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.

The FSA (Family Supported Agriculture)

veggie 2“Do you know what you want in your FSA this week?” I asked Emily.  Eggs, goat cheese, beets, potatoes, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, carrots, sage, and pumpkin piled into the cooler.

20170815_125536

I have always been on that in-between-sized farm.  I can grow a lot of produce, but I have run into a few problems with a small farm.  When I take produce to the farmer’s market, most folks will pass up my small display to go to the big farm tables.  You have to have a big, vibrant display to get folks to stop.  I tried to do a CSA (community supported agriculture) one year and some weeks my customers got a lot, and sometimes barely a shoe box.  We used to pick the best to go to the market and for the CSA’s and then ended up with the garden dredges ourselves, or worse, out to eat because we didn’t have enough!

produce

This year I took produce to the market early on and ran into the very same problems so I stopped.  Our kale is still four feet high out there and vibrant ruby beets line the row.  We have eaten more of our own produce then we ever have before.  We put up quite a bit as well.  I still have Jerusalem artichokes, sweet potatoes, potatoes, and cabbage to harvest but the garden is sleepily falling into slumber.

20170903_193511

I have found more joy in delivering large bundles of produce to my grown children then I ever did going to market.  Knowing that they are eating delicious, organically grown produce, cheese, and eggs makes this mama’s heart happy.  I always throw in some meat from my friends’ ranches.  It is my way of giving gifts to my kids.  I can’t always help them repair their cars or pay their bills, but I can feed them.  It’s what I do best.

maryjane

FSA stands for Family Supported Agriculture.  Payment comes in the form of a hug, and that is just right for me.

The Forever Farmgirl (keeping the faith, new beginnings, and the ongoing homestead)

cropped-cropped-img_0200.jpg

I wonder if life thus far has been preparing us for this.  Doug and I love bed and breakfasts.  We travel when we can and see as many as we can.  We even considered opening our own.  We lived through the coldest winter of our lives and came out stronger and loving the sun even more.  We have been practicing and perfecting every homestead skill we can think of in order to be more self reliant and to encourage others to do the same by teaching these skills.  We have amazed even ourselves by being able to grow food in the harshest of situations, on gravel driveways, and in discarded buckets.  We can split wood, take care of animals, make and grow our own food, preserve, and have learned that we really want to live very simply.

owl

My herbal business has changed and morphed over the years as has my knowledge and what I want to do with it.  I was able to sell my business and grow my herbal school.  The women in the course this semester have brought out so much in me that I was afraid to teach before for fear of scaring folks off!  I am teaching herbs to not only heal physical ailments but also mental, emotional, and spiritual as well in order to achieve a more balanced life and a new level of health and inner peace.  Teaching folks how to tap into their intuition and personal strengths has made teaching all the more valuable to me.  I changed the name of my school this year to the Homesteader’s Pharmacy School at Pumpkin Hollow Farm because there is a school in Boulder with a very similar name to my previous name, North American School of Clinical Herbalism.  But this, just as this final practice farm, was just a transitional name.  The new name of my Herbalist School is going to be Sacred Owl School of Original Medicine and will teach students how to not only know how to handle physical ailments, but how to use intuition and other means of holistic knowledge to really help themselves and their loved ones.

yarrow

I sometimes forget in the midst of intense heartache and changes that worrying is really quite useless, that the universe works in amazing ways and the Creator always helps guide.  Someone called me the other day and signed himself and his wife up for the fall Herbalist Course.  He didn’t care where we were moving, they would drive there to take the class.  When I asked how he heard of me he said that a woman in a grocery store gave them my information.  So many things are coming together without my knowledge or help that I cannot help but be astounded and amazed at how this life works when one is able to step back and look in from a new perspective.

wood stove 2

I will always be a farmgirl.  Doug and I will always have a homestead, whether it be in the middle of Denver, or in the beautiful mountain town of Cascade.  We love this lifestyle too much to attract any other kind of lifestyle.  Our life will reflect our greatest desires.  We will always teach.  That is my greatest gift and passion.  The possibility on the horizon pertains to a possible purchase of a three story Victorian bed and breakfast by friends that would be turned into a holistic bed and breakfast, meeting center, retreat center, and working homestead with classes.  The four of us have the right skill sets to be a power house team.  Goats would still be milked, chickens fed, organic gardens would fill the property.  Yoga, spiritual retreats, delicious food, tea on the large southern style porch, a cabin in back for us to live in complete with artist’s loft.  A dream come true?  We will see! Our fingers are crossed and breath held.  But we must exhale and inhale the wisdom that all things work together to bring us what we most desire and to help us to help as many people as possible.  We have each other and no matter where we end up it will be just right!

pikes

Farmgirlschool is alive and well.

