Have Dog, Will Travel

20171209_105230We spent the weekend in Taos with this fine fellow, who at three and a half months of age looks to be a small polar bear.  He was very popular.  Gandalf particularly loved it the last day we were there after we realized the shops were all dog friendly and he didn’t need his vest.  If he doesn’t have his vest on he gets a lot more cuddling.  That is what Gandalf does best.

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To register your pup as an emotion support dog simply go to a site like ESAregistration.org and sign them up, pay for the vest, and you can then bring your trusted friend around with you.  There are no requirements, no questions; simply upload a photo of your dog and who the handler is.  No one has ever questioned us and by law they can’t keep us from entering an establishment.  Gandalf may not be a seeing eye dog but he has his own work, spreading happiness to all he meets!

Taos was in all its holiday glory with the lights and bonfires in place.  The shops were dressed festive and the luminarias were lined across the rooftops and along the paths.  There is just something about New Mexico for me.  I cross the state line (now only two hours away) and I am in my own place of inspiration and peace.  As if the vibration of the rocks and trees and sagebrush match the frequency of my blood.  One day I will be there to stay.  But I am where I am supposed to be right now and a weekend away was good for the soul.

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It was a great opportunity to train Gandalf and he was worn out by the end of our trip.  He was a really good boy, except once!  I let him off the leash because we were about to play ball so he usually keeps his eye on the bright orange tennis ball but then something else caught his eye.  A giant tarp.  That covered the out of season swimming pool!  He ran onto it, like a giant trampoline he raced from one end to the other, his ears back, a big goofy smile on his face, until finally, two heart attacks later, Doug was able to yank him off the side.  No harm done, and hilarious to recall, but not so funny as I stopped breathing praying the tarp would hold that giant puppy!

Here are a few tips for traveling with your dog.

Get an emotional support dog registration or wait until summer when patios are open at restaurants.

Even with the vest, try to find a hotel that already accepts dogs.  (I highly recommend Blue Sky Resort if you are heading to Taos.)

We drove our mini-van so we could lay his bed out, food and water, and toys.  It was much easier to drive around with him!

Carry a baby bag with a bag of food, a quart of water, some treats, a toy, a few washrags, and a few plastic bowls.

Purchase a harness. When training my granddog (a crazy border collie/heeler) and now with my Great Pyrenees, a harness is a life saver!  They can’t pull, you have the leverage, and they know they have to be good kids once you put it on them!

Reward sitting, laying down, and any other good behavior with small treats.

Don’t get stressed out.  Just have fun with your companion!

20171208_131142Even small dogs can be Emotional Support Dogs.  Some dogs were not meant to hang out at home all the time.  Without company and things to do behavior problems arise.  And if you are going to have a puppy, may as well make him a friend and travel companion.  I am glad we decided to get dog!

Note: I must say that I am surprised at the number of nasty remarks I receive about this post (and mind you they will never see the light of day).  I want to make it quite clear that I still stand behind this post.  Did you know that a fully trained, recognized service dog will run between $25,000-$50,000?  There are many people that I know, from wheelchair bound to post-war PTSD, that need a service dog.  Having an emotional support dog is very valuable to many people.  My puppy is now over a year old, over a hundred pounds, and barks all the time, so he isn’t going with me anywhere more than the bank or dog park.  But he really helped me deal with fear and anxiety and if someone needs a support dog, then they should have one.  End of story.   

Happy Birthday HotRod!

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For those that are long time readers, the people that are mentioned in my blog are almost characters in a book.  It’s fun to see folks that read the blog meet my friends for the first time.  It’s almost as if they know them!  Rodney is one of those characters.  He and his wife, Pat, have been our best friends for twelve years now.  I have never had friends for that long.  We have traveled together, celebrated together, watched our kids grow up, mourned together (especially when Rodney’s mom, Kat, died last July.  I called her my mom too), and laughed together.  When we were losing everything and about to lose our minds, they threw us in their backseat and took us to Utah for four days to play.  We go to New Mexico together and plan our respective homesteads.  They are moving to Pueblo this year along with Rodney’s dad, Rod.  These are my people.

