling of air on one’s skin while passing thickets of herbs and trees and the feeling of the water from warm waterfalls is grounding and restorative.

A crow cawed and flapped its wings loudly as it flew close by. The warmth of the water followed by the cool breeze was enlivening. Amongst plans of future and to-do’s and day-to-day life, it is good to rest and restore, to ground in a new place, to spend time with loved ones, and to look out over thickets of oaks and pines and into valleys. To pull a blanket closer around, sip coffee, and hear the earth speak, as breezes lightly blow fog up the road. Everything in its season.

A Day in the Life of a Farm Wife (and why homesteading is the best life)

The early morning dawn brings with it the sound of roosters crowing around the village. The smell of wood smoke fills the air as the fire comes alive with a whoosh in the wood stove to start the day. A kettle of water is put on for coffee. Out into the early morn, a scarf pulled around the neck, the chickens are let out. They scurry by and gleefully pounce on scratch being thrown. Next up are the goats, and the sound of “mah”ing brings a smile to the farmer’s face. The sheep try to body check the others out of the way in order to get to the hay first. The sheep are distracted while the goats are led to their stanchions in their turn. The gentle sound of milk hitting the metal bucket methodically starts the day and inspires prayers of gratitude. A sleepy farmer can easily balance their head against the warm side of a goat happily chomping on sweet feed. Back inside, the milk is strained into half gallon jars and placed in the milk fridge. Boiling water is poured over fresh coffee grounds, and the cats and dog are fed and watered. Hot coffee is poured into a mug.

This is the average morning of a homesteader. If one has children, then they are tending to the youngsters as well. This was our life during the first years of our homesteading. For the last four years in the city, we have not been able to have anything but chickens, but here on our new farm, we are happily plotting the loafing shed and the pasture fencing for the “mah”ing of goats and the low “mom”ing of sheep. (Have you actually heard farm animals? It does make you wonder where the children’s books came up with their animal sounds.) We have homesteaded in each place we have lived, from country to city and back to the country. We build the infrastructure of our homestead and farm. The wood stove is coming in two weeks. The fencing this week. The loafing shed in two weeks. The goats and sheep? When we find them. Most likely in the spring. And our hen continues to crow.

Our 1st homestead

The rest of the day for a homesteader is filled with satisfying chores. Keep the fire going. Plan supper. Make bread. Clean the house. Plan what to pack for hubby’s lunch tomorrow. Care for animals. Do laundry. Hang on the line. In growing months, tend to gardens-plan, plant, weed, harvest, preserve. In winter months, catch up on sewing, make Yule presents, craft, crochet, and write.

There is a joyful cadence to homesteading. A well versed schedule of chores, work, play, and rest. Of being present. Immersed in the cycle of life and death, joy and pain, intensely taking part in the life before us, and savoring every bit of it.

My granddaughter always chooses what she wants to me to order (everything)!

Yes, from old fashioned skills come real peace that truly cannot be found anywhere else. We step back from the craziness of the world, and stoke the fire, make cheese, harvest grapes, bake bread. We spend less, save more, have a lower footprint, and a lighter heart. We tend to be heathier, eating fresher food, breathing fresher air, making real connections with neighbors and holding family close. We appreciate and communicate with the natural world. We teach others how to do the same.

The joyful sound of newly canned preserves, their tops popping tight, lining the counter. The smells of manure, hay, wood smoke, coffee, bread, roasted chicken. The sight of mountain views and sunsets and skies of stars and baby goats entering the world. The feel of a sheep’s fleece and how the yarn slides through one’s fingers at the spinning wheel, and a soft kitten’s fur against one’s skin. The taste of really, really fresh, homegrown food and drinks. The sound of the baby laugh when the dog licks her or the squeal of delight as the older child finds the perfect pumpkin in the patch.

Our first homestead when we farmed the whole yard!

