Farmgirl School; Homesteading 101 (now available on Amazon!)

Homestead 101 Cover

I never guessed back in 2012 what this would become.  I set out to chronicle our adventures in homesteading.  To create a template and how-to that we wish we had.  We weren’t able to find information on how to farm high altitude, or how to bottle feed a goat, or how to do any of the hundreds of things we did by trial and error on Pumpkin Hollow Farm.

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Those years on the homestead were some of the best times of our lives.  Re-reading the manuscript was like reading about an old friend.  I laughed and recollected.  I finished the book with a smile.  As if I had read it for the first time.

Our Lady of the Goats

This book is priceless, I tell you, it has everything a new homesteader could possibly need to get started on their journey.  Organic gardening, high altitude farming, canning, dehydrating, root cellaring, freezing produce, back yard chickens, bottle feeding goats, taking care of ducks, candle making, soap making, herbal remedies, recipes, homemade gifts….goodness, the list goes on.  The textbook we needed, but in a humorous storytelling method.

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I am so excited to see this book in print!  It is now available on Amazon in paperback and for Kindle.  https://www.amazon.com/dp/152077494X?ref_=pe_870760_150889320

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Wishing you many blessings on your homesteading journey.  See you ’round the farm!

A January Weekend

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Saturday shone bright and warm, full of tall snow capped mountains and warm, piercing sun that filled us with light.  We headed to Woodland Park for a winter market.  We haven’t been there since Nancy passed away and since we were the 5 Farmgirls.  I was surprised by the outpouring of support and joy in seeing us again.  We went as Pumpkin Hollow Farm and Garden Fairy Apothecary.  Each market worker hugged me as I came in.  Folks stopped by the table and recognized me.

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“You’re the goat lady!” one gal said.

I wasn’t sure if she was remembering me or Nancy.

She said, “You used to come with your sister!”  Sister, yes, just not biological.

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It was me that she meant because her son came over to the table and when she asked if he remembered me he replied enthusiastically, “Yes, she’s the goat lady!”  He remembered when I would bring the baby goats on a leash and let kids bottle feed them.  It left an impression and he was excited for this year’s goats to come to the market.

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It was good to be back and we look forward to the remaining winter markets and this summer Emily and Maryjane will be joining me once again at the Woodland Park farmer’s market.

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Sunday was a lovely day as well.  We taught a soap making class and friends came to visit.  Our Broncos did not win their game but Maryjane filled the disappointment with laughter.  She is full of fun and hugs and surprises.  Dressed in her Bronco best, she makes the most darling cheerleader.  She sat on the couch hooping and hollering next to Papa with a kitten on her lap.

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The snow began to fall thick and blanketing as we came home last night from dropping Maryjane off with her mother.  This morning a foot of snow lay glittering and peaceful across the expanse of space.  Doug was insistent that we could make it to Elizabeth for him to work at the coffee shop so we did our best to get out of the driveway only to get stuck in a snowdrift a mile down the road.  Our neighbor’s son came along and helped us out and we toddled back to the house ready to embrace the snow day at hand (which means housework and taxes but maybe a bit of reading and relaxing will take place too!).

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I am warmly humbled by old friends and acquaintances, reliable, friendly neighbors, and wintery weekends mixed with sun and snow.  Back in my snow globe away from the world I am warm and comforted by winter’s encompassing embrace.  Back to the garden books with a cup of hot chocolate I go.

 

How To Make Homemade Soap

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Alright, let’s make soap!  It is easy, you can make it however you like, and you will never buy another bar of drying, chemical laden soap again!

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First, gather your ingredients.  You can buy these items online at places like Brambleberry or Essential Depot but I like to support local business so I head down to Buckley’s Homestead Supply in Old Colorado City and pick up what I am missing.

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You will need a digital scale to measure your ingredients.  Place the digital scale in a plastic freezer bag to protect it.  When dealing with the lye use safety glasses and rubber gloves.  But don’t be overly scared of it to the point that you scare yourself out of using it.  I have licked my finger thinking I had coconut oil on it, rubbed my face, dropped it on my bare foot….a bit of good lotion (like my Lavender Lotion) and a washing gets the sting out really quick.  You will also need a plastic pitcher, a plastic spoon, a plastic mixing bowl, and a plastic spatula (see the pattern here?).  I get mine from the dollar store and only use them for soap making.  You will also need a red solo cup, a measuring cup, and a soup pot.  Only the things that touch lye need to remain solely for soap.  My soup pot and measuring cups stay in the kitchen.  You will need an immersion blender and a laser thermometer as well.

