Decorating With Notes of Spring

The air has a slightly different feel to it.  A different scent.  The cold is still there.  I bundle up as I go out to do chores.  But there is a tinge of something else upon the morning breath.  Life.  Spring.  By all indications, it is still the dead of winter, but I sense it.  I sense the pulse of the earth strengthening and the awakening of the plant world beneath it all.  Spring is coming.

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Pick up miniature roses from the grocery store.  Water once a week.  They will live until you can transplant them outdoors.  I had miniature roses grow three feet high in the garden before!

My home is still in the dead of winter.  Warm blankets caress chairs and the furnace is on.  The sun shines like a spotlight through the closed windows, still low in the sky.  My spirit falls more easily into stress and I long to be in the garden.  To be outside with a book without wind chill.  What to do?  The only thing I can do is to introduce notes of spring into the house.

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Plants always infuse spring and life into a place.  These are the babies from my very large aloe.  Last week I transplanted them into a new pot.  Its wide berth lets them spill out and catch the sun, giving a warm desert feel to this corner.  The cheap pots at Walmart are usually my go-to.  I love their cheery celadon, rouge, and artist blue colors, but sometimes it is nice to get a special pot that reminds you of something you love.  In this case, the land of the southwest where my heart and inspiration dance.

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It still gets dark out early so candles are still throughout the house.  These Catholic prayer candles sans saints are perfect and long lasting.  I used an old Coca-Cola crate to hold them.

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Found bird nests and unique pieces of wood and stone are set carefully around the house to bring nature in.

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My Farmhouse sign (bought at Cracker Barrel of all places!) doesn’t have a place on the wall right now because I have all my own bright paintings up but it seems cheery on the floor against the wall amongst the geraniums and other plants.

I seem to collect things with bicycles on them.  Bicycles with baskets.  I love the idea of them.  I love the freedom of them.  The perk of being in the city.  The promise of warm breezes and exercise and French bread in the basket picked up from the bakery or fresh flowers.  I have coffee cups with bicycles with baskets that say things like “Do More of What Makes You Happy.”  My daughter, Shyanne, gave me a small bicycle statue.  So Doug gave me a bike for my birthday last year.  With a basket.  I only rode it a few times before the tires were inundated with goat heads.  But a kind friend came over three different times to fix my tires, fill them with fix a flat, put on my basket and other accouterments (a bell included!) and I am ready to take off on the first nice day without Nordic winds.  The bike had a place on the porch but I brought it in.  It adds notes of spring and whimsy to my living room.

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Lastly, I picked up a snazzy pair of bright galoshes.  Oh, spring, I hope to see you soon!

 

Colorful Curry Winter Slow Cooker Soup

Need something quick, delicious, seasonal, and nutritious, oh, and easy?  This soup is perfect for cold nights in or for company.  It’s various colors add different antioxidants to the dish which boