Seven Years in Farmgirl School

Seven years ago today, I began to design a blog and was giddy with the possibilities. Dozens of journals and manila envelopes filled with typed short stories and magazine articles that I had written filled shelves in closets. I had just read about blogs and was excited to try my hand at one. Farmgirl School came to mind and I laughed out loud as I typed it out.

We were city people, reborn in the country, trying to access knowledge from generations past and from books and experiences. We worked the soil, the gardens, and they grew each year. We longed for goats, and we fell in love, and we cried when one died, and we bottle fed newborns, and we longed for goats again once they were gone. We had sheep who thought they were puppies and followed me around the farm and enjoyed singing shows in the living room wearing diapers. We laughed at ducks in swimming pools and snuggled friendly hens.

We fretted about renting that farm in that small town that we loved. We knew at some point the owners would lose it to the bank. That day came and we ushered over to a different rented farm with dreams and aspirations as big as any. Nine months later we had lost everything- scammed out of every penny- lost each beloved farm animal, and antiques and heirlooms and silverware and part of our spirits, and moved quietly and brokenly into friends’ houses until we could get back on our feet.

We moved into an apartment, worked harder than ever, saved and bought an urban farm. One of our own! We’ll be here forever, we chanted! Ah, but the country called.

And here we are, dreams come true, three months now on our own farm in the country. Our chickens love it here, as does the farm dog. The views can steal your breath away, the air is crisp. Our fourth farm is slowly coming together. Why, by next August, you will not even recognize it, for the gardens and the animals and the life here will expand along with our hearts.

Seven years. A million years ago and a breath ago, it seems. It has been quite a road.

This blog has become a beautiful, exponentially important journal of how-to do just about anything. I, myself, refer back to it constantly for recipes and reminders of how to do things. Thousands of people have followed my Chokecherry Wine recipe- the ongoing number one blog post of mine, with How to Make Your Own Witchhazel on its heels.

164, 850 times people have read my blog. That is really something. The reach we can have with our words. Oh, I occasionally quit the blog when I don’t think I will be farming anymore, or when I think I want to do something else, and two weeks later, here I am posting again, because it has become entwined with my being. Farmgirl School has become as much a part of me as my name.

Here’s to seven more years in Farmgirl School. I oughta really know my stuff by then! Thanks for hanging around.

Finding the (Nearly) Perfect Property

The very first showing of our house resulted in an offer.  We are under contract.  I love this little old house.  I am proud of what I have done with the yard and the sheer beauty of the space makes me smile.  I turned a barren driveway and dirt lot into an Eden in less than three growing seasons.  So, now it’s perfect, time to move, right?!

This will be the 28th time I have moved.  Doug’s parents lived in the same house for thirty years.  He’s made me promise that we stay ten years to forever in the next house!  Is the next house the sprawling adobe on a hundred acres that we envisioned as our next and forever home?  Does it have water rights and mineral rights?  Does it have a wood stove and solar?  No, nope, and not yet.

We live in Colorado.  We were both born and raised here.  A zillion and a half folks who love pot, mountains, or who are in the military have moved here and prices rival San Francisco and New York City now.  That baffles us both.  My first house in Denver was $36,000.  Those days are gone.  Pueblo kind of got stuck in a time warp thanks to an old reputation of crime and gangs, but the city has cleaned up a lot and since there is so little housing in Colorado Springs, military families are moving here.  Everything has gone up 50% in the past few years here in Pueblo, everywhere else we are talking a hundred grand more for everything from the suburbs to trailers.

When you are choosing a homestead, you have to choose your priorities.  For us, Doug’s job is a really good one that he enjoys.  Our children are here.  Our granddaughters are here.  And we were raised here; we like it here.  We found a small town 30 minutes south of Colorado Springs.  It puts us closer to his work and our kids by 15 minutes.  It looks like it was a back to the land beacon back in the seventies.  Driving down dirt roads one passes a large sprawling house and orchard next to a run down trailer next to a marijuana greenhouse, next to a house built in the 90’s.  Very eclectic.

There are no wells and almost all of the water in Colorado is city water or not owned by the property owner.  In Penrose, everything is on city water (more affordable than the other towns we have lived in thus far at least) and some properties have coveted ditch rights to water fields.  The only one we saw like that was snatched up in days.

So, the question one must ask themselves is, “What do we want?”  (Besides a sprawling adobe on a hundred irrigated acres…for $200,000…near Doug’s work and next door to the kids…)

For us, we have long given up the idea of commercial farming.  We just want a few goats, chickens, ducks, a ginormous garden, and a great view.  We can subsist on that easily.  Three bedrooms and two baths.  A wood stove.

Our realtor took us out Sunday and we went to the three places that were for sale under $300,000.  The first one looked like the makings of a horror movie, with slanting floors, a falling down manufactured home, with lots of junk on two acres.  The second one had five acres but we weren’t sure what we would do with five acres without water.  One would need a rather long hose.  The views were cut off by nearby houses and the ceiling of the manufactured home was falling in.  That one was $225,000.  Lord, help us.  So, off to the third house (which we had driven by and disregarded).

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All pictures were taken off of the listing on the internet.

It was humble on the outside.  The inside was completely redone.  Gorgeous wood floors, high ceilings, new kitchen, fresh carpet in the three bedrooms, all new paint.  Two bathrooms with new vanities.  A large master bedroom with a perfect view of the nearby mountain range.  No wood stove.

The house sits crooked on just over an acre of cactus and cedar with views all around.  A fenced in back yard is in place to keep our dog home before we can secure the mismatched fencing around rest of the property.  A large shed with electricity would make a fine chicken coop.  Neighbors are quite close.  “Sometimes it is nice to have neighbors near,” my daughter commented later.

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As we drove home discouraged and sure we’d have an offer on our house, I turned to Doug and asked, “If that house (and it was the only real house for sale) had six foot fencing around it and a wood stove, would we buy it?”  He replied, “In a second.”

Since those are things we can do over time, we put in an offer and it was accepted!  We move August 15th. I know it’s early and there are a million things that could go wonky from now to then (I am systematically going through over six and a half years of blog posts deleting irrelevant posts like when we thought we found a new rental or when I wanted to become a chef) but I wanted to share the news that we have found our homestead.  It may not be the elaborate dream we had, but it is perfect for us, because it will be ours.  I am beyond grateful.  To think four years ago this week on the blog we were losing everything we owned and moving into our friend’s guest bedroom.  And now we will have our own farm.

Farmgirl School adventures continue!  Happy Homesteading wherever you are!

Visiting Small Towns (a fun day away just down the road)

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We meandered through jewelry and antique stores.  We stopped for a cup of coffee.  We walked through art galleries and stared in awe at the buildings.  We walked hand-in-hand idly down the sidewalks.  We stopped and talked to a grandmother who has lived in Trinidad her whole life and listened as she recalled memories.

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They don’t build like this anymore.  The intricate details of each cornerstone and inset lettering.  The grandness of a small town.

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One can learn a lot from the art and sculptures set throughout a place.  This was a town of coal miners and of ranchers.

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Can you hear the sound of the horses pulling carriages down the Main street?  The eruptions in the saloon?  The sound of a bustling small town on a Saturday night?  Ghosts of people and activity over the past hundred and fifty years swarms by in my imagination and the sense of place captures me.

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I wonder what the street looked like when people lined up at the grand Opera house.  Or what the lights looked like as kids lined up at the movie theater on a Friday night.  The roller rink must have been great fun at the time that I used to roller skate in the 70’s and 80’s.

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There are new cafes to visit and bookstores and side streets, but alas, we started our journey down Main street too late in the day and everyone is closing up shop.

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Just like the small museums I wrote about yesterday, there are probably small towns all around you, other cities, other places a half hour, an hour, maybe an hour and a half away that hold history, and art, and a different life.  There are books to look at and coffee to sip, and elders to engage in conversation with.  There are new parks to soak up the sun in, and places to see.  Perhaps this Saturday you will head out to a new town to explore, enjoy, and get inspired.  These little day trips are good for the spirit- a change of scenery and the exploration of something new.