You can purchase molds or you can chop the top off of a paper milk carton and use that.

16 oz. of liquid.  I use goat’s milk.  I have also used half goat’s milk and half wine and one time I did half goat’s milk and half coffee.  That was a great bar of soap!  You could use beer, water, or store bought milk.  How about beet juice for the color or green tea?  Just don’t use anything acidic like orange juice or pineapple juice as the lye will react to it.

7.4 oz. of lye.  Pour this into the plastic cup when measuring it on the scale and simply rinse out afterwards.

16 oz. of olive oil

16 oz. of coconut oil

16 oz. of palm oil (I am not crazy about using palm oil but it is what makes the soap hard.  Later we’ll learn to make lard soap and then we won’t need the palm oil.)

2 oz. of castor oil (This is what makes it sudsy.)

2 oz. of essential oil.  Now don’t get crazy and get 2 ounces of cinnamon or something, you don’t want the soap to be super hot!  Try vanilla, or lavender, rose, maybe orange and peppermint, a combination of oils, or pine for Christmas, or maybe just coffee scented if you used coffee as your liquid and skip the essential oils!  I am not a proponent of multi-marketing oils, just find a good essential oil at the local health store at an affordable price and use it.  Don’t use fragrances!

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1. Now that we have everything assembled let’s get started!  Place the liquid in the plastic pitcher and put the plastic spoon in it.  Put your glasses and gloves on and pour the lye into the cup.  Now put the laser thermometer in your apron pocket and take the pitcher and the lye outside.  Make sure there are no chickens around to tip the thing over or curious dog noses!  Slowly pour the lye into the liquid while stirring.  It will get super hot, about 175 degrees and will change color.  We have this outside so we don’t asphyxiate folks in the house.  Outside it will cool faster as well.

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2. Back inside measure all oils, except the essential oils, those go in at the end of the process, and place in a pot.  Warm on a wood cook stove (or regular stove) until the oils have just melted.

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3. Taking temperatures.  Now here is where we get our workout.  Check the temperature of the oils.  You can alter the temps by sticking it in the snow or fridge or reheating it.  The oils will cool down faster than the lye.  Once the lye cools down there is no reheating it so this is the point that you have to be rather diligent about watching temps.  The goal is to get the oil and the lye to 105 degrees at precisely the same time.  There can be a three degree temp difference.  But ideally, 105.  Bring lye in when it is 120 degrees to slow it down while you work on the oil temp.

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4. Prepare the bowl, set up the immersion blender, have the tops off the essential oil ready to pour in all at once and have some paper towel on hand.  Put gloves and glasses on.  When the oil and the lye are ready pour the oil into the bowl, then slowly pour the lye mixture in.  Keep the immersion blender below the liquid line or you will spray soap everywhere!  Blend until the mixture starts to feel like pudding.  When you can swirl the blender (turned off) over the top of the mixture and it makes swirly lines that is called tracing.  Add essential oils, and any additions for exfoliation (oatmeal, coffee grounds, poppy seeds…) and continue to blend until almost cake batter consistency then pour into mold.

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5. Place a piece of cardboard over mold and wrap in a towel.  Leave for 24 hours.  After 24 hours peel back paper or take out of mold and slice with a kitchen knife into desired size.  I generally like one inch thick pieces of soap.  Place small side down on dresser and let cure for four weeks.  Wrap and give as gifts or store in a zip lock bag to retain scent.

Homesteading skills like making soap are fun, save money, and will always come in handy!  Look at our Homesteading School on the menu to see what fun classes are coming up.  We’ll start anew after the holidays.

 

 

 

Learning Homesteading Skills (finding teachers)

Our grandparents knew how to do all these things.  Mine laughed when I wanted a farm and wondered why.  Growing up on farms and in the country, in hard times, with so much work, it baffled them that I would run off to the lifestyle that they left willingly.  The skills from that generation and beyond become more and more lost.  No one taught me how to milk a goat when I was a child (which would have been nice since I will be milking in a few short weeks!), no one taught me to garden, or to spin, or to can, or to take care of one day old chicks.  There was no reason to in the middle of Denver!  Over the past years I have tried to accumulate these skills.

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I started with books.  Lots of books.  We are avid readers over here anyway, so I may as well be learning while reading.  And indeed I have picked up many great tips and tried and true ways of doing things from these books.  Many specific skill books though go in one eye and out of my memory faster than a three day old goat can elude me. (Man, they are fast!)

Things like knitting, milking, spinning, I need to see it.  I need to have someone show me step by step then I have it.  Most of the time.

