Posted in Farming, Homestead

Farmgirl

The Southern Colorado Outdoor Living and Sustainability Fair was outstanding.  We caught up with some of the folks we knew in the sustainability world and met many new ones, farmers and young beginners alike.

I pep talked myself the whole way there, “I will not be sad.  I will not be sad.”  Seeing the homesteading and farming folks, chickens being demonstrated, chicks in troughs (Doug and I snuck over there early and gave the chicks kisses), a goat running by after being milked, I was afraid the whole scene would make me very sad.  But it didn’t.  In fact, it just served to fire us up again.  “Anything we have talked about is back on the table,” Doug said.  Do we want to move to Old Colorado City and have a funky urban farm?  We can.  Do we want to buy land in Elizabeth and go all out?  Then we can do it.  We have a year to get our act together financially and then go for it.  And there we will stay!

We are so sure of this venture (put your dreams in motion and watch them start manifesting) that we struck a deal with the Expo for next year.  We will return and with us will be a few farm animals.  I will be promoted as the Farmgirl and will be on their seminar lists and advertising.  I know my stuff about homesteading, farming, and herbs.  So does Doug, and we love sharing it with the world.

 

Posted in Farming, Homestead

Self Fulfilled Prophesy (homestead dreams)

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This time next year we will be on our next homestead.

I do not know where.

I do not know how.

We have enjoyed our practice farm and are very grateful.  We are ready for a more complete homestead now.

Not a bigger house.

A bigger homestead.

A well for water.

More off grid.

A greenhouse.

A larger plot of beautiful earth to grow all our own food in.

A chicken coop.  A barn.

An orchard.

Trees.

Places to walk the goats, their bells ringing in a cacophony of chimes through the pine scented air.

A front porch for settin’.

Somewhere near the children.  Hidden away a bit.  Friends come a callin’.

Affordable.  A long term lease.

An old house with character and stories.

A wood stove to heat and cook.

Peaceful.  Birds singing.  Air sweet.

This time next year we will be on our next homestead.

I do not know where.

I do not know how.

But it will be.

 

Posted in Our Family

Journey To Our First Farm-A Love Story (Part 6)

I don’t know why I was annoyed that day, but I was.  I needed to go to the health food store in Parker.  Emily wanted to come along.  She wanted her boyfriend, Bret, to come along too.  However, he couldn’t get to our house.  He was seven miles east of our town at his friend’s  house.  It was out of my way and he needed to be picked up.

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Emily and Bret had been dating for months now.  He was a really nice kid and they seemed to bring out the best in each other.  They had a miscarriage and in that dreadful event, Emily seemed to snap back into my old Emily.  They had grown closer through it and were now practically inseparable.  I drove to Kiowa to pick him up.  Muttering to myself the whole way.  As we pulled out of the drive to the trailer park after picking him up, I saw it.  A derelict yellow house.  Empty.  For rent.  It sat on two lots.  One of which held a compilation of dilapidated raised beds.  I called the number and left a message.

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I went home and looked at Craig’s List, again, to see if anything new was available and there in front of me was the derelict yellow house in Kiowa!  I perused the pictures posted there, the claw foot bathtub, the nice open living room, the old bedrooms and fell in love.  I called again.  Turns out it was one of my customers, Mary,  that was the go between for the landlords living in Oklahoma and us.  She gave us a rave review and we were in.  We met Mary at the house to be shown around.  Doug had not yet seen it.  We drove into the driveway next to the raised beds.  Visions of fresh soil and multiple varieties of vegetables filled our heads.  A two car garage stood bravely ahead.  The doors didn’t open well and it was quite old.  Our cars wouldn’t actually fit in there, but it was a nice space for…whatever!  As we entered the fenced in area behind the house we caught sight of the very old chicken coop.  Slightly crooked, but begging to house feathered friends again.  The old well was covered.  The history of the house whispered to us as we walked gently through the yard.  The long clothes line had me smitten at first glance.  The wooden swing that sat under the giant elm hemmed in my lilac bushes set my imagination awhirl as I envisioned morning coffee and writing on the swing taking in the intoxication of the lilacs in spring.  The deck in the back was fine for entertaining.  We both loved it, and we hadn’t even seen the house yet.