Yes, this is why we homestead. It is why we come back to it each time we move. It is truly a good life. For us, it is the only life.

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?

Simple Autumn Decor

I absolutely adore this time of year. Autumn is my favorite season, and September is the sweet spot of the whole calendar. The cool desert mornings and starlit nights, warm days, hints of wood smoke, changing leaves, and the colorful harvest all culminate into a beautiful time of year that inspires and settles my spirit. I want to infuse the colors and the feeling of Fall into my wardrobe, my meals, and throughout my house.

The colors of Autumn trees inspire my color palette most of the year, with rich golds, reds, and bright oranges. Mums and throw pillows add these easily to any room.

A simple, faux leaf garland added to each room- over the bed frame, or across the piano- adds a touch of autumn whimsy.

A simple Pyrex bowl of found goodies becomes a charming still life. Here I used pine cones, cedar, and faux leaves. (If you have more deciduous trees than I, feel free to add in real leaves!)

A black cat always adds a nice touch to autumn decor!

Of course, being Pumpkin Hollow Farm, it is probably obvious that we love pumpkins in this family! Jack be little, Princess, Lumina, or Warty, they all make a lovely display. I hope the new owners of my last house are enjoying their pumpkins, this year we buy, but next year the front of the house will be swarming with many types of pumpkins.

Admiring colorful mums, picking up beautiful leaves, decorating with pumpkins, enjoying a glass of wine, making an apple pie; however you celebrate the season, may it bring you great joy and inspiration!

Homestead, Hobby Farm, or Commercial Farm?

“And sometimes I dream of things very, very fine,

but then realize a love of simple things is mine.”

-Katie Lynn

So you are ready to start something; growing food, raising animals, starting a new hobby. You have a bit of land or a plot in the city. You have checked zoning, read every homesteading and farming memoir in the library system, have been following my blog, and have a little bit of money to put towards an agricultural endeavor. Now, do you want a homestead, a hobby farm, or a commercial farm?

We have been homesteading for seven years now. Splitting logs if we have a wood stove, starting a small commercial farm with wool, eggs, milk, vegetables, and herbal medicines. Before that we had a small hobby farm where everything almost paid for itself but not much more. And we have lived on a “regular” paycheck and used homesteading as a means to save money and have a better life.

We have found ourselves in the most wonderful of circumstances; we are now the proud owners of a 1.1 acre lot zoned AG in the country. There are restrictions on how many animals one can have per acre. I do not have irrigation or water rights (the city water is from up the road from the reservoir and it’s quite good and not too expensive). My husband works full time and the children live over an hour away so I will be doing most of the work on this new farm. Land and houses are expensive in Colorado so our mortgage is high and will take a lot of our budget. All things to consider.

Homesteading: Homesteading is a a great way to live a simple, healthy, pretty self sufficient life. It generally includes a garden (anything from a community garden to a huge plot of land counts), avid preserving (120 pints of tomatoes…check!), a few farm animals (maybe a few chickens for eggs, ducks for laughs, goats for milk, and moving up from there), and a great respect for the lifestyles of our ancestors. There is nothing quite like gathering around the fire at night, the oil lamps lit, knitting on your lap, laughter in the air, time as a family sacred.

I will definitely be getting a homestead back in place here over the next year. Already, I miss my garden and harvesting what I want to eat. Popping open a jar of preserves without having to read the ingredients. Installing a wood stove and gathering kindling. Start milking goats again. I have homemade presents in mind for Christmas this year and new inspirations for crafts.

Homesteading generally saves money but it does take a lot of time so a stay at home wife or someone that can work their own hours can excel at this.

Hobby Farm: A hobby farm tries to pay for itself. The goats start to produce milk and you have excess, so sell the rest or make cheese and other products. Sell the extra eggs. Everyone pulls their own weight. The goats pay for their own feed, so do the chickens. A lot of people raise meat on their farms. Meat chickens grow to market weight in 6-8 weeks. Set up a U-pick or CSA or set up at a farmer’s market to sell extra produce.