Today Rodney turns fifty.  I think that is a monumental success and reason to celebrate.  We have all lost friends that did not make it to fifty.  This is a gift, a blessing, and I am blessed to still call this man my friend.  We have a lot in common spiritually, and our families have really melded into one.  My granddaughter, Maryjane, calls them Aunt and Uncle, and their son is her best friend (he is 16…that is the sweetest kid) and cousin.  We are their grandchildren’s godparents.

So today I just wanted to share this celebration with all of you out there.  Happy Birthday to my best friend, travel partner, confidant, and trouble maker.  May you get every wish come true!  Wishing you health, happiness, love, and peace.  And a home by us!

Here’s to friends (clink!) and here’s to Rodney (double clink!)….Raise your coffee cups!  Cheers.  Happy Birthday, HotRod!

The Art of the Mini-Vacation

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Vacations are expensive.  They take a lot of planning, a week off of work, savings, and can be exhausting.  We have found that the best vacations are often weekends.  We call them mini-vacations.  We got our friends hooked on them too.  We find specials on hotel rooms and stay one night, maybe two somewhere new.  A dip in the pool, a soak in the hot tub, free breakfast, a comfy bed sans cats, and a hot shower is often just the ticket to reset for the week.  We like to try new restaurants, see the sights, visit museums, or walk around the city.  It doesn’t cost much and it really is fun.

If you have been reading my blog long you know Pat and Rodney via my stories.  We have traveled with them to Utah, to New Mexico, and across the front range, from Wyoming to Fort Collins, to Colorado Springs.

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Last weekend we took Pat and Rodney down to Pueblo to show them around.  We met up with my friend, Alvin, who just moved down there.  We went to dinner at my new favorite restaurant, Nachos.  A family owned place that serves up the best Mexican food I have had in a long while.  We walked the Riverwalk and oohed and ahhed at the lights.  We planned, dreamed.  Pat and I walked arm and arm singing and yelling, “Merry Christmas” to the boats that went by all alight with Santa in tow.

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The next day we took them to see our new house.  We drove around town and walked the Main street with its quaint blocks of all locally owned shops.

This week we are driving down there just for the day to accompany Rodney and Pat while they house hunt.  Wouldn’t that be something?  Our best friends moving down the way?  This is getting too fun….

Setting Yourself Free (Part 5- Letting Go and Dreaming New)

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I have written many times about how to manifest your dreams.  Write them down, set a goal list, talk about them, and watch them turn into reality!  It is a science.  It works.  What I haven’t written about is what happens when that dream comes true then gets taken away?  How do you restart?  How do you manifest a new existence when the circumstances are being laid out for you.

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Someone responded on my blog post Sunday that they hope I find what I am looking for.  That bothered me all day because I did find what I was looking for!  I am living on my homestead!  I had trouble putting the hand clothes washer for sale.  What if I need it?  Folks, I haven’t used it in two years!  BUT, what if I get my off grid homestead and don’t have a washer?!  Things to think about, people.  I put it up for sale anyway.  I know we have nesting instincts and want to be prepared and all, but I am starting to look around and realize I am prepared to have a dinner party for seventy-five people! I have three tables, cupboards of dishes, closets of clothes when we only wear a few outfits, and things we just do not use.

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We went walking in Castlewood Canyon yesterday.  A miraculously beautiful and peaceful place, it balms the soul and brings calm with its breathtaking features.

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Doug and I talked and then fell into silence.  We would bring up ideas, then fall into silence.  For an hour we walked, sat, dreamed, talked.  This homestead isn’t really what we wanted after all.  If we are going to live thirty feet from someone on a homestead they need to be likeminded folks.  We also talked about how the most devastating part is behind us.  The loss of our animals was difficult and the death of our dream was too.  But now as each thing leaves the house, as we sell off one more piece of furniture, fill one more bag for charity, sell one more pile of things, we are beginning to feel something we really have never felt, liberated.  We are daring to dream of another existence.

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Perhaps I can speak at herb conferences.  Perhaps we can be so light on possessions that it is nothing to pick up and head around the country writing about farms.  Or visiting friends.  We are free.  We need to get a backpack.