The overwhelming number of responses and emails and phone calls have been very heartening for us.  Thank you for your support, prayers, and encouragement.  We are excited about what is on the horizon!

hallways

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

spinning wheel

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.

carder

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.

IMG_1108

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?

Creating Your Own Mini Greenhouse to Start Seeds

IMG_0814

Getting a jump start on the season is always a good idea.  I have had my trials and errors with seed starting over the years and have often ended up purchasing large tomato and pepper plants to put in the ground.  This year I am going back to the way I used to start seeds a long time ago and that always worked well for me.  I had given it up because of my lack of success transplanting them (that was before I knew you were supposed to water more than once a week!) and went on to more professional ways of seed starting, none of which worked for me.

I bought peat pots (good bye $100), I bought seed starting kits with mini green house lids, I bought grow lights (which mysteriously disappeared from my garage and is probably being used to grow pot by one of the neighborhood kids).  I bought seed starting medium, I took classes, I watched each seedling meet its untimely and sad little death.  And after all that money was spent, I had to find more money to go buy grown plants.  I should have stuck with the tried and true for me.  And that was creating little mini green houses on the cheap.

IMG_0813

Here’s how:

You will need organic potting soil, some Styrofoam cups, rubber bands, and sandwich bags.  So far I am fourteen dollars into this venture.  Yesterday I planted eighty-nine tomato, pepper, and eggplant seeds and still have plenty left to start more.

Organic potting mix is a must!  You don’t need extra chemicals in there promising twice the growth when you may end up accidentally poisoning wildlife and bees.  Everything needs more water here in Colorado so I have found that the seed starting mediums don’t hold enough water.

I know, I know, Styrofoam?  How unsustainable.  But they don’t fall apart like newspaper, peat, or paper cups. You need several weeks to get these started and I have had pots positively decompose before I could even plant them!  I reuse the cups year after year.  If one breaks it can be added to the cold frame or between two boards in the chicken coop for added insulation.  It can be crushed up and added to the bottom of a pot before adding soil to make it lighter.  And the plastic one-time use trays don’t seem to be much better from an environmental standpoint.  We’ll just keep giving them new lives.

IMG_0812

Fill cup with soil and mark outside of cup with variety name with a permanent marker.  Believe me, you think you will remember, but you will not!

Water soil, don’t make a lagoon, just make sure it is uniformly wet, about a quarter cup in a twelve ounce cup.

IMG_0815

Add two seeds.  One to grow, and one for insurance, but no more than that or you will have to cut a lot of little seedlings out and waste seeds.  And organic seeds cost a bit!

Add just a bit of soil to cover the seeds and add about a teaspoon of water.

IMG_0816

Place the opening of a sandwich bag around the rim of the cup and secure with a rubber band to create a mini greenhouse.

These can be placed in a very sunny window sill.  This year I put mine in the green house.  Seeds need sun and warmth to germinate along with humidity and water.  That is what we are creating in this environment.

This will self water for about a week.  You will see the condensation rise and fall off the sandwich bag.  Once it is not as humid in the bag, remove the bag and water with a spray bottle until seedlings are well established.  You can replace the bag as long as the seedlings are not too tall.  Don’t let the cups dry out (it is harder to without drainage holes) but don’t make it too wet either.  Just moist.

This makes a great homeschool project and is an excellent way to provide your family with more food security by starting your own vegetable seeds.  This will be a tasty summer!

The Greenhouse?

IMG_0809

There is a large mass of building on the property.  The caved in root cellar burrows beneath it, the stucco and plastic paneled building serves now as a place to store items.  Trash and treasures abound in the light filled space.  It once held a giant pomegranate tree and rows and rows of water plants.  Our landlords used to own a business selling plants for ponds and I can imagine the place filled with flowers and greenery, with a large pomegranate tree as the center of its universe.  Two snow storms and disability turned the now dusty greenhouse into a storage unit.  We keep our Christmas items and canning jars in there, ourselves.

When Tuesday supper club came around this week, the landlords (I prefer the term neighbors) entered the kitchen smiling and chatting.  Dianna looked at my organization black board in the kitchen and the to-do list.  One item is to start ninety-eight tomato, eggplant, and pepper seeds.  I said I was going to line all the window sills and hope the cats didn’t get it.

IMG_0810

“Why don’t you just use the greenhouse?” she asked.

I’ll admit, I thought since it was filled with items it wouldn’t work as a greenhouse.  Not proud of this, folks.  I had a dumb moment.  A greenhouse is still a greenhouse.  And I have a greenhouse, y’all!  Another perk of this lovely property we have stumbled upon.

