How to Make a House a Home (decorating styles)

The thought of starting over both exhausts and excites me.  I am moving to a simple box of a home with an acre of wildness.  I asked a friend of mine who lives out there about wildlife.  “I suppose I will be back with wildlife,” I wrote.  “Deer?  Coyotes?” I ventured.

She wrote back, “Deer, coyotes, foxes, raccoons, bears, mountain lions, hawks, owls.”

My chickens are toast, I thought.

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Outside of fencing in the chickens, the rest of the gardens will wait.  Fencing, soil, amendments, and careful planning over the winter’s months will result in a full fledged gardening and farm animal movement.  In the meantime, I turn to the house.

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In my mind’s eye, I see it burgundy with white trim, dark brown rustic shutters, and a wrap around porch.  I have no doubt that will come to be, but first, we work indoors!

How do you get the feel of a house?  How do you choose your decorating and design in a new place?  It is easy in old houses.  The old wood floors and crooked lines and personality shine through.  Doug was surprised that I liked the house we chose.  He commented that I don’t usually like new.

The house we spent eight years in after being married and when our children were young was an ugly bi-level in a suburb.  The photos of the place were on the internet as we peeked at real estate recently.  Gone were my murals and whimsical painted cupboards.  Also gone were the broken hand rails and the bare sub-floor.  That house swiftly fell apart the moment we bought it.  We were astounded by the new recessed lighting, sharp looking kitchen, soft carpet, and beige walls.  It was very rich looking and very…boring.  That house was all about homeschooling and raising children.  The downstairs was an art room and library with cement floors they could ride their scooters on.  The upstairs was open for entertaining and was full of color.  I don’t miss it though.  Once we made our exit to the country, I didn’t think I’d be back in the city!

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Back in the city, in a fancy apartment that looked out across the skyline of mountains that we rented for a year while saving up for a house, I decorated with eastern Indian motifs.  Golds and sharp pinks, black and white designs, and an area for yoga so that I could look out at the mountains and wonder how our life got turned so around that I was living in an apartment a few miles from that first house!  The colors were stimulating and inspiring.  A country look would not have worked.  And that was my calming place to get my mind right after so much loss.

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My design inspiration for my current house.  I kept it on my fridge for a year dreaming of my own homestead.

Here in this home, that used to be a farmhouse, the design is simple.  We moved in with practically nothing and it didn’t take long to fill it with hand me downs and antiques.  It is colorful with chili ristras and my bright paintings, yet serene with comfy seating and lots of plants, thanks to all the natural light.  The decor is incredibly eclectic, bouncing from Amish country to New Mexican to old farmhouse.

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New house decorating inspiration.

We are now moving to a circa 1993 (my baby was born in 1993) home with brand new greige paint (the newest trend- grey/beige blend), and fresh floors, and newer appliances, and not a hint of personality.  But I can find it, harness it, use it to create a new home.

The house has an incredible view of the surrounding mountains.  The acre is filled with cactus and cedar and other southwest, desert plants.  Snowfall will create a breathtaking view.

We are at a different stage of our life now.  We want to have enough beds to host all of our children in hopes of big country Christmases.  I want the house to feel welcoming, calming, inspiring, grown up, with a sense of fun and whimsy placed here and there.  A homestead, but modern farmhouse style.  I will take the greige and use it as my base of ideas.  Creams, dark woods, and warm knits will give it a hygge (Nordic) feel.  A mix of industrial, Nordic farmhouse, and cabin elements with lots of light and coziness.

Clear the clutter will be my motto and striking single pieces will replace lots of stuff.  We have our eye on a large, tall book shelf complete with a ladder.  The high ceilings will allow it.  Image it filled with all of my brewing herbal extracts with suspended plants, and stained glass-like jars of canned goods lining the shelves.  I am painting my dark piano cream.

Our shelves of books will line a wall in our new office/sewing room with a pull out couch.  The guest room will boast a stunning queen sized bunk bed.  The television will sit on a roll cart that can easily be put in a closet.  I despise having to decorate around a blasted, ugly television!  An oriental rug in the slim kitchen and blackboard doors on the pantry.  The oil lamps keep getting knocked over by a very large farm dog, so they will be replaced (*sigh) with elegant lamps.  Whimsical vintage signs and things we love, like drawings from Maryjane, greenery, and photographs.  Yes, this will be a lovely home.

The inspection on our new house is today and I will take along a measuring tape and graph paper to measure and plan.  This is my favorite part of moving!

Here are a few tips on how to find the personality and decorating style for your home.

1- Find the story behind the house.  Use surrounding scenery and house style to find the personality of the home.