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For the next 18 months or so I am going to step back from my ego.  Seek out teachers for herbalism and Permaculture and whatever else the wide world thinks I ought to learn.  Guitar lessons, continue my wine classes, who knows?  Improve my art and maybe get my things in a gallery?  Or just enjoy homesteading with my co-homesteading compatriots.  I want to be more quiet, more helpful, more creative.  There are wine bars, and restaurants, and ice cream shops all down the strip near our new home that beckons to be tried out.  Each and every one.

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I will be with my husband.  My closest friend.  I could walk with him forever.  What do we need with all these possessions?

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A lot of folks right now have had major transitions or on the brink of them.  Maybe take a little time today to write down what you would like to do (or not do) in the next year.  Then gather up a bag for charity and let some things go.  Let us let ourselves go.

A Field Trip to the Hot Springs

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The mountains were alight with the glow that only comes from thick blankets of snow.  An illuminant feel to the air, light and free, while whipping through the valleys of highways to get to our destination.  We had escaped.

We didn’t get as much snow as everyone else and we figured if we could get through the drift on the driveway and if the dirt road had been plowed it would smooth sailing up the roads to the mountains.  The two hour drive was beautiful, the glistening snow fresh and the roads were not treacherous as we had feared.  We were on our way to the Indian Hot Springs in Idaho Springs, Colorado.

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So often folks think of Glenwood Springs as the hot springs of the mountains but this beautiful respite is often overlooked.  The priest at my parish when I was a child, Father Weibel, would take my siblings and I to the hot springs for fun.  It was always exciting and we would end the outings with a stop at the A&W, now a Barbeque joint.  We have taken our children to the hot springs since they were small and have enjoyed many a stay here for birthdays and anniversaries.

You would have to live in an old homestead to think it the Ritz, but the quaintness and the rusticity of the place is endearing and a lovely, peaceful getaway.  We stayed in a room in the main building.  The ones across the street are complete with full baths and such but they remind me of a motel and I rather enjoy the idea of staying in ancient rooms with push lights, windows with views up the mountains and wood paneling.  Presidents likely stayed in these rooms.  They have half baths but if you are swimming in the lovely hot springs the whole time, who needs their own shower?

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Thanks to the snow storm, many guests had cancelled so we had the pool to ourselves twice during our visit.  The temperature was so cold outdoors that under the greenhouse canopy of tropical plants steam rose up from the lagoon-like pool creating a feel of stranded island and romance.  It was heavenly and warm, the hot mineral springs loosening my aching shoulders from too many hours of typing.  In passionate embrace we took in the smells of soil, the large palm trees tucked under the corrugated roof with condensation dripping lightly into the warm water.  The only sound was from the gush of searing hot water coming from one end and the light wading of water from our fingertips.

After nearly thirty years of going to this beautiful holiday spot, I recommend that you go on weekdays and avoid weekends and holidays as it gets very crowded.  A random Tuesday or snowy Sunday night will find you mostly alone.  There are caves and clothing optional, gender specific areas, which we haven’t ventured to yet only because we like swimming together.  They have a package for $109 for the night Sundays through Thursdays which includes unlimited access to the pool and caves, an overnight room, and a $25 gift certificate to a choice of four restaurants for dinner.  A wonderful price for a wonderful place for escape!

http://indianhotsprings.com

Excerpts From My Honeymoon Memoirs (and never ending adventures)

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2003…It’s seventy degrees, slight breeze.  I look out and see nothing but navy blue with white foam spreading sporadically.  Glorious!  I did not, for the first time in my life, wake up last night. The rocking of the boat knocked me into restful bliss!  The sky, right now, is cloudy with patches of blue, the air is sweet, and salty, and clean…

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We went to a beautiful theater, large with lush red sofas and small tables set in front with art work of Renoir pasted upon them.  Large windmills two stories high perched on the sides of the stage, millions of lights.  A big band played and we danced up a storm in front of a partially filled theater on stage.  I have married my soul mate!…

