The Good Life

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When you walk through the gates of my little urban homestead, there is a sense of serenity within its walls.  The trees grow abundantly and circles and rectangles and wild tufts of herbs and flowers and vegetables grow everywhere.  Climbing grapes and flourishing raspberries, rows of corn.  The chicks chirp madly for more food and the hens strut about their yard.  The farm dog stretches lazily on the couch.  The cats are curled up in the sun.  Homemade bread and fresh eggs for breakfast with hot coffee on the porch listening to crickets and birds sing.

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Yes, we lead a very sweet life.  This is the life of a homesteader.  I have given you 27 ways and gone into more detail over 24 days of what loveliness goes into being a homesteader.  I hope you know now that you can homestead anywhere, at any age.  You can start with baking from scratch and move on to full out farming later.  That you should most definitely get a cute apron.

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Always buy the best you can afford.  Cast iron is the best.  Do your chores kind of slow.  Keep your mind easy.  Get a pen pal.  Strive to live an old fashioned life.  There are great joys and blessings that come with being a homesteader.

Now, I happen to know of a darling homestead coming up for sale.  It is fully solar powered, with a wood stove, and a root cellar.  It has a chicken coop and outbuildings.  It has established gardens and a sense of home and place.  It is beautifully kept up, wood floors, large kitchen.  My homestead goes on the market today.  I am going back to the country.

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I will post the MLS as soon as I have it.  If anyone knows of anyone who wants a sweet little urban homestead in Colorado, I’ve got one!

I’m going to have goats again, y’all.

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.

Ten Secrets to Living a Simple and Enchanted Life

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1. Notice Something New in Nature Every Day. 

This could be while walking down a city sidewalk to work or in your own field of hay.  Take a moment to smell the air, see the different colors that nature has painted that moment, listen for birds, see butterflies flitting by, spy nests, and laugh at squirrels.

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2. Do More of What Makes You Happy.

I have a large coffee mug that I picked up in California with this saying on it.  It pleases me and reminds me of a fundamental right, we can do what makes us happy.  I spent too many years doing what I was “supposed” to do.  Make people happy, do the proper thing, work hard, stay married (second times a charm), go to funerals, weddings, parties, events, stay friends with the same draining people.  Slowly the creative, enchanted side of me started to leave.  Stuck in the world of what I should do, left little room for what I wanted to do.  Even though folks say you should do everything you have to do now to do what you want later, I have seen too many times that later doesn’t always come.  No telling how long my lifespan is and I intend to do what I want now.  If I am not incredibly close with the person I have no desire to go to funerals, or other hooplas.  I will work for myself even if that means less luxuries.  My luxury is my garden and baby goats and my warm bed at night.

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3. Do Not Turn Down Opportunities or Invitations.

Not the same thing as #2!  When I was at a market last Saturday a young woman asked quietly if I might like to come over for tea sometime.  She lives in the trailer park across the street and is rather enchanted by my gardens.  The hermit side of me would immediately dash such a notion.  I am very busy!  But, to meet someone new, to learn something new, to share your life for a moment with another spirit walking the same journey, one never knows what positive spin on one’s life this could take.  Invitations for wine and tea, walks, and new friends add glints of happiness and layers of memories upon our lives.

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4. Adopt an Animal.

Whether it be a kitten or a chicken, a dog or a goat, animals of all kinds add a certain pleasure to our lives that cannot be replicated with anything else.  To run your fingers through a warm cat’s fur, or laugh at a chicken running by with a worm, to hug a crying baby goat who needs attention, or to take a tremendously happy dog on a walk, to stroke the neck of a beautiful steed, or hold a baby duckling in your hand.  These are exhalation moments.  Ones that bring the swirling world to a brief stop and time revolves around the animals that rely on you for care.  My house may sometimes smell of cat boxes or worse, the dog may have gas, chicken poop may stick to our shoes, and there may be hay in my apron pockets, but I do not ever foresee Doug and I not having furry kids.  They enhance our life far too much.

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5. Do Not Worry About What Other Folks Think.