2- Where are you in life?  Raising kids or working from home will all change the needs of the house.

3- What colors make you perk up?  What design elements (antiques, old/new signs, plants) make you smile?

4- Can you reuse what you have?  What do you need to buy?

5- Decorate with what you love.  Even if they don’t “match,” you will find that they end up seamlessly working with everything else.

6- Check out design and decorating books from the library and cut out decorating ideas you love from magazines.  I keep a huge binder of them and look at them each time I want to redecorate or move.

7- Fill your home with visiting friends, laughter, great books, candle light, and a kettle for tea.  Music, less electronics, and joy will make your home a respite from the world.  I think I might turn in my smart phone for a home phone and a record player.

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An Interview with a Hunter

Hunting is something that has pretty well horrified me since childhood.  Throughout history the entire world has subsisted on wild foods and hunting, and then agriculture.  I understand this, and I know that the taking of one life to feed a family for most of a year compared to the life of a factory farmed animal is a much more humane option.  I doubt I will ever don a rifle and go hunting, but I wanted to hear first hand from a hunter.  So, while we were out fishing, Bret answered some of my questions.

He first went pheasant hunting when he was six years old with his grandpa.  His family are avid hunters.  I asked how he felt when he first saw an animal be shot.  He didn’t think anything of it.  He had been raised around it.  This made me think about my Uncle Jim who told me stories about slaughtering pigs.  I gave him a squished up face and said I could never do that.  He said if I lived at that time I could and I would!  So Bret never really thought anything of it.

His favorite is hunting doves.  He and his friends go every September.  By the time the small birds are dressed, they are but appetizers, tiny morsels with a jalapeno tucked in and wrapped in bacon.  They are apparently quite delicious.  I have read that many homesteaders dine on blackbird and pigeon.  They are very common birds.

I asked about hunting mammals.  He shot a mouflan sheep before in Texas.  They are everywhere, he said.  I asked if he felt bad.  Again, no.  He explained to me that the vast majority of hunters are not new to guns and shooting.  They practice, they aim, the animal rarely feels any suffering at all.  If they do run, it is from adrenaline and then they drop.  Most of the time, they die immediately.

Bret is not a fan of trophy hunting.  He also feels that it is a terrible waste of meat to kill a deer just for sport.  “That is eighty pounds of natural, organic meat that can feed your family,” he said.

“Far better than factory farmed and much healthier too, I imagine,” I added.

“And it tastes better,” he said.

He told me how the Department of Wildlife has done an amazing job at increasing animal populations.  Hunters and the DOW work together for conservation.  If there are not enough deer in an area, there will be no hunting.  If there are too many (they will end up on the roads or starving), a certain amount of tags go out for that area.

I asked if he has ever gotten an elk, as he goes out hunting for his birthday every year.

“No,” he replied, “It’s really about the experience.”

A Visit to the Desert Botanical Garden in Arizona

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The Desert Botanical Garden was my favorite outing this week in Phoenix.  It was the only day my friends that we are staying with had off work.   At the Botanical Garden, I learned about the ecosystem and plant life here.

The long, meandering paths lead in circles around the living outdoor exhibits, so it was easy to traverse.  I found myself fascinated by the landscape and the warm sun felt great upon my skin as the four of us wandered around the expansive space enjoying each other’s company and watching exquisite birds.  Fluffy chipmunks darted to and fro and a large hawk hovered near.

We found great enjoyment watching the blackbirds dart full speed into holes in the Saguaro cacti, apartment buildings for the birds.  Hummingbirds happily drank nectar from cactus flowers and trees in full bloom.

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I have an enormous aloe plant in my house that flowers each year and it is always a topic of conversation the first time folks visit my home.  To see these beautiful specimens full of juice and flowering prolifically beneath the Arizona sun was wonderful.

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There is a medicinal herb that I use called Chaparral.  It holds the astounding properties within it to kill cancer cells, repair teeth and kill infections.  It is often hard for me to get.  Its other name is Creosote Bush and there it was, prolific across the desert.

The herb gardens were thick with rich aroma and life as bees darted from tip to tip.

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I wondered how the indigenous people of the land here could withstand the heat.  There were many examples of willow and ironwood structures for cooking, living, and communing.  Gardens and history were provided around the simulated village.

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My husband is a very good photographer and I was happy that he could capture the day for us.  If you find yourself in Phoenix, Arizona, head to the Desert Botanical Garden for a day of history, beauty, and desert magic.

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It has been a lovely six days in Arizona and now we bid a sad farewell to our dear friends and travel east to Santa Fe, New Mexico.