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Jamaica…exuberant, vibrant floral trees, one hundred foot high bamboo, everything tropical and lush.  The mountain was scattered with mansions and cinderblock homes in no particular order.  Children bathing in the stream.  The sound of birdsong, the smell of rain and earth, hot sun, tropical flowers, dark skinned beauties (with no dental care), and another world…Doug was offered drugs four times…

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We are quite famous on this ship.  We are stopped several times a day and complimented on our dancing and singing.  We are sweetly referred to as the Honeymooners though it wasn’t really announced that we are.  We were told we have stars in our eyes…

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Cayman is the opposite of Jamaica, sparkling clean, English influence, professional souvenir shops, more expensive, but still breathtakingly beautiful…a lot of tame stingrays swept briskly and familiarly along our sides and legs.  We fed them squid, and with a strong suction, they slurped it out of our fist.  They are incredibly soft, four feet across, magnificent animals…

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We went to the top of the ship, to the top deck, under the stars looking out across the water, and danced to Doug singing “When I’m Sixty-Four” without another soul around…

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We rode horseback in Cozumel in the sweltering heat through Mayan ruins which were rather fascinating.  My horse had a mind of her own and didn’t like Doug’s horse.  The foliage was very much like ours.  The difference was the hundreds of iguanas freely crossing the streets, trails, running about as frequently as squirrels!…

Overall, the places we have visited are beautiful and colorful, different and exciting.  But nothing beats Colorado’s charming mountain towns, swimming in the hot springs, and the houses down sixth avenue are still the prettiest I have seen.

I am sitting on the veranda once more waiting for Doug to take me on more adventures…

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My, what adventures we’ve had!  I look forward to many, many more….

We were to go on a trip to the mountains this weekend for our anniversary but it looks like we will be snowed in.  As long as I am with him, I will be happy. 

A Field Trip To 1860 (learning from an old homestead)

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We traveled back in time yesterday to 1860.  We visited the home of the Hildebrants from Germany at the Denver Botanical Gardens at Chatfield.  Completely as it was.  The added gardens are impressive and the acreage of farming provides a CSA program for the community as well as a ginormous pumpkin patch and corn maze for Autumn fun.

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As homesteaders, especially ones that are looking to delve further into the world of self sufficiency and off grid living, we look for valuable lessons, ideas, and inspirations from those that came before us.  They whisper through the walls of their old homes and the physical pieces left from a time of homesteading as necessity teach us many things in their silence.  Something in us understands them intuitively.

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We started at our dream house.  A clapboard house with a large porch and swing.  The interior was sparsely decorated with furniture and tools from the era.  The wood stove stood proudly waiting for a kettle of water to be placed on it.  Simple rugs, old quilts, hand tools, and kitchen accessories were displayed.  Many things that we have collected ourselves on our homestead.  I cannot wait until the next homestead when I get my wood cook stove!  How fun the second chapter of Farmgirl School will be!  The house was uncluttered, comfortable, and very welcoming.  We peeked through windows and pretended we lived there.

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A summer kitchen was erected behind the main house with another wood cook stove in it, a counter, and a table.  Heat up the smaller house and leave the big house cool in the summer.  Every year I think we will build a summer kitchen for canning.  Soon we will.  The root cellar was on the side of the house and entered below the home to hold staples for winter.

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The refrigerator is a shed looking building, larger than our present fridges but a small structure in itself.  We would locate ice from the rivers in the winter and place them in the ice house with sawdust to keep the shed nice and cool and keep our food chilled throughout the summer.

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The woodshed would be close to the trees, close to the house, and would house the winter’s worth of wood needed to stoke two fires in the home all season.  More wood stood under the eve of the back door to the house.

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We have two interns from New York right now that have travelled by RV to study herbs under me and work on our mini-farm.  If it were 1860 (though I think this rather quaint for right now as well) this is the house they would stay in.

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These raised beds are perfect for building over cement slabs or driveways and are tall enough to not cause too much backache.

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When we move to our next homestead it will be quite likely that we will encounter a good deal more predators than we do here in town, so we will have to build a large pen such as this one.