IMG_0526Spinning was not working out for me.  My yarn looked like dreadlocks or clumps of fur.  It did not resemble anything looking like yarn.  My machine would not work.  My friend told me to pour a glass of wine.  I did.  Then I poured three.  Still couldn’t spin.  The spinning wheel anyway.  The teacher I had just kept saying I needed practice.  I could tell there was no more she could teach me.  I called my wine recommending friend.  She came over a week later.

She first noted that my machine was put together backwards.  That the break was on the wrong side.  The tension was all wrong.  She showed me the technique of spinning, which I knew but had been trying without good result.  I sighed and tried the wheel.  And spun.  Yarn.  It looks like yarn!  All I needed was a new teacher.

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In your community you will find people that do what you wish you could do.  Make cheese, spin, can, garden, make herbal medicines, make wine, any number of fabulous homesteading skills.  And most of them are happy to teach you.  You may have to pay a small fee for the lesson.  Or barter.  That is okay because the money you save and the joy you feel while mastering these skills outweighs forty bucks.

I teach canning, crocheting, high altitude baking, gardening, soap making, candle making, soft cheese making, herbal classes, and herbal body product classes.

I need to find a class on how to make hard cheese.  I suppose if I read the cheese making book I bought I can figure it out since I already know how to make soft cheeses.

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I need to learn to milk.  I milked a goat when I worked at an animal shelter some twenty years ago.  I wonder if I will remember.

I want to learn how to knit.  Books and teachers thus far have not been able to help.  Surely there is a patient lady out there with the perfect knitting needles to get me on my way to making socks and sweaters.

We signed up for a bee keeping class.

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I cannot wait to experiment with dying fiber.  I have many plans this year and I hope to teach all of them.  Of course, I could keep all these skills to myself and make money off of the canned goods, the yarn, the farming, the herbal medicines. And I will, because there are folks who would rather I do it.  But for those that want to learn, we must teach what we know.  We must share our knowledge.

And our lessons for the day summed up:

If first you don’t succeed, get another teacher.

Give a man a fish, and you have fed him once. Teach him how to fish and you have fed him for a lifetime.

Catching Time…unplugging

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I want to feel satisfied as I fall into bed exhausted.  Complete in what I do.  Comforted in the thought that homesteading improves my lifestyle and mood, that I stay healthy, contribute to the health of animals, grow glorious food for my loved ones, prepare for accidents or Mother Nature or the Zombie Apocalypse, according to my dear friend, Erik, but also live a good life.  I want to lessen my footprint on this fine earth and live fully.  Busyness sneaks up.  Its eager eye on making me feel tired and blue instead of satiated.  It robs me of time to make gourmet dinners and practice all the skills I am learning.  Here I have learned all these much desired skills this winter with scarcely a moment to practice or put into place.

This winter I have learned to make soap, spin (somewhat…I am getting there), knit (crooked albeit), and play the fiddle.  I have designed two new businesses.  I have learned how to keep chickens in the past year and will learn how to keep bees this year.  I will intern with my friend in her greenhouse.  I have my shop in town.  I will be a friend, mom, wife, lover, grandma, and farmer/homesteader extraordinaire…..tomorrow.  Because busyness makes it tomorrow far too quickly.

So, I look around in vain trying to find the cause of my minutes flitting away.  I still wanted to take a cheese class!  I still want to go to college.  I still want to do farmer’s markets with Emily, Maryjane, Nancy, and Faleena.  What is taking so much time?  Granted I do hand wash laundry, try to do things slow, but something else is stealing in the shadows.

Then a revelation!  Lo and behold the thief comes to light.  Do I seriously need to check my email twenty-five times a day?  Check my blog to see if it is still there?  See what’s happening on Facebook?  Would it wait until the next morning?  Could I properly homestead, complete tasks that I desire to do, and have time for a chapter of my book and a glass of wine under the huge Elm tree if I didn’t continually stalk the internet?  What kind of off-gridder wannabe am I?  I thought I had outsmarted technology and all its glitz by not watching television (save for The Voice and So You Can Think You Can Dance…I don’t think it’s too late for me!), but then the internet, in all its Siren glory, tricked me out of a few good moments on the land.

I will turn its face to the wall, turn it off if I must, but I will only view this box into the world once a day…..maybe twice.  And find magic hours to read how to keep goats, play with the baby chicks, plant potatoes, treat animals, teach herbs to children in the inner city, learn to knit straight and spin fabulous yarn and breathe outdoors on this quaint little mini-farm.  And play with Maryjane.  Time found.

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