A Peaceful Holiday

The full moon hovered brightly over the land last eve and Yule was nigh.  The 12 days of Christmas was originally the 12 days of Yule.  Festivities, bonfires, hearth fires, the yule log, the decorated trees, feeding the birds and other wildlife, exchanging gifts, and checking on the elderly and homebound fill the days of Yule leading to new year.

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It is a quiet morning here in my cozy home.  Father Sun peeks through the windows while climbing to start the day.  I sip my warm coffee, the earthiness and steam filling the air.  We keep the lights on the tree on often.  Just sitting in my rocking chair watching the glimmering lights, scanning the many ornaments that hold place as story tellers, makes me joyful and calm.  I put a Christmas album on.  My favorite is Andy Williams.   The presents are piled on the bed ready to be wrapped in paper and bows.

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Christmas past when my children were very young. (1999)

The birds outside sing and dart about.  The fat squirrel looks at me through the window.  She is out of bird seed.  Sweet thing; I wish blessings on all the wildlife.  A young eagle landed in the tree the other day and we sat together for some time.  The geese fly overhead noisily, their synchronized flying like swimmers in the sky.  Upon this great landscape of earth is such a lovely place to live.  I am thankful each day for health, for life, for family, for this cozy home where the hearth fires burn.

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Dreaming of Christmas cookies

Yesterday I did ceremony on my friends who are getting married beneath the full moon by a fire outdoors.  Today I get the honor of officiating their wedding.  Tomorrow we are off to my cousin’s, the next day to our friends’, home again for Christmas eve and my children will all gather here.  Santa knows to come to Grammie and Pa’s house.  Christmas morning will shine bright with the love of family.  A late Hannukah celebration with family and my daughter’s birthday round out the festivities before the new year dawns with promise and light.

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Christmas present. My beautiful granddaughters, Maryjane and Ayla.

What are your plans for the holidays, my Friends?  From our home to yours, I wish you the happiest Christmas and a blessed Yule.  May you be with those you love and may peace fill your home.

A New Farmgirl and the Family Farm

A new little farmgirl is joining our family this November.  During Emily’s ultrasound yesterday I watched in awe as the little skeleton baby moved her knees into her chest, moved her arms, and turned her head.  Is there anything more amazing than new life?  My daughter is five months pregnant.  Her five year old, our beloved Maryjane Rose, is overjoyed to have a sister coming.  We have so much to show her!

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New life is everywhere.  My garden beds overflow and bees, goldfinches, and hummingbirds delight in nectar as a baby squirrel eats walnuts from the tree.  I am not sure if there will be any left for us again this year.  There were plenty of mulberries to go around though.

No matter what new endeavors I take on, no matter where my life and studies take us, I always end up back to this place.

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“I keep asking myself what I do I want to do now?  What are my goals?” I told Emily while we were waiting for the doctor.  “And all I want is to be able to live on a big family farm, take the grandkids to see what is growing in the gardens, check on our general store and restaurant, and be together living sustainably.”

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“That’s all I want too,” she responded.

At dinner the other night, my son has it all planned out.

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In the end, all I want is to live close to the heartbeat of the earth, surrounded by family and community, and live sustainably.

It is time to can peaches today.

Life with Squirrels

 

squirrelWe have never been known to have underfed animals, and that goes for wildlife too.  Where most folks purchase squirrel proof feeders and shoo them away, we set out welcome signs.  We have a long history with squirrels.

It started with me as a child and teenager at the park feeding them and talking with them.  I didn’t think it strange, I still believed everyone spoke to animals.  Our first home we had together in Parker had a lot of squirrels, one particular was named Pierre, and he had a large bowl that we kept on the table in the back yard filled with bird seed and squirrel food.  The birds could still get to it and we didn’t have to mess with feeders.  One time we heard him yelling so we looked out our window.  There he was with his empty bowl.  He caught sight of us, showed us the empty bowl, then threw it on the ground.  Yes, squirrels are not much better than toddlers, I am afraid.

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We moved to Elbert county, and to our surprise found that there were hardly any squirrels!  We had one that visited us on the porch in the mornings as we had our coffee when we lived in Elizabeth.  His name was Pedro.  When we moved to Kiowa, there were even less!  We were delighted when we noted the squirrel nest in the tree near the road.  Unfortunately one baby fell out of the nest.  I carried him in my shirt tending to him, trying to bring him back to health.  But, I fear he had too much internal damage.  As I gently held him on my lap swinging in the back yard he had a seizure, scared me so that I tossed him.  I felt so bad, I held him close to me again crying as he passed into the next world.

You may have noticed we are not particularly scared of rabies.  Rabies is one of those rampant fears that is actually quite rare in reality.  No one seems to be scared of dogs and cats or people.  They could all be carriers!