An outside paycheck generally covers the costs of living expenses and the farm covers itself. Always make sure you have enough to live on plus enough to take care of animal feed in case the goats dry up, the chickens stop laying, or the garden gets destroyed by hail! Taking care of a farm is a year round chore but it is all seasonal. Planning for the down times takes a lot of stress away.

Commercial Farm: Oh, but you have a really great idea! Lots and lots of vegetables, specialty mushrooms, lamb, wool, flowers, etc. You have the land, you have the start up. You can get your name registered with Secretary of State and get a website. You can claim profits and losses on your taxes. You can qualify for grants and live your dream full time! Find some interns, and go for it!

We wouldn’t mind going this route. Our farm is named Pumpkin Hollow Farm and I have lots of ideas for pumpkin festivals and private tours and lunches at our farm. Farm to table dinners and homesteading classes.

A few things to keep in mind when pursuing a commercial farm.

  1. You could trigger an audit. With the ever booming hobby farm craze, folks from all over starting taking deep losses on their taxes. I know a lot of small farms that have been audited so keep your books and receipts in order!
  2. Have some money put aside for unexpected expenses or losses.
  3. Don’t put your eggs all in one basket! Create lots of ways to make money on your farm. Classes, festivals, different animals, different vegetables, crafts, etc. will help balance the budget out year to year.
  4. Don’t forget to stop and smell the roses. What a gift to have a farm. Don’t forget to grab a beer and sit on the back porch watching the chicken antics and the view around you.

Maybe you start as a homestead and work your way up or maybe you jump right into farming. Whatever you choose, have fun and be willing to be flexible and creative. A simple life is always a good life.

The Homegrown, Healthy Life (So You Want to Be a Homesteader #16)

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, somewhere during women’s liberation we got led astray.  The frozen dinner folks were ready to pounce.  “Yes, women, go get a job!  We’ll take care of dinner.”  Every convenience began to show up, pushing women into the work force in droves.  Children left raising themselves and food being neatly packaged in factories in other countries.  Oh, and we still get to do all the housework!

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I am thankful for the ability to vote and that my daughters can be lawyers if they so choose, but I will take my original jobs back, thank you very much.  My father-in-law wondered when I am getting a job.  Let me tell y’all about my job and earnings.

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When you gaze down fluorescent lighted grocery shelves with the sounds of bad music and customers in the background, do you ever wonder where the food came from?  Or ever wondered what would happen in an emergency and you couldn’t come shop these aluminum and box lined shelves?  Have you read the ingredients?  Lord, have mercy.  A good 50% of all those foods are poison.  Not to mention grown who knows where, handled by who knows who, sprayed with who knows what.  I am my own food preserver.  I can, I dry, I fill my own grocery store shelves with nutritious, delicious foods.

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I am the farmer.  I grow all of our produce for half of the year, increasing yields each season.  I grow our own chickens (a new venture, granted).  We gather our own eggs.  To fill in, I use other housewives’ farm goods; beef, pork, milk, and organic vegetables to preserve.  It takes a village of us.

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I am the cheese monger.  I make our own variety of cheese, along with yogurt and ice cream, and butter.

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I am the baker.  In my bakery I make coffee cakes, and fresh bread for sandwiches.

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I am my family’s own doctor.  I make my own medicines.  I am the veterinarian around here.

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I am the tailor.  I am the accountant.  I am a hell of a gourmet chef.  I am the winemaker.

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I make body products and cleaning products and support my husband in his job.

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I buy organic flour and coffee, sugar and nuts.  Things of that nature.  I save a ton of money by growing, bartering, supporting local farms, and doing it myself.  Just think of all the things I don’t buy!  I don’t really have time to get a job, you see.  I am busy working and giving my family a homegrown, healthy life.

 

 

Where Did the Time Go?

