Lessons From a Homestead

 

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1. Thou shall not procrastinate.

It was such a lovely day Tuesday that at the end of the day, with the clothes lines weighed down with garments still barely damp, I thought, ‘Oh I’ll just get them in the morning.’  And then we woke to this.  Whoops.  The clothes on the line were rows of wintery mass, crystals of ice surrounding each thread.

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Just like with bringing in clothes before a new cold front hits, we must also make sure to harvest when crops are ready, preserve when bounty comes in, get wood and hay stockpiled before winter, get seeds ordered so they have time to arrive before its time to start them indoors.  Procrastinating on a farmstead (or in life, I suppose) is never really a great thing.

2. Better late than never.

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Ahh, but the sun shone brightly this morning and I do believe the clothes will dry and be fresher than ever.

We were at a funeral all day yesterday and I mentioned to someone I was chatting with that we wished we had started farming twenty years ago.  How much we would know and have accomplished by now!  But then I thought, you know?  I am here now.  We took the plunge.  We combined our strengths and courage and changed our lifestyle to one of vast simplicity and peace out here on this homestead.  It has its fair share of worries, as anywhere does, but it is just where we are supposed to be and we hope to have another 40+ years of farming.

It is never to late to prepare for a dream to come true, to learn new skills, to make amends, to make new friends, to change one’s life, or just to relax more.

3. Live seasonally.

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When we lived in the suburbs our life revolved around school and work.  It was either cold outside or not.  We ate whatever was on sale at the grocery store.  Our life was the same year round.  Now, our senses have been heightened, intensified, we live much more deeply,  more fully living seasonally.

It is the coldest winter we can remember but the summer heat will feel all the more sweet.  Since we work outdoors most of the year, we experience all elements.  Heat, cold, rain, snow, hail, sweet perfect warmth.  This summer, according to the Almanac, will be hot and rainy.  It will warm our bones and make us feel wonderful and then maybe we will be ready for the coolness of Autumn by the end.  Then the respite and warm fires that come in winter.  We go through hard work then long breaks.  We long for markets to start.  We can’t wait for them to cease.

We eat what is available.  The first strawberry is ever so sweet.  The ones later in the season trucked in are dreadful.  We enjoy food so much more in their proper season.  We feel the warm soil, kick the soft snow, dream of spring, and can sense weather changes in the air.  We are keenly aware of every scent, sight, taste, sound, and feeling on our skin.  This is a powerful way to live.

4. Be home more.

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My favorite days are those I can spend on my homestead away from the world.  I love being able to get things done around here, then curl up with a book, to know what is going on here, and to keep the house warm.  Last night when we came home rather late, something shot around the greenhouse away from the chicken coop as Doug was closing up the ladies.  Fifteen minutes later and we could have had trouble.  The house was 45 degrees from our neglecting the fire all day.

Your home is your respite.  Decorate it and fill it with things you love and be there more.

5. Take chances.

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We lost so many animals last year that for the first time I was a little shy about getting more.  Our middle child, Shyanne, works at a hardware store and the shop cat had kittens.  Shyanne wanted to assure they went to good homes, so she took one, my son took one, and we were designated two.  Nine cats again.  Oy.  What if they get sick?  What if they get the others sick?  What if they die early?  What if…..we took them home.  They are healthy little things, full of fun and mischief and keep Doug and I laughing.  Between the kittens and Maryjane’s antics when we babysit her, we can’t stop laughing.  Great medicine.  Worth the chance.

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6. Embrace life.  Life the life YOU want.

I often find myself plagued with worries and regrets.  Bad memories or the coulda shoulda wouldas.  This year every time one pops up I will quickly shut the door on it.  No use worrying about past things.  In fact, there is no use worrying about future things!  Life right now.  Right this second.  This life we are living right now is what we need to embrace fully.  Do the job you want to do.  Live where you want to.  Live the lifestyle you want.  Everything else will fall into place.  Walk softly on the Earth and in accordance with nature.  Take walks.  Notice everything around you.  Notice all your senses.  ‘Tis a gift to be alive!

Our Farmstead (a new chapter)

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The house smells faintly of wood smoke.  It is beautiful here.  Serene.  Earlier when taking my greyhound for a walk through the acres of tall grass, he startled a large owl.  It fled from a massive willow and swept overhead across the pasture, it’s long grey wings soaring.  The skyline is seemingly painted.  Such a sense of surreality to it all.  The sun rising over the prairie, those luminous mountain peaks, the glorious rose fire of sunset, the glittering city lights in the distance.   The night sky is dark and mysteriously layered.  There is space here for finding peace.  Space for finding self.

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Such an odd thing to move without one’s children.  Granted they are adults and don’t live at home anymore and I am a mere forty-two minutes away if one were counting (further from my son and daughter-in-law in Denver) but still quite accessible and a new era begins.  It has never been just Doug and I.

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As I walk up the long ramp of the deck to enter the house I feel as though I am walking up a dock, a sense of vacation permeates this place.  Entering through the door and into the warm kitchen, quaintly decorated, I feel as if I have rented a cabin for the weekend.  I may have to return home Monday.  But in fact, this is home.  What a wondrous thing.

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I don’t feel like this is a farm.  In fact, the idea of having a farm exhausts me.  This past year I attempted to grow enough vegetables for market, to start a CSA for milk and vegetables.  To sell dozens of eggs.  I could only grow enough food for us.  I only had enough milk for our use and for making cheese.  The chickens went on strike.  Interns are no longer in my future.  I like my space too much.  I will continue to teach classes.  I will have friends over for tea.  I will grow enough for us, have another milker to sell fresh goat’s milk next year, and now that the chickens are penned up in an eight food high large coop and yard, I should be able to locate their eggs!  No, I do not want a farm.  This is a farmstead.  A homestead with farm animals and a large garden.  It is a place to sustain ourselves and to teach others how to do the same.  A place to find inspiration and joy.  New memories to come.  Our farmstead, our homestead, our new place is here.  I can hardly believe I am not dreaming.

It Takes Two to Homestead

“What does your husband do?”  Um…same as me.  I have been asked this dozens of times as if we could only manage if he moonlighted as a software engineer or cook for Pizza Hut.  He was working at the coffee shop for fun two days a week last winter and had to quit because his Honey Do list was expanding at an alarming speed without him home.

My cousin is excited to go off grid.  She asked me how Doug and I homestead without jobs or income.  I thought it was time here on Farmgirl School to set the record straight.  If you want to be a homesteader, here are some of the facts.

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1. You must have a cottage industry to pay the bills. 

Yes, we will be practically off grid when we move but we will have rent, propane, cell phones, and internet still.  We aren’t leaving forever to be hermits.  We also will need money for gas and car repairs since we don’t have horses and will need hay and chicken feed (and dog food and cat food) and a few groceries that we don’t make or grow yet.  Not much, our total income required will be $1500 per month.  That’s wonderful but we still need an income to make that much.  We are herbalists.  We have a pretty elaborate Apothecary here.  We make over fifty herbal medicines, salves, beauty products, honeys, and teas.  We grow the herbs, and sell our formulas at farmer’s markets, craft shows, and over the phone and internet.  I always say “we” but here’s the breakdown.  Yes, this is my creation.  I am the intuitive healer.  I am the one who developed all of these medicines, who continues to study, research, and create the most effective medicines out there.  Then Doug steps in.  He is the empath and loves talking with people and he is a natural salesman.  When people come by the booth I generally raise my book higher.  Not because I don’t like people, I do, and one on one I am great, but I am no salesman.  Doug is a retired IT guy, he makes sure the computers are running well, that I can get to my email, the website, my blog.  He develops labels, logos, and marketing materials.  He fills product, loads the car, does markets when I have other things to do.  He has memorized the answers, understands the science, and can help people as well as I can.  Without me there wouldn’t be an Apothecary, without him there wouldn’t be a business that could sustain us.  Not make us rich, just sustain us.  That is just what we want.

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2. There is Women’s Work on a homestead.

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Now, don’t get your apron strings in a knot, this is the truth.  Though we help each other when needed, there are definite divisions in our workload.  If I had to go outside and pound eight foot fence posts into the ground, run fencing, wrestle 150 pound goats, bring in hay, chop firewood, haul firewood, and till, I would be out there for awhile.  By the end, I would either be crying or off to find a glass of wine and a book.  I don’t like that I am not as strong as a man, but I have come to accept it.  Doug handles the heavy work of the farm like a pro.  It’s actually pretty sexy.  I am okay being in the kitchen (barefoot with a baby on my hip is fine too).  I am naturally inclined (as most women are) to nurture.  I enjoy canning hundreds of jars of vegetables and fruits.  I enjoy getting three meals a day on the table.  I love that my husband enjoys my cooking.  I feel pride that we provided a lot of it.  I enjoy a clean house (though right now it never seems to be).  I love to decorate.  Heaven forbid there be large posters of Broncos players in my Laura Ashley living room.  I will take over the decorating.  I enjoy sewing and making gifts.  I enjoy homemaking.  I like putting clothes out on the line.  I love my garden.  We help each other in our respective areas but a homestead runs on old fashioned ideals.

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3. Homesteading is hard work but worth it.

“When do you ever have downtime?” I was asked yesterday.  Often times we are asked when we ever work.  Since folks aren’t around here all the time they don’t see the inner workings of this homestead.  Right now with the farmer’s markets, harvesting, putting up food, and moving it may look like we don’t have much down time.  We work very hard physically for a good part of the year but it is enjoyable and feels good.  It is much healthier than sitting at a desk for eight plus hours a day.  It is really satisfying work.  If we don’t feel good or are injured we can rest.  Our schedule is completely made by us.  We work very hard during the warm months so that we can rest and do things we enjoy in the cold months.  We always have to milk the goats and feed the animals and do housework but our life is a string of pleasant events.  We eat fresh, unprocessed foods.  We enjoy good company and have great friends.  We get plenty of fresh air and enjoy the antics of animals.  We have a lot of time together.  Watching friends and family lose spouses, we realize that each day we are together is a gift.  And we have a very fun, quintessential Grammie and Papa’s house that will be host to many fond memories for grandkids and a respite for our children.

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I suppose one could hypothetically homestead by themselves but they would only get half the work done and still require outside help.  It would be a tad lonely.  I’m not saying one couldn’t do it, but it sure makes it easier to homestead with two.  Without me there wouldn’t be a homestead, without Doug there wouldn’t be a homestead.  Life is sweet here.

Horse and Carriage Needed (and the article about us)

This may be God’s way of telling us to stop driving all over the state.  To get back home and get our chores done and eat dinner at the dining room table.  Kindly stop gallivanting all over the place!  When the truck in the driveway with 300,000 miles is our most reliable vehicle (the old one and the new one we got off Craigslist with our income tax refund are in the shop), there is a definite possibility that we need to learn to stay put!

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This is where it would be nice to live in the city.  Did I just say that?  A nice homesteading friendly city.  Hop on a bike, walk, take a bus, only drive to farmer’s markets.  We would save so much money, only need one car, and be in better shape.

A friend of the kids used to say when driving out here to get them mimicking the highway sign, “End of the Earth 8 miles, Kiowa 7 more miles”.  There will be no bike riding or walking up the extremely hilly highway to town seven miles.  I would guess it would be mighty dangerous taking a horse and carriage up that route as well.

This is just fueling (this part scares Doug) my anti-electronics and anti-automotive feelings.  Get me a bike and a few extra oil lamps Papa, we’re goin’ Amish.

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These are the times that I need to remind myself why we do what we do.  We work from home so that we can get things done around the homestead while working, and be conveniently located to the swing under the tree for breaks.  We work together so we can spend more time together and enjoy visitors and friends to our house at any time.  We can walk to the library, bank, post office, and can get ice cream at the gas station if in dire need.  We can walk to the bar if  in even direr need.  We can lounge in our back yard with our chickens and goats reading a farming book at two in the afternoon and enjoy the warmest part of the day before taking the clothes off the line, and getting ready to make supper.  We are living the good life.  The good life for us means we cannot afford a reliable vehicle but why do I need to drive that much if I have all this?

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The Huffington Post did an article on us yesterday. I have it posted here.  We are thrilled that we may be able to inspire other folks to abandon their cubicle and head out bravely into this beautiful world and do what they want!  It just means I won’t be driving a new, luxurious truck anytime soon, but that’s okay.  My old one works just fine.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/04/09/katie-sanders-letting-go_n_5106816.html

40 Days (renew, reinspire, recalculate)

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I am truly an optimist.  I love new beginnings and always believe in them.  Comparing photos from our time with friends in November to recent ones (above and below), I see that a tremendous sadness and weight descended on us and was evident through the camera lens.  Downturned faces and hunched shoulders reveal a burdening time.  On March 31st we spent all our money on a lemon of a car off of Craigslist that is still in the shop.  That was the last of our bad luck and April 1st was the beginning of a time of renewal, inspiration, and strength.

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40 Days.  Forty days would be more apt to have started at Lent, but I am a bit behind.  40 days of renewal, a sense of wonder, doing nice things for myself, not caring about rules, and noticing the beautiful things in my life that subtly whisper through the winds of each day.  Why 40 days?  One could pick any number, really.  The beginning of April to Mother’s Day, which represents my most honored description seemed right.  I turn forty on Monday.  New things are surely on the horizon for us.  The last forty years I grew up, raised children, came to this place.  The next forty years will be so delightful, I am sure.  Our own homestead surely awaits us, more grandchildren are surely in our future, our children are getting married, our marriage is getting stronger, we have so much to look forward to.

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Choose a number.  I chose 40.  In a book at night, record what you did or what happened that day, what you see your life as.  It is never too late to make small or big life changes.

April 1st- Bought an expensive (for me) bottle of Borolo and opened it for lunch.  Instead of complaining at the bar while Doug played pool, I tried to be present, even played, and had a good time.

April 2nd- Spent time with Maryjane, rocked her to sleep.  Painted two letters at the coffee shop at the spur of the moment.

April 3rd- Played Andrea Bocceli and served lunch while teaching a class.  Prayed for a long time before bed.

Because life is so blaringly short, I want to enjoy people more.  Spend more time with friends and celebrating.  My four day birthday weekend starts today.  A night out with Monte and Erik.  Tomorrow Doug is throwing me a birthday barbeque.  Tomorrow night the Melting Pot with Steve, Nancy’s husband who’s brain tumor may not allow him many more dinners out with us.  Sunday, a bee keeping class, Tapas lunch, and an outing with two new homesteading couples we met.  Monday, my actual birthday, a national newspaper is interviewing me thanks to this blog.  My life is beautiful, and complicated, and full of mystery and joy.  I am blessed beyond belief.

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My mother mentioned that I lead a charmed life.  Any of us can have a charmed life.  All you have to do is put out there what you want and you will get it, like it or not.  Work for it, desire it, pray for it, do everything you can to get it.  Our life looks like what we wanted it to.  We now dream of our own homestead that we can stay at.  We dream of so many things.  Though they feel like a desperation now, they will come to being.  They have to.

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The key to our life is instead of making more money, make less.  Every time we think we need more money, we try to sell something, or get rid of a bill, or make do.  My ultimate goal in the next 40 years, or 40 months, or 40 weeks would be better, is to find a place that is even cheaper than what we are paying now so that we can lower the prices of our medicines and our classes so that other folks can make less money and enjoy their lives more too.  When you don’t have to work so hard for what you have, you can enjoy each day more.  You have more freedom.

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Break rules.  My own rules.  I can only eat this and that.  I cannot buy a lotion that smells SO good that my daughters bought because I make my own lotion, and it is fantastic, one of my best sellers.  I went and bought the other lotion.  Gasp.  I eat what I want, and drink when I want, and go to the coffee shop when I want, and still get all my work done.  The only thing that was keeping me imprisoned was myself.

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Today is a new day, y’all.  Be inspired today.

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Electric Items We Could Live Without (but don’t…yet)

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A few days ago I mentioned what electric devices we do not use and don’t miss.  Electricity is tricky.  See, it seemed like a blessing upon its discovery and I am sure in many ways it was, but not without a hefty price.  Electricity and oil, resources that cannot be replaced, have become such a huge part of our world that no one wants to give them up.  We have billions of car parts that will never decompose.  They use tons of oil and gas and have the ability to maim and kill.  Of course, I don’t particularly want to walk to the next town over (seven miles on a highway) but I seem to be without a horse and carriage as well.  Electricity becomes such a constant factor that we only become aware of it the few times it goes out and we then realize (horrified) that we cannot make coffee!  Pollution, fracking, it is all a bit much so that we can turn on a light at 1 am.

wind turbineThe larger electric companies, like the one that serves Denver, is creating huge grids of solar panels and they have a large wind turbine farm an hour east of here.  I used to cheer and carry on with joy about it.  Except those are not perfect forms either.  Disposable solar panels, batteries that never decompose, and wind turbines that take out thousands of bats and migratory birds every year.  They would have to use so many of these forms because none of us want to give up an ounce of our electricity.  We should be educating people of another option.  Gasp.  Use less.  Ok, someone help me down off of this pulpit.

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I could go completely off grid.  Prairie style all the way.  Doug would be searching for a cellphone signal around the tiny cabin and probably catch a taxi.  We have to make compromises.  If we did get a little solar power, a small one we could keep the few things that we enjoy.  It would certainly be a smaller footprint than how the large companies are doing it and we could be more self sufficient.  Here’s a few things that we could give up, may give up, but haven’t yet.

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1. The Television.  We watch precisely three television shows a year.  Sometimes less if we get bored.  This does not include Bronco football games.  We watch American Idol, The Voice, and So You Think You Can Dance.  We both missed our chance at Divadom and though we can sing at Rodney’s house on his karaoke system and sing to the chickens (they rather enjoy that), we like to see what others out there are doing with their voices and dance skills.  It also keeps us from getting terribly bored and wandering out to eat.  Perhaps when all the kids move out completely we can think of other things to do.  Ahem…

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2. The Coffee Grinder. I can indeed sit there for a half hour contemplating the universe while grinding coffee by the early morning light of dawn.  But the quick buzzing thing does it in twenty seconds!  I’ll work on it.

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3. The Computer. Not bloody likely, my husband would say.  He needs wifi like he needs morning coffee.  I could be happy writing this at the library.

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4. The Music ChannelAlong the lines of getting rid of the television (or could we keep it just for movies?), there would also go my music stations.  I could pick up the piano again, or the fiddle, or listen to Doug play the mandolin.  We could start a band, or just sit on the porch with cold beers and entertain the neighbors.  We could make mountain music.  We could hum to ourselves.  We could make our own music.

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5. The Stove I want a wood cook stove so bad I could cry.  I would love to be able to heat the house and cook up some biscuits and eggs all in the same place.  I know that after cooking on a gas stove for many years I would miss the quick kettle heat up, the fast soup heat up.  I would need a summer kitchen in order to stand cooking indoors.  Oh wait, I need that anyway!

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6.The RefrigeratorAnd the last thing that requires electricity is the refrigerator and freezer.  I would need a darn good root cellar and a cold creek to get away with that one.  Let me think that one over.

There are many ways that we can lessen our use of electricity.  A potato masher instead of an immersion blender, turn off the lights when not in use, give up the curling iron (you look great), unplug chargers and turn off power strips when not in use.  All those invisible currents are still pulsing out.  These things not only save us money (that we can spend on seeds) but helps out the planet.  Even if it doesn’t feel like a lot now, in a few generations it will, because everything we do has a trickle down effect.

This Year in Farmgirl School…

I am inspired by so many things and people.  From the Amish countryside to the Tuscany hills, there are people and principles there that appeal to me.  Perhaps the aspects that I so desire are the same.

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I am inspired by simplicity.  In having few material items.  More meaningful open spaces that are easy to care for and easy to feed a crowd in.  The openness and simple beauty of an Amish home.  The old worn villas in Tuscany where the doors and windows stay open, if possible, and streams of light and outdoors dance across the tiles of the homes filled with family and friends and wine.

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An emphasis on family, friends, and spirituality from Catholic to Amish, a love for community, a devotion to family, a loyalty to friends, and a love for God all speak to me.  To take the time to sit down and enjoy the company of those close, to pass a loaf of homemade bread, to pour another glass of wine or lemonade.  To be interested and care about what is happening and to share in the richness of these various ribbons of people gifted to our lives.

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Homemade food.  Tapestried gardens, local, fresh, healthy farmed, real food.  The taste of just pressed olive oil, or crisp kale from the garden, of earthy potatoes baked with cheese, or chicken just roasted with sprigs of rosemary and sage.  Locally made red wine or glasses of refreshing iced tea.  Things grown from our own hands or from a local farmer or artisan.  Knowing where our food comes from, proud of its origin in the back yard, or from nearby.

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Self sufficiency, or better, local sufficiency.  A can-do spirit.  I can get eggs from my back yard.  I can grow a bit of wheat.  I can put up vegetables.  I can harvest my fresh fruit.  I can grow mushrooms.  I can savor my own herbs.  I can….As my friend put it in a recent post when describing her grandparents’ farm, “The life of self sufficiency turned into a life of dependency.”  Profound words to me as most of us have been born into a life of dependency.  Being an incredibly independent free spirit makes me desperate to be able to provide more for myself and my family.

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Arts and beauty.  From paintings and pottery to home spun yarn and homemaking arts, I am inspired by them all.

Out here, folks do tend to move a bit slower, have less material items, and are comfortably Christian without the annoying evangelism.  They are friendly, and community minded.  I farm in town so that perhaps more people will be inspired to grow their own dinners and see that it can be done out here.  I do have dinner with friends and close family often.  I have many more arts to master.  This will be an even better year.

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This year in Farmgirl School we will be learning a host of new things.

We’ll become bee keepers.  We will not be afraid of a few ten thousand bees.

We will create a corn fence around the front yard.

We will grow an entire garden’s worth of produce in five gallon buckets.

We will create a portable orchard.

We will learn how to be market growers.

We’ll show you how to start a farm from a business perspective and succeed with farm diversity.

We’ll be playing midwife and welcoming in new kids next month.

We’ll master the art of creating hard cheeses along with other dairy products.

We’ll be shearing large unlovey animals.

We’ll master the art of spinning.

We’ll color roving with plants.

We’ll create lovely fibers and then learn how to make sweaters and socks and they will be straight and even!

We’ll be hoping for farm hatched chicks.

We’ll expand the Apothecary garden and teach you more about natural cures.

We’ll visit a local Amish community.

We’ll host a food swap.

We’ll entertain more.

We’ll have some laughs, some mishaps, some roaring successes, and we’ll learn.  Come learn with me.

Welcome to Farmgirl School.  This year is going to be fun!

Ten Reasons to Run Away to the Country

1. There is nothing cuter than after yelling, “Where my chickies at?” an entire flock of girls, petticoats flouncing, running to you who then procede to follow you wherever you go.

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2. Upon taking a deep breath in one does not choke on pollution.  Breathe often.

3. Having a garden large enough to try many different heirloom seeds and the ability to grow one’s own food.

4. Neighbors mind their own business and home owners associations and all their power trips are non-existent.

5. Stars…so bright and beautiful you are forced to stop and gasp and breathe and be.

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6. Cost of living is lower…simplicity, hurray!

7. People are friendlier…they wave, they help out, they smile.

8. Small towns are usually situated not terribly far from a larger city so conveniences are still available…in case one is in need of a cigar bar or movie.

9. Trucks are still considered cool…and parking spaces fit them.

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10. Country music, rodeos, fields of cows, blue skies, horses, and you can get away with wearing your apron everywhere.

Oil Lamps and Sleepy Tea

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My friend, Faleena, and I had just discovered that we both shared a love for homesteading and a desire to live with less electricity use.  We both love and have oil lamps that we use in the evenings.  We also joked that we had to turn on the overhead lights in order to find the lamps and the matches!

That was over a year ago and we have definitely made vast improvements on our homesteading goals and achievements.  I no longer have to turn on the lights to light the oil lamps!  At dusk each evening we go around the house lighting various candles and oil lamps.  To my son’s dismay, when he is home, I walk straight in the house and without thinking, turn off all the lights.  I am the worst version of the mom throughout history that yells, “Turn that light off! Electricity isn’t free!”  I love how the house looks and feels by candle and oil lamp light.  It is a natural way for our internal clocks to work.  In the evening we naturally slow down.  After dinner, the sun is going down, the lights are lit and our bodies automatically relax.  If we sit in front of the computer all night, or watch television late, or heaven forbid stay awake working, our bodies don’t get the message to get ready to go to sleep.  LED lights and habits keep our bodies awake because they never knew it was time to go to bed!  Probably the reason my Sleep medicine, that I make, is our best seller!

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When we go to bed, Doug goes in the bedroom and lights the beautiful, large orange oil lamp that we found in an antique store.  Doug simply replaced the wick and it is like new.  It is bright and creates good reading light.  My side has a candlestick and an oil lamp.  Those light my way through journal writing and books about farming or about traveling Europe in search of good wine and food.  Doug just got a Nook for Christmas and on the nighttime setting it will cast a nice glow for him to read by.  I do not need more than my oil lamp and candle stick.  You wouldn’t believe how much light comes off of those!

So, what’s the point?  We have a house that is fully outfitted with electricity and gas.  We don’t have a wood stove yet.  We can turn on the heater at all times, cook on the gas stove, we have every modern convenience.  We could go out and replace the oil lamps with table lamps and plug them in.  What is the point of all this homesteading nonsense?  All of this trying to use less energy?  What is the point?  I have asked myself this as well.  Why am I so adamant about this?

  1. When Andy came home one day and saw the tea pot warmer with the coffee press on top, a tea candle keeping it warm, he asked dryly, “Are we Amish now?”  No, but they certainly have some great aspects of their lifestyle, don’t they?  A stress level tremendously less than modern society’s.  A natural rhythm to their work and days. I wake up at dawn, write, drink coffee, take care of the animals, make eggs that the girls just laid and toast from homemade bread and talk with Doug.  We go to work or I work from home on the mini-farm.  Keeping a household together is a full time job outside the shop!  I pack our lunches.  I make dinner and we have dinner together every night along with any children that might be home and any friends or boy/girl friends that come over.  Most of the time anymore, it’s just me and Doug and it is lovely.  We play cards, or games, or read, or watch a movie, or just listen to music and talk.  We light candles, and oil lamps and our bodies know it’s time to unwind.  Asleep by 10:00.  Not a bad existence.  The non-electric items I use, from the washtub to the coffee press, to the oil lamps create a sense of unhurriedness in me.  I methodically wash clothes, hang them on the line, grind coffee, prepare dinner, light candles, make tea…..everything has a rhythm.  I, for too long, lived in the rush rush world that is our current state of society.
  2. Petroleum is not a renewable source.  Electricity, great as it is, has created some disastrous problems in our environment and among people and places and has made it possible for us to live that rush rush existence even though it should have slowed us down.  Perhaps I cannot solve all of the world’s environmental problems on my own.  Indeed, I am using lamp oil to light the lamps, but less energy is used in our house than before.  But, I do believe in the ripple effect.  Surely, by my taking less, less energy, less stuff, growing our own food without synthetic chemicals, and providing for our own needs will leave a little bit more for my grandchildren’s children.

So, here I end by wishing you lots of light; sunlight, oil lamp light, and candle light especially!  Here is a recipe for tea to help you sleep.

Out Like a Light Tea

In a canning jar or sandwich bag combine 1 ounce each hops, California poppy, skullcap, chamomile, and catnip.  You can add valerian for an extra kick but it does have the essence of gym socks.  Fair warning.  Use 1 teaspoon per 1 cup of boiling water.  Steep 4 minutes, sweeten with honey if desired.

Wishing You A Simple Life!

Katie in the petting zoo  (The pictures denote simple things you can do for cheap…You can play at a petting zoo!)

From my first modeling contract twenty years ago, to expanding my dance company to two sites and eventually closing it a few years later from exhaustion (not really good at delegating, I taught every single class!), I was always trying to get more, get more, when we catch up we can slow down….you’ve probably said it yourself.

IMG00054  (Go for a walk or nice hike)

We made such a drastic change that we still get confused looks from friends and family about why we live where we do, in the size house that we do, with the business that we do.  Doug’s brother is pretty certain he should go get a “real” job.  We are used to the confusion though.  We only hope one day they will understand that for everything one has, every material item, every dollar spent is time off your life.  How many hours does it take to pay the car payment?  How many hours does it cost to purchase the new shoes?  There is always money to be made.  We can always make what we need, we just choose to make less so that we don’t spend our life working for things that are not permanent.  What a waste!  Life is short enough!  I would rather sit on the tree swing, taking in the sweet smell of lilacs in the spring, sipping hot coffee, and writing in a journal than stressing through rush hour to get to a job that doesn’t allow me to enjoy what I just worked for!  Our lack of bills and decreased spending has allowed me to breathe for the first time since I was a child.

IMG00033  (Ride your bicycle)

Of course there are things that need to be paid for.  Food, shelter, clothing, some outings, etc. so we must have a job.  All of us have a gift within us, usually more than one talent, that could suffice to make enough money to survive.  For us, it was making herbs into medicine and making luxurious body products safe enough to eat (but not very tasty), and now to teach those skills.  I also opened a new dance company with a smaller amount of students just so I can dance!  None of these businesses needed more money up front than we could come up with to start, no loans.  It looks as though we live below poverty level if you were to look at the numbers, but we have never been richer or happier!  It means that we have designated what gets cash and we never feel like we are suffering.  If I desperately feel like I need something, I will go make a little more to get it.

Doug and Eliza Doolittle  (Snuggle a kitty)

But I am happy with a packet of seeds, a deck of cards, a journal, pots of coffee or tea, okay, a bottle of wine, some popcorn, a vintage dress from the thrift store, the new “old” aprons that my friend gave me, a sliced radish with smoked sea salt, the tabby on my lap right now, and simplicity and peace in our household.  This may be your year to find what you love, pursue it, and give up the rest!  And I will try to simplify even more!

Happy New Year Everyone!

IMG00055 (Marvel at how beautiful nature is)