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A few months back Shyanne brought to the shop a squirrel that she had rescued from the street.  We didn’t think he would live the night.  His held was tilted to one side and he made slow circles when he tried to walk.  We thought it was spinal, but began to believe it was neurological.  Every day without fail, the squirrel allowed Shyanne to give him his medicine.  We make very good animal medicines, and he received his twice daily doses of Arthritis and Anti-Parasite.  He took to us rather well, particularly Shyanne.  She could be seen out on her smoke break in the back with a squirrel playing at her feet.  Every day he wandered further and further, she would just call him and he came prancing back to her, gaining strength each day.

Soon he was well and we knew it was time to release him as he looked at us as captors instead of friends.  Shyanne drove him to a nearby state park and released him.  She sat on a rock watching as he climbed a tree, came back to her, climbed a tree, fell out, climbed a tree, looked at her with thanks, and was gone.  Through tears she made her way back to her car.

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Healing animals is one of our favorite aspects of our work.  We are glad that we did not raise our children to fear animals.  We adore these creatures that share the earth with us and they have made our lives so much lovelier, even the wild ones.

On our new homestead here, there are two rather fat squirrels that have been working very hard, despite the black birds, to build a nest in a hole in the tree outside our kitchen window.  We leave them bits of toast and greet them.  Perhaps we will have some young ones scampering around the yard and house.  I better get a bigger bowl.

Winter Delights

Outside the sliding glass doors, under the clothes line he stood.  Regal and great.  Large antlers he held with grace and the snow on his thick fur glittered in morning light.  A young doe lay near.  Under the pine tree she held her gentle face to the sun.  I watched them from the window in calming awe.

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We readied for work and walked out of the house and turned to walk down the long snow packed driveway.  There we startled four fluffy young deer.  They stood still for a moment then hopped away in their comical rabbit-like impersonation.  Their bouncing feet stirring the light snow as they quickly adjourned down the pasture.

Last night under the full moon we drove slowly up the driveway basking in the moonlight and there they were again.  Four youth and the doe.  They greeted us and huddled closer.  So enchanting.

Is it possible that one doe could have four infants?  They are the very same size and seeming age.  I was always under the impression that deer generally only birthed one infant.  Do you think she is mother of quadruplets or did she adopt these young babies?

Either way I feel blessed to see them.  To be near them.  To share this beautiful earth with them.

May this beautiful season bring with it great blessings, tidings from friends, and memories of joy and laughter for all of you. 

A Dragon in the Tree

“I think I just saw a dragon,” I hesitantly told Emily.

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Now, I know you are thinking what I was thinking when I thought I saw a dragon.  I need to take a break…or get a drink.  Or, perhaps dragons are actually real.  It’s funny what your mind races around thinking when it tries to figure something out.  Racing through files of memories and education to find the proper conclusion.

Last night, I was carrying my really old farm dog outside and as I stepped off the porch I noticed something different in the air.  The tree in the yard was shaking.  I stopped to listen and watch.  The moon was dim, for I couldn’t see it, and the stars were very bright against the black, cloudless sky.  From behind the house the street light could not be seen so in the dark these scenes played out.  I watched to see if it were the wind.  Perhaps the breeze was idly dancing leaves off the tree.  But the sky was still.  Wood smoke on its wings, the air crisp and fresh, a proper Autumn evening was present as I took a deep breath in.  My eyes struggled to make out images in the dark, in the shadows.

I am well aware that in this kind of country dark, one can make out the most intriguing figures and crazy ideas out of nothing but shadows and wildlife sounds.  Especially around Halloween.  One begins to regret watching horror movies as a child.  I laughed off anything scary and went back to examining the dancing tree.  My eyes caught a sight above, the sky blacking out in the shape of wings.  The figure was so large that I could see an actual void in the sky as its large frame covered the stars.  It wasn’t very high up, but it seemed so giant that I imagined it might be a plane, but alas it was lower.  It was far too big to be the hawks we see regularly.  I was baffled.  My mind out of ideas.

So, I concluded that it was a dragon.  Emily replied rather nonchalantly, “Oh, that?  Bret and his friend saw it when they went hunting the other day.  They looked it up and found out it was a Golden Eagle.  The wingspan is eight feet long.  She has a baby with her who’s wingspan is five feet long!  The mom was bigger than their truck!”

Oh yes, an eagle of course.

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I have viewed in the wild eagles only a few times in my life and always in the daytime and never quite that large.  I wish I could have seen the two in the light.  I bet they are a breathtaking sight to see.  A bit of untouched nature flying overhead in the midst of our built up world.  Perhaps dragons were made up after viewing eagles.