My grandma and I when my grandparents came out to see the new place.
My grandma and I when my grandparents came out to see the new place.
Shyanne and her friend
Shyanne and her friend on the swing.
Back of the house.
Back of the house.

The two bedrooms and two baths would suit our purposes.  The girls had to fight over who got the basement.  Shyanne won.

Andrew was by then in an apartment in Denver going to college and pursuing his music career.  My old Andy again.  Shyanne had relaxed a bit too, becoming bored with being in trouble.  She quickly found a job nearby and was consumed with school, work, and friends.

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The old farmhouse kitchen was enchanting.  Larger than the one we had before.  I envisioned the farmgirls before me working swiftly around the kitchen in their aprons.

Doug and Emily setting the table.
Doug and Emily setting the table.

The house had been built in 1920 and was on highway 86 on the main drag before the devastating flood in the 1930’s where it presumably was moved or floated to its present location here.

Emily and Grandpa
Emily and Grandpa

It even had a front porch.  And a crooked pine tree out front.  My, we were in love.  We could have a huge garden, herbs, and chickens.  We backed to the fairgrounds so it seemed our property went on and on.  Our neighbors were all friendly and they didn’t know a thing about us.  Perfect.

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We painted and two weeks later we moved in.  Then the real journey began…

Posted in Farming, Homestead

Pumpkin Hollow Farm Strikes Again

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I hate limbo.  I like things nice and organized.  Memos about the future, perfect accounting, smooth plan making…I am a tad power trippy.  I panic.  Our shop is for sure closing but our business is not.  I felt like we needed to move quick, save money, find a cheaper place, not live in a box!  I tell you what, simply mention how many animals you have to a prospective landlord and you aren’t likely to hear from them again.  I finally found a house (adobe, no less!) that would take all our animals.  She was in a pinch and needed the money ASAP.  By the time we would have paid the deposit, two rents in one month (already paid it here), two utility bills in one month, and taking into account the sheer distance of out in the middle of nowhere, but can’t have roosters, it was, the gas money pretty well took away any savings we would have gained.  So, Doug made an executive decision.  This is a rare occurrence, folks.  We will work our booties off.  We will set up a road side stand in front of the house.  We will make this work.  And we will stay where we are.  It is a relief for him to just make that decision.  I still worry about losing everything.  But I guess we can’t live our lives worrying about everything.  Here we are on a perfect mini-farm.  Let’s make it work!  Pumpkin Hollow Farm is going to be great.  Come by and visit our roadside stand!

Posted in Farming

How to Start a Farm

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How do you start a farm?  Well, you get a hundred acres or so, just buy it or inherit it or something, make sure it has a farmhouse on it.  Gets lots of fuzzy animals that want to work for room and board.  Grow tons of fabulous food.

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This was my vision of a farm and how to start one.  Just do everything at once and get really lucky and somewhat rich to start it.  My vision has changed.  I see that farming can be on a large scale or small.  That farmers usually start small and work their way up to more.  More fields growing, more animals, more customers.

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Here at Pumpkin Hollow Farm I had my first farmer’s market as a farmer!  Okay, okay, so I had two bags of greens.  I went out at dawn and carefully picked two bags of delicious, heirloom baby greens, radishes, and cherry tomatoes.  I washed them, shook them dry, and packed them into cellophane.  They sold almost immediately.  A vendor bought one of them for her lunch.  A stick had made it into the bag and she laughingly called it fiber.  Folks that want organic, hand picked vegetables understand that the occasional spider or stick will make its way into the salad!  She said it was really delicious and that made my day and fueled me to up production and become an even more real farmer.

I brought preserves from the root cellar and sold out of pickles.  I baked four loaves of bread and sold one of them (more for us!).  I sold a dozen eggs.

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The herbal medicines that we bring out to these markets have been our sole income for four years now.  Surrounded by new customers at new markets, there was a lot of interest in them and they sold well for a first market.  We will continue to be herbalists and sell the herbal remedies along with our farm goods.  It was so fun hearing Doug say, “All these things were made on our farmstead in Kiowa.”  We sold teas, coffee, soap, lotion, and aprons as well.