Spring Time Lambs, Seminars, Seeds, and Farming

sustain

We were driving home and heard a commercial on the radio for the Southern Colorado Sustainability and Outdoor Living Expo for this weekend.  We are participating in it so were glad to hear ads for it going out.  They named off different topics that were being spoken about at the fair.  It took me a minute to figure out they were naming off what I was speaking about at the fair!  I started giggling.  I changed my life.  I used to be invited to speak about herbalism.  Which I love, and is fine, but I want to be an herbalist for us and to teach herbalism, not promote my retail business anymore.  So, here I am speaking six times this weekend on homesteading and simple living.  A new start.

fairy38

My dear friend, Margie, bought my business name.  She is the new Garden Fairy.  She was my first student.  She used to run our shop when we were gone.  She is a part of the Celtic Festival in Elizabeth that we are avidly involved in.  She and our families get together for Christmas and see each other when her kids are in town.  She never thinks of herself, only of others.  And I am thrilled that she is taking it over.  So, if I am not the Garden Fairy anymore, who am I, the Pumpkin?  Pumpkin Hollow Farm is our new full time endeavor and it starts full throttle now!

Homestead 101 Cover

Our spring has begun.  My two books are done.  (I have a cookbook coming out in the spring, but that is not too time consuming.)  My promotional materials and work for the farm are done.  The seeds have arrived!

1 lamb

Tomorrow we pick up two darling baby lambs.  Just like with our goat kids they will have collars and leashes and baby bottles for awhile and go with us everywhere until they are old enough to hold their own in the yard.  They will be attending the fair with us this weekend.  I’m sure they will be a hit!  They even made the poster!

IMG_0646

Tomorrow we also get into the garden.  Five rows of four foot by twenty-eight foot beds will be created and formed with bricks or whatever creative pieces I can find laying around the property.  Leaves and coffee grounds and old compost layered in, then topped with hay.  The walkways covered in wood chips.

Today 98 plants will be started, tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants and will line the windows with hopes of keeping them hidden from the kittens.

I’ll write about each thing this week!

Spring cleaning and the last orders being filled will take place as well.  Perhaps a little time in the sun.

Spring has sprung and we are now all systems go!

If you would like to go to the Expo this weekend we’d love to see you.  My speaking schedule is as follows but you can also just come by and see our new additions and say hey!

Friday at 3:00- Chickens 101 and Common Chickens Myths

Friday at 5:00- How to Live a Simpler, More Sustainable Life

Saturday at 11:00- Turning Common Weeds into Medicinal Teas

Saturday at 4:00- Smart Gardening; Interplanting and Permaculture

Sunday at 12:00- Chickens 101 and Common Chicken Myths

Sunday at  2:30- How to Live a Simpler, More Sustainable Life

 

Space and Seed Wonderings

IMG_0093

After writing the post about what I would do if I had no fear I realized that deep down I was done with the retail side of herbalism.  I wanted to get back to helping people that came to me directly and I want to make medicines for them on the spot with what is there.  It may sound silly, and not at all business savvy, but I was getting too big.  So within four weeks of that post I have sold my business name, almost cleared out all of my stock, and have really promoted my farm and school.  I am getting regular queries on what my farm will offer and folks are signing up for classes.

Then I wrote two books and rather than waiting to be discovered I just self published them.  This is called, Taking your life into your own hands!  Just do it!  It has to work!  I am not afraid of whether the farm will work.  Of course it will.  I am afraid that I will not plant enough.  I still do not have any idea how many lettuce seeds to plant.  How many tomato plants?  How many cabbages?  We need enough vegetables to feed our family, to preserve for the winter, and to sell at the market, and have some available for folks that visit the farm.  That seems like a lot.  Do I have enough space?  Time shall tell.  I guess I will make charts.  How much space does one broccoli take? (1 foot)  How much broccoli do I want for us? (One head every other week?)  Twenty-six plus however many I want to sell.  So, let’s say I want to sell another twenty-four heads of broccoli then I need one fifty foot row to grow broccoli.  I can grow greens in between and herbs.  They can share space.  I need to do that with all the seeds I bought!  There has to be an easier way!  I am sure the longer I farm, the more in tune I will be and this will come more naturally.  In the meantime, where should I put the corn?

I’m excited to watch this year’s farming season transpire.  I am excited to hear about how you are making your dreams come true as well!

Feeling Sheepish

sheep

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.

sheep 4

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.

sheep 3

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.

sheep 2

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

IMG_0348

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.

yarn

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.

IMG_1674

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.

SAM_0438 (2)

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.

SAM_0439 (2)

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.

lamb

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!