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Walking the Labyrinth

lab·y·rinth
ˈlab(ə)ˌrinTH/
noun
noun: labyrinth; plural noun: labyrinths
  1. 1.
    a complicated irregular network of passages or paths in which it is difficult to find one’s way; a maze.
    a labyrinth of passages and secret chambers”
    synonyms: maze, warren, network, complex, web, entanglement

    “a labyrinth of little streets”
    2.
    Anatomy
    a complex structure in the inner ear that contains the organs of hearing and balance. It consists of bony cavities (the bony labyrinth ) filled with fluid and lined with sensitive membranes (the membranous labyrinth ).
    Jpeg
    I like these descriptions of a labyrinth; a difficult passage and a means of hearing and balance.
    This lovely labyrinth is on the corner of 136 and Pine Ridge in Elizabeth next to the community gardens.  (Take Elizabeth street to the end where it makes you turn left, it is one block down on your left.)  There are no dead ends, it is not a maze, per se, but a lovely curving, rounding, focused trek to the center which is placed strategically upon an energy vortex (which is scientific and geological).

If one stands at the entrance with a question (for all answers are within us already) or intention, one will find as they make your way quietly, contemplatively, through the winding paths that the answer or clarity will be startlingly clear in the center.  Peacefulness surrounds and the day is started much nicer or ended even nicer still by walking the labyrinth.

Wishing you a peaceful day!

Keys to our Shop

We got the keys to our new store yesterday afternoon.

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A new apartment in the country, a new shop in town, family and friends close by.

Emily, Maryjane, and their friend, Becca put together shelving.

Emily, Maryjane, and their friend, Becca put together shelving.

Happy Autumn!  Time for pumpkins and Halloween costumes.  And new shops to open.  New beginnings and lots of good memories!

Picking Personas (and cookin’)

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I knew it wouldn’t be long before I came up with another hair brained scheme.  It would take awhile to institute it and I have no idea how to make it happen but I do have a dream of a type of supper club.  Whether it be at a restaurant after hours or in our home once a month I can’t be sure.  It would include no more than three tables, very romantic, beautiful music, set five course meal for one price.  Wine pairings would be included and the meal would end with one of my daughter, Shyanne’s amazing baked confections.  All housemade specialties, local and seasonal produce and ingredients, nothing artificial, everything perfectly seasoned and paired.

I am not sure how so much complexity and personas can be in one person.  How can I be just as fascinated with being a mountain mama hermit as I am a high profile sommelier?  I am as comfortable in long dresses and old fashioned aprons as I am in stilettoes and a pencil skirt.  I love the entertainment of the city as well as the old farm truck and chickens in the country life.  I am a talented herbalist, have learned from shamans over the years, love food and wine and entertaining as well as gardening and chickens too.  I have taught, modeled, danced, and owned a quaint little shop.  I devour Country Living magazine and Food and Wine magazine each month with the same intensity.  Surely these things can all culminate into one lifestyle and profession?  Which persona to choose?  The vagabond hippie?  The chef that carries truffle oil around everywhere?  The music pastor?  The shaman/herbalist?  The food critic?  The housewife hermit?  Wouldn’t it be nice sometimes if we were a smidge simpler in design?

I was walking past a restaurant that is locally owned by a man that I have done farmer’s markets with for years.  We started the same time, sold similar products for a time, quit our jobs at the same time, moved to the country at the same time, now he still does lots of markets and runs a restaurant.  As with all the roving vendors at the market we had a bit of a love/hate relationship and hearty competitive nature as well as a reverent respect for each other’s craft.

Mark walked out of the restaurant and directly towards me and asked if I would like to cook at the restaurant.  I said no because I heard he yelled.

“Are you going to yell at me?” I asked.  He replied that he could not promise that he wouldn’t.  I told him that I cry if yelled at then throw sh#t. (Maybe I have been watching too much Hell’s Kitchen.)  He said fine.  I also told him I would be the worst employee because I never know my daughter’s schedule until the last minute and don’t know when I would be able to work.

“That’s fine,” he replied again.

I start Tuesday.