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The day before was our first Farmgirls market where Nancy and I and our farm girl daughters and granddaughter headed out in ridiculously high winds to a new market donning aprons and goods from our homesteads.  Nancy sold two bags of greens (they may have been too hidden), and baked goods, eggs, and we both sold preserves (mostly pickles!).  The herbals did well there too.  It feels like we are crossing the line from wannabe to farmers.  Perhaps our income tax returns will list “Farmer” as our profession.

My friend, Eileen, a fellow blogger, started a CSA from her one acre farm.  Nancy and I started taking our homestead goods to farmer’s markets.  A roadside stand could sell excess produce and farmstead goods.  Starting a farm is easier than I thought.  Grow stuff.  Sell it.

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We are a little (okay very) worried about where we are moving too.  It is nearly impossible to find a house to rent once you divulge how many animals and chickens you have.  Even places in the country for rent have no pet policies.  But I know that it will all work out and as the saying goes, “Home is Where the Heart Is.”  I think it should say, “Home is Where the Farm Is!”

Posted in Farming

Favorite Farm Books

We love to read around here.  We are at the library a few times a week.  Emily has already started reading daily to Maryjane.  Transporting oneself into an adventure for free and the unlimited knowledge that we can obtain from books is something I do not take for granted!  I prefer farming memoirs over “how to” farm books.  I do love The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Country Living by Abigail Gehring.  It is a mega textbook that graces the coffee table and gets little use.  However should I ever need a reference for how to fix a fence, milk a goat, or grow raspberries, all I have to do is thumb through this trusty tower of farming wisdom.  I prefer the whimsy of tales from the farm.  Direct and full of set backs, disappointments, laugh out loud humor, and triumphs.  Teach me through your story.  I have learned everything thus far from memoirs of what others are doing and from trial and error.  These are my top ten favorite farm books.  They are entertaining, secretly educational, and great summer reading.  What are your favorite books?

wisdom of a radish coverThe Wisdom of a Radish; And Other Lessons Learned On a Small Farm by Lynda Browning

I really enjoyed this book.  I laughed about every minute of it.  Her personality is so beguiling and fun.  And the lessons learned I have already instituted on my own beginning farm!

made from scratch coverMade From Scratch; Discovering the Pleasures of a Homemade Life by Jenna Woginrich

This is one of the first books that set me on my current path.  Her prose is easy to read, like she is an old friend with a great sense of humor.  Stories of first time bees, chickens, learning the fiddle, and inspirations from her friend’s farm made me want to farm too.

barnheart cover Barnheart; incurable longing for a farm of one’s own also by Jenna Woginrich

She is one of my favorite authors.  This is the sequel to Made From Scratch and it is again like visiting an old friend, comfortable and speckled with humor.  From her rental farm, to driving around with sheep in her Subaru and to finally getting her own farm, this book is heartwarming and fun.

sheepish coverSheepish; Two Women, Fifty Sheep and Enough Wool to Save the Planet by Catherine Friend

Another laugh out loud memoir where she holds nothing back.  Her personal life, the personal life of sheep, and life on a farm are all painted realistically and hilariously!  I am about to read her other book, Hit By a Farm.

growing a farmerGrowing a Farmer; How I Learned to Live Off the Land by Kurt Timmermeister

From a shock of land covered in brambles and junk to a full working farm, this story is uplifting and entertaining.

the feast nearby coverThe Feast Nearby by Robin Mather

This book isn’t so much about farming, but of eating locally.  I ended up buying the book because there were so many delicious looking recipes!  After a heartbreaking divorce the author moves to a small cabin and tells delightful stories throughout the seasons.

the town that food saved cover The Town that Food Saved; How One Community Found Vitality in Local Food by Ben Hewitt

This book takes us on a journey of different farms around a town where local food and small farmers bring sustenance to the people in a small area.  A roadmap for all communities that wonder how to provide truly local food.  Inspiring.  Made me want to make cheese.