Particularly family and friends.  Sometimes peer pressure can be hurtful and cause worry.  I do not care that we live in a little run down, cute house on rented property with all these animals.  Years ago I had to stop caring what folks thought about us taking our kids out of the public school system and teaching them ourselves.  They are intelligent, well educated, eloquent grown children.  I do not care what people say about Maryjane not having vaccinations.  She is the smartest fifteen month old I have ever met.  I do not care if people snicker and think I sell pot.  I prefer St. John’s Wort, myself.  I do not care that my skirts are old and kind of ripped.  That I am sensitive and get my feelings hurt easily.  What happens is when you decide this is your life and this is how you want it or this is how it is, old friends and family back off and new friends and family step forward and your entire inner circle changes to like minded people or just people that really love you for who you are.  I adore my inner circle.

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6. Plant a Seed.

A pot on the balcony will do.  Or a large garden if you wish.  But plant a seed or bring home an already planted strawberry plant or basil plant.  Do something so that you can taste a bit of fresh food each day.  Fresh food energizes the body and spirit and keeps us healthy and enthralled with unique flavors and textures.  A garden or potted balcony is a lovely place to contemplate one’s life and days.  To be thankful and to enjoy a cup of coffee.

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7. Pen a Letter.

I write to my pen pals while Doug is shooting pool.  In a darkened hundred year old building that has been a saloon for perhaps all of that time, I am surrounded by old ranchers and Vietnam vets who wonder out loud (and loudly), “What are you doing?”  No matter how many times I tell them I am writing a letter, they reply, “No one writes letters anymore.”  How enjoyable to open the mailbox to find a letter.  A real one.  Folded crisp paper, carefully scripted beginning turned illegible near the end as we try to write everything on our minds and happenings before our hands tire too much.  A stamp and a carefully addressed envelopes heading to destinations that I have not yet seen.  Write to an old friend or aunt that would enjoy the antiquated pleasure of a letter.

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8. Turn off the Television.

For heaven’s sake.  Turn off the television.  Do not use it as a babysitter.  Do not let the kids play video games.  Awake your husband.  Get un-addicted from television shows.  So much nonsense out there taking root in our psyches.  If you need to relax, a drink and a book on the porch is lovely.  A walk is even better.  A walk with your spouse is time to talk and hold hands.  A knitting project awaits.  So do homemade cookies.  A spot in the garden with drawing paper.  A telephone call to an old friend, or sister.  Time is elusive.  Invite the neighbor over for laughs.  Be present.

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9. Get Outside.

Can you walk to work, or the mailbox?  Can you get outside on your lunch hour?  Can you sit outside and have lunch?  Dinner?  The outdoors is where our spirits can breathe.  The stresses of life melt away.  Enchantment begins.  Watch a sunrise…or sunset.  Smell a flower.  Feel earth between your toes.  Sit in the grass.  Or just take a walk.  Every moment outdoors fuels creativity and stress reduction.  We were never meant to be cooped up indoors.

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10. Notice and Memorize Moments.

We had our annual party Saturday night.  Rodney came over with the karaoke system.  Tents and twinkly lights were erected and the cocktails and great potluck food were enjoyed to the sound of singing and the rodeo going on in the fairgrounds.  Fireworks lit up the night later.  Every time I am in a place with people, whether it be at my brother’s wedding last week or at the party Saturday, I take a moment to look around, take it all in.  Who knows how much longer I will have my grandparents, or more surprisingly, how long my friends may be here.  Losing Nancy so suddenly this last spring left a hole in my heart and I am more apt to notice and enjoy the moment.  The first annual party without her.  I did not worry if everyone had a drink or a plate of food.  Or if everyone was having fun or if I was being a good hostess. I just sat back and noticed people laughing, caught up with everyone, appreciated everyone there.  Gave hugs, sang, watched the sunset, was thankful for all these good friends.

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Enchantment and creativity are found all around us and in our hearts we want to be carefree.  I hope you will find freedom and more glints of happiness and life moments with each passing day.  See you on the porch!