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This is the blacksmith shop.  A shed with all the important tools to provide horse shoes and for fixing iron implements around the farm.  The buildings were placed in close vicinity to each other along the creek and house in order to block the winds from the southwest.  Everything was close to the water as one could not exactly turn on the faucet and pay a water bill.  I do dream of the day when I can use a grey water system to water my plants, not wasting a single drop, and have fresh well water.

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After about having it with any type of automobile I am this close to getting a pair of work horses and a wagon!  My friends would probably nary blink an eye.

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This is the Granary where we would store all of our grains for the winter.  There are openings along the top of the walls to create airflow so that the precious grain would not mold.

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A barn is very important as animals are an important part of a homestead.  Goats waiting to be milked bask in the sunshine.

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On our quarter acre I have found that I am able to intensively farm and be able to feed Doug and I and a few occasional guests during the growing season.  I am not able to grow enough to provide food for the community or to put up for winter.  That has been an eye opener for me.  I would need at least an acre to provide enough year round vegetables.

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The Hildebrant homestead also has several orchard trees as well as an entire herb garden.  There were many medicinal herbs growing in the plot near the back door.  This would have likely been the kitchen garden that held herbs, lettuces, and things that mama would want to access easily without going out into the fields to pick.

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Looking over the bridge here I saw many medicinal plants as well as wild grapes and choke cherries.  If I could just have a quick word with the homesteaders that lived here a hundred and fifty years ago, the stories and lessons they could teach me.

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Doug talking with a tiny bunny.

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Having several ecosystems on a single farm is imperative for biodiversity, wild foods, and plants.  This woodland was so beautiful just steps from the fields of vegetables.  Animals and wildlife may add some troubles with farming but by and large add a great deal of charm and are important on a homestead.

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A homestead is a place to have family around to help with canning and splitting wood!

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and for adoring grandchildren.

This was the old school that was moved to the property.

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Such a beautiful life.  A life filled with hard work, bountiful harvests, and close family.  A place where one can feel proud of their accomplishments and enjoy the world of simplicity.  A homestead is the place to be.

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A homestead can make you very tired though!

 

Homesteading Lessons (a museum field trip)

IMG_1562We took a drive down to Colorado Springs with Rodney and Pat to see a museum that before now had escaped our attention.  The Colorado Springs Pioneer Museum.  It is housed in an old courthouse (the building itself a beauty) and held rooms of homesteading lessons.

IMG_1560First, it is always good to have friends with you on your homesteading journey.

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Pat and I took these still life, serious photographs after dressing up in Pioneer clothing.  I hate to admit that I have these outfits…and wear them.  They are quite practical!  You have a pocket in your apron to put things as you are cleaning the house, hanging the laundry, or if you are a modern gal, you can put your cell phone in there.  The bonnets keep the sun from blaring in your face.  The long skirts keep the weeds from hitting your legs, chickens from pecking, and keep you warm in the winter, and cool in the summer.  Very practical.

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Make sure you can protect your family.  There are a lot of screwy folks out there.  I used to view myself as the ultimate peace keeper, the one that would not fight.  If someone should break in I would hope a cast iron pan would do.  I could never harm someone so I would just hope for protection.  Now, I look at Maryjane, my children, even my animals, and I would fight pretty hard now.

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I cannot tell you how nice this vehicle looks to me.  One or two lovely horses leading it.  A chance to feel the wind in one’s hair and see the surrounding country side.  The vehicle also looks a lot easier to maintain than our old cars!

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Make sure that you can fit everything you own in a trunk (or 82 in my case) so that you can move easily if necessary and so that you don’t get too caught up in material things.  Just the necessities folks.

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When you make something, take pride in your work.  No ho hum work.  Make it last, make it beautiful.

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Children do not need every toy that is shown on commercials.  They will grow bored, the toys will end up in a landfill, and you will be broke.  A nice simple doll is a little girl’s favorite toy.  I made one of these for Maryjane for Christmas.

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Find tools for the job.  Where can I purchase (or how do I make) these implements?  The corn husker thing would save me some time getting the corn off the cobs.  This fabulous shovel is specifically for digging up potatoes without nicking them.