the good life book The Dirty Life; On Farming, Food, and Love by Kristin Kimball

A great story from city to family life on a farm, it is full of antidotes, lessons, and ideas for farming and what farming life really looks like.  A little whiny at times (Oh you poor dear, had to run off with a good looking farmer to the country and *gasp* live a freeing lifestyle…) but makes up for it in vivid writing.

animal vegetable cover Animal, Vegetable, Mineral; A Year of Food Life by Barbara Kingsolver

Though I was not impressed, nor pleased with her incessant bashing of vegetarians throughout the book, the general story captivated me.  Canning, preserving, growing enough food to survive, and eating in season all inspired me to try to do so myself.

the bucolic plagueThe Bucolic Plague; How Two Manhattanites Became Gentleman Farmers by Josh Kilmer-Purcell

One of my favorites.  I never laughed so hard.  The insights of a gay man and his partner, who works for Martha Stewart, stumbling upon an old farm and purchasing it.  Full of vivid local characters, darling baby goats, and great food all make up this wonderful memoir.  Funny and sensitive, a hilarious look at becoming a farmer.

Posted in Farming

Pumpkin Hollow Farm

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Autumn may be my favorite time of year but this month sure is close.  To spend all day with my hands covered in dirt planting seeds that will become food is my favorite pastime.  Not until my tired post-Winter body finally yelled, “Enough!” did I grab a beer and head to the porch to see all we had accomplished.  Emily and I spent the whole weekend digging up the front yard.  While others tend meticulously to the non-native grass borders, applying weed and feed and watering, Emily and I had different plans.  A full working farm on our minds.

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Steve brought over their rototiller for us to borrow and we put Doug to work plowing eleven long rows.  We went back through digging and releasing weeds and crabgrass creating a divot in the dirt that we then filled with organic garden soil and blended it all together.

Colonies of ants came forth, small black, monster black, and stingy red, eager to eat seeds that we would offer them.  I gave them cornmeal instead.  This works in the house as well.  They take the cornmeal back to their colony and I am afraid they do not return.  Now I am a peaceful girl.  I do not want to kill.  I have been vegetarian for twenty plus years.  In high school I cut my own hair and botched a section, shaving a small piece off by accident.  I had my sister shave a peace sign out of it.  She mistakenly only did two lines making it a Mercedes sign.  I had to use a marker to fill in the third.  (My father was incredibly mad!)  Anyways, I promote peace.  But ants can be really destructive in a garden and a nuisance in the house.  Rather than bringing out toxic chemicals, Raid or who knows what else, simply sprinkle cornmeal about.  Works like a charm.

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Then in went the seeds.  Black Aztec corn and multi-colored Smoke Signals corn seeds went in for festive Autumn décor and cornmeal.  Bantam corn went in for sweet eating.  All heirlooms.  Next to them went Bird’s Egg speckled beans that were brought over by covered wagon, large brown Dutch beans for winter simmering in a Dutch oven, and small, white cannellini beans for sage and white bean soup.  Six different tomatoes.  I do hope the “Mortgage Lifter” tomato does its job!  Six different peppers.  Orange watermelon, cantaloupe, zucchini.  All organic.

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Since the farm is called Pumpkin Hollow, the rows in front of the house will be overflowing with tangles of delightful color.  The Most Sincere Pumpkin Patch in the world, were you to ask Linus from Charlie Brown’s Halloween special.  Strawberry colored princess pumpkins, Jack Be Littles, Heirloom pumpkins, organic sugar pumpkins, and today I seek out one more varietal.  Perhaps the awesome white Luminaria pumpkin.

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The front row nearest the sidewalk will have herbs scattered and clustered about for medicinal and culinary use.  A fence is planned around the perimeter of white picket with a welcoming arbor.  My dear friend, Rod, is creating wood burned signs for the farm.

We have been offered free alpacas and plan on getting their “barn” (the garage) ready.  I was showing Steve the tour of what our farm will look like (use your imagination)….here are the large garden beds, more in front, alpaca and goats, new fruit trees….He asked what I was doing with our oversized dirt driveway.  “Festival Parking!” I exclaimed.  Can you see it?  A roadside stand.  A pumpkin festival.  Field trips for children at the nearby school where they can go back in time and see how to hand wash clothes, make butter, spin wool.  The piano and fiddle playing folk songs.  Period pioneer dress.  Vegetables growing everywhere and fuzzy farm animals.  Education, inspiration, teach kids that food comes from the earth, not the grocery store.

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We have never missed our annual pumpkin festival that we attend with the children every year.  This year Maryjane will go with us.  Us big kids and Maryjane making a scarecrow and touring the old structures at Four Mile Historic Park.  I would love to create a place like that for young families to make memories.

In the meantime, I have pumpkins to plant.

Posted in Farming, Homestead

Rurban Farm (urban/rural)

Now that we have determined that we are not moving for a few years at least and the hundred acre wood is out of my grasp currently, we are going to stop looking at this house as “someone else’s”.  Who cares if we are renting?  It is our home and we really want to homestead, so this is going to become our homestead.

SAM_0563 (See my bee hive right hand side? I may have missed the boat this year, but there is always next spring!  All of the junk shown was here when we moved in.  We have some hauling to do!)

I am going to quit my whining and paint the garage red like a barn.  I am adopting alpacas and goats (before the rules change in town!) and I am going to continue enjoying my chickens.  A fence will be put up to separate this area around and behind the garage.  Two alpacas and two goats (I don’t know where they are presently.) will share the space and use the garage as housing.  This will inspire me to get rid of all the crap currently holding residence in said garage!  According to the USDA standards and my own gut feeling, this is enough space for four smaller animals.  I could always open the door to the garage that exits into the main yard, and if they promise not to eat my half dead fruit trees, they may come out and play with the greyhound and the chickens and have lunch on the deck with us. (Our animals aren’t spoiled or anything.)

SAM_0565 (Behind the garage and all the way to the neighbor’s white truck.  There is a lot of room back here!)

I was telling Nancy as I showed her all of these ideas that I feel like either I just opened my eyes or God just showed me what we have.  Doug said under his breath, “Or both…”  My friend, Kim, mentioned that she lives on 1.7 acres and is not allowed to have animals.  We wrote down our “perfect parcel of land and its proximity to towns and amenities and requirements and such, and save for the lack of well and acreage, everything else matches this house.  I am able to do everything I want to do on this property!

SAM_0564 (Main back yard with tender fruit trees and chicken coop.  The shed shown is the neighbors, the clothes on the clothes line are mine!  We back to the fairgrounds, so the 2/3 of an acre lives bigger.)

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Doug put up this nifty rabbit fence from all of the metal panels we found behind the garage.  It lends a rustic air to my garden, don’t you think?  The beds are absolutely full of good stuff and as you can see, many things are already coming up.  The problem is, I am out of room.  The beds are fantastic, after a mere year of compost the soil looks good enough to eat.  But the square footage is coming up a smidge short to provide for the family and do market growing.

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The front side yard might make an awesome corn field or fancy English garden…just needs a bit of fencing.  The deer love them some gardens around here.

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Front right side of the porch seems that if a fairy godmother came along, she could turn this into a pumpkin patch.  Wouldn’t it be tremendous fun for trick-or-treaters to walk along the pumpkin patch on Halloween?

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And finally, the front left side of the front yard appears in my imagination as groups of lush herbs, carpets of sweet smelling (deer proof) culinary and medicinal herbs; an Apothecary garden for my work.  This would clear out a lot of space in the garden beds if I moved all of the herbs out here.  The beds could then be reseeded with more delicious greens and more tomatoes!

We need a farm name.  We are hitting the farmer’s markets and are changing the look of our shop and it would be nice to have a name.  Nancy and I and our daughters, along with hubbies in the background, are the Farmgirls, but each of us should have a farm name to show different products like her goat’s shares and my yarn.  We always thought that Cuddlewell Mission was a cute name, but it would better fit a New Mexican adobe.  We thought the “fill in the blank” acre wood would be cute because Winnie the Pooh lives under the name of Sanders, which is our name.  However the Two Thirds of an Acre Kind of Wood doesn’t really have that ring to it.  We thought Silly Chicken Farm, but we don’t want it to sound like we are selling chickens.

So, friends out there….what would be a good name for our not quite rural acreage, not quite urban, thirty animal, medium sized organic farm?