That was probably the most common question asked in my grandparent’s home.  Where did the time go? They would be telling a story about a friend who used to live there, or the neighbor and her daughter, or look at how tall we had gotten and shake their heads and utter the question.  This continued on through my children growing up, and even still, with Grandma gone, Grandpa shakes his head and says it again.  Where did the time go?

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I found myself the other day, as my youngest daughter had her wedding dress tailored, muttering under my breath the same words.  It’s really all so beautiful, this life.

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I have an amazing relationship with my children that I do not take for granted.  Emily and I (and our men) have been talking about going in together on a family farm for some time now.  I have learned better than to force it or hurry it up before the doors naturally open, but we are actively planning what we need to do to achieve this goal.  All of my hair brained schemes (new businesses, new career ideas, etc.) are essentially routes to the farm.  In my heart all I really want to do is homestead.

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I cannot believe that my granddaughter, Maryjane, is six years old!

Emily and I talked yesterday on the phone about how much money we could save by staying home and working our family farm.  We would be growing our own food (right now I grow four months worth of our produce (hopefully eight months worth this year), we are talking about chickens, goats, and I want to learn to fish.  She went on to say how incredible it would be for her children to learn homesteading skills while being homeschooled and being so close to their grandparents.  Growing up on a farm.  This is what all of us have always wanted. For four years we lived that dream.  We are ready to get back to it.

 

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My granddaughter, Ayla Mae, is 6 months old and growing fast!

I love my little urban farm here.  Solar powered, chickens, huge gardens, a farm dog, it’s good livin’ here.  I am very grateful.  I love donning an apron in the mornings.  I love feeding the chickens, and gathering eggs, and watering the extensive beds, and harvesting weeds for salad.  I love seeing everything grow, and the stack of wood on the porch, and the fruit trees leaf out.  I love the look of colorful jars cooling after being processed in boiling water and listening to the pop-pop of the lids sealing the contents of summer within.  I love going down to the cellar to bring up corn or tomatoes or jam or dandelion wine.

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Gandalf is ready for a farm.

So, we plan to eat out less, put more money towards debt, start saving, keep an eye out for properties coming up, continue to dream.  Whether it is here in this beautiful house in the city on a third of an acre, or on a larger family farm, this is the only life for me.  And if I am going to shake my head and wonder where the time has gone, it may as well be in my rocking chair in front of a fire with a grandbaby on my lap on a family farm.

Birthday Travels Through the Southwest (and the year of learning and adventure)

As adults we don’t seem to celebrate birthdays with the same festivity as when we were children, but I think all birthdays are incredibly special.  Having lost many friends at a young age, I know that each birthday is a great time to reevaluate, reground, regroup, and to be filled with gratitude.  Each lesson leading into another great discovery and memories fill the spaces in our days and lives with those we love and experiences to treasure.

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Last year was my year of bravery.  I shaved off all of my hair for my birthday.  It was freeing and light and was like the world’s burdens had been lifted off of my shoulders.  Now of course I am trying to grow out with some semblance of normalcy!

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My birthday is Sunday.  This year is my year of adventure and learning.  My farm is ready to really increase food production with experiments, new gardens, and my greenhouse.  I am registered for school in the fall.  But before everything gets really amped up, we are going on a ten day trip through New Mexico and Arizona.

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We will be staying with our dear, dear friends, Monte and Erik, whom we haven’t seen since they moved away over three years ago.  My friend from high school (26 years since I have seen her) is down there, as is one of Doug’s (30 years), and my wonderful Great-Aunt Lila.  I have never been to Arizona and I am excited to see the land and the people.  There are restaurants, parks, and museums to discover!  Sun to soak up!  Glasses of wine to clink with dear ones.  The overnights to and from Arizona in New Mexico I look forward to and always savor.  Chimayo is calling me.  So, for the next ten days I will be reporting to you from the fabulous Southwest with inspirations, ideas, and life.