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Keep your spinning wheel near your writing desk so that you can get a lot done during the day.

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Welcome everyone into your home.  Colorado Springs was home to the Cotton Club.  It was the first night club in the country that allowed any race to enter and was owned by a black woman.  She had a big sign in the window that said “Everyone Welcome” much like our sign that says Welcome to Grammie and Papa’s.  Ours promises cookies and unlimited hugs.

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This is how you avoid the gym.  Work in the fields, work hard, ride your bicycle.

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Keep yourself healthy with herbal medicines.  This apothecary replica looks a lot like mine!  I was mesmerized.

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Be inspired.  I love how the length of lace looks at the borders of this hand made quilt.  I will have to try that when I make my next quilt.

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Play music and love life.  Relax in the evenings and get your fiddle out.

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I don’t know if it’s because I have had so many homesteaders in my family history (nearly all my family dates back to at least the 1700’s) that I am so fascinated by all these things.  Could it pass down in one’s DNA?  Or is it the simple fact that I love homesteading itself.  I love simplicity, quiet, hard work, and relaxing in the evenings.  I love being a housewife, a preserver, a farmer.  I love this life of animals, and the mixture of grief and profound happiness.  The sense of accomplishment and helping the earth.

I need to be playing my fiddle more!

Across Enchanted Woods and Harbors

I found this man who might have been in the woods too long!
I found this man who might have been in the woods too long!

It’s always nice to get off the homestead once in awhile.  If you are on the farm too long you start to think that everything revolves around your little plot of land.  That’s a lot of pressure.  Thinking the world revolves around me getting alpacas can be overwhelming.  I needed to get away.  Every time I tell you all that I am taking a break, or a day off, I am lying.  I can’t take a day off at home.  Not possible.  Call me a super charged housewife or a Ritalin candidate, my days off are best spent in another state so I can’t revert back to chores.  My days off here have been filled with wine country, redwood forests, and seaside lunches.  Not bad days off, if you ask me.

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But while I am lounging around my friend’s patio, watching the traffic and taking in the new plant life, I am also getting recharged and inspired.  Sometimes we need to step away from our little world in order to come up with conclusions.

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In my quest for growing fresh fruit at 6500 feet above sea level, I have concluded that I am going to try to grow raspberries, blueberries, and grapes in five gallon buckets.  That way I can control their climate, their soil, and when it is time to move in a few years, I can just take them with me and plant them on my permanent farm.  I can keep them out of the deer’s’ buffet line, in the sun they crave, and hopefully harvest handfuls of delicious fruit.

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As we walked through the Muir Woods, we took in the intoxicating smell of lush growth, soil, sea.  The unfamiliar birdsongs, the moss growing up giant trees, our steps taking us through the enchanted forest.  It felt so surreal, it could have been a set out of a Disney movie, or Lord of the Rings.  The canopy tree tops, the babbling brook, the rustling in the underbrush.

As we walked though, I started to notice similarities with the terrain I grew up around.  The land looked very similar to Colorado.  The walking trails could have been the same (except for the occasional Palm tree and flowering bush…there are no flowering bushes in Colorado in November!).  The birds were different, but their songs as sweet.  The tree in Leo’s yard across the street is as high as many of the trees in the forest, having seen many, many a decade of pioneers crossing.  We are all on the same space.  I can be happy anywhere.  I realized that I can grow where I am planted, and love the terrain I am on, but also that my next farm, probably still in Colorado, will be at a lower altitude and on an easier plot of land to grow things!

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Oyster mushrooms climbed old trees in the forest.  A delicious example of the bounty in nature.  I need to inoculate a log and get us some mushrooms growing on our humble two thirds of a acre in a tiny part of the planet.

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The next day, from the harbor in Santa Cruz, we dined on frozen fried clam strips (not at all fresh) but enjoyed the scenery of hundreds of sea lions bantering, playing, sleeping, sunning, babies frolicking and getting in trouble with the older lions.

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These experiences show me that we live in a great, wide world with so many people and species.  I should not get so in my head about my own place.  Just enjoy what I have there.  In the whole scheme of the world, of time, does it matter if I get two more goats, one pregnant, that I have no idea how to mid-wife?  We are getting the fence fixed, surely it will be fine this time.  Two alpacas who are adorable and may or may not come near us are coming to live there too.  If we fail at our homesteading quest, does it really matter?  We will surely be wildly successful on our mini-farm.  Keeping my footprint small and taking care of my allotted space, loving the animals and people around me, and enjoying the life I am living right this moment is all that is important.

A Walk in the Vineyards (visiting Napa)

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Is wine just another drink?  A snobby, pretentious one?  An expensive bottle of grape juice?  It is more than that, of course, as I have written in Wine 101 and Wine 200.  The puzzle of finding out where the grapes were grown, in what kind of soil, surrounded by what, in what climate, on old or new vines.  These can all be answered in a glance, smell, sip.  I love that one can find so many complexities and aromas in a simple glass of…well….grape juice.

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And behind all that, the fancy restaurants, the food pairings, the bottles snug in the cellar, is the farmer.  A farmer, workers, wine makers, all making this journey through dinner sensational.

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Homesteaders have been making their own wine for many, many centuries.  Fermenting grapes was a way to preserve the bounty and provided safer refreshment than water at many times.  It is a preservation method, a return on the farmer’s time and energies growing this humble fruit.

Following the vineyard tour of Pine Crest in Napa, I took to memory everything the guide said about the growing of the grapes.  Hillside, sun, distance from the ground, sugar content, days on the vine.  I kept asking questions.  I must grow grapes.  A sad shake of the head met me.  140 days on the vine.

“Oh, I can do that.  I have a four and a half months to grow.”  That is a hundred and forty days after the fruit is visible, after flowering, after Spring, 140 days.

“Oh wait, that is my entire growing season!”  Oh, Kiowa, you high desert land, you’re killing me as a farmer over here!

But you know me, if someone tells me in Napa Valley, where they know grapes and wine, that I can’t grow grapes, I’ll be shopping for Sangiovese and Petite Sirah grapes the second my plane lands back in Colorado.  There has got to be a way for me to grow good grapes.  I will research areas similar to my climate and see what they grow.  Surely along the equatorial line Colorado matches up with somewhere like France across the globe.

Six dollar wines with cute animals on them or fancy Italian words used to be my wine of choice.  Now, you can find a darn good wine at twelve bucks, but I used to think the Costco style wines, in all their bulk glory and appealing labels, were the best wines.  Then I started enjoying red blends, their smooth, creamy textures, albeit void of intense complexity, seemed fitting for any occasion (and still can be).  Though I love a good puzzle.  And the puzzle can only be found in single vineyard wines.

Single vineyard is how you know the grapes came from the same place.  That wine will give you more uniqueness, as it will whisper to you notes about its soil constitution, how far its roots traveled, how much sun it received, how old the vines are.  Its own place on the planet written out in a bottle.

Estate grown means that it is grown on the vineyard owner’s properties, but their vineyards could be miles apart.

Reserve means that it was grown in a particular patch of vineyard, a more expensive wine generally, but a more concentrated memory of where it was grown.  The best area of the vineyard.

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We walked through the vast vineyards.  Watched as row upon row clung to the hillside taking in the glorious sun.  Smelled the sacrificial roses.  They are there to attract insects.  The destructive bugs will hopefully go to the roses instead of eating the precious fruit.

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We walked through the warehouse-looking area where thirty feet high there were stacked newly harvested and resting wine hovering in French oak barrels.  Enormous steel tanks held bubbling early fermentations of wine.  We walked into the cave.  Several miles of caves exist under the buildings.  Rows and rows of oak line the walls filled with their proud vintage.  We tasted a sample right out of the barrel.  It was delicious.  Creamy, interesting, smooth, filled with berries, molasses, spice, and vanilla.  We walked further down the cool caves (incidentally only three degrees cooler than my basement…I can do this!) and came upon a beautiful round table with three dozen shimmering glasses and small plates of cheese.  We went through three tastes of wines, each delightful with its chosen cheese, and savored the romantic cave atmosphere.

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Next Google search; zone 4 grape vines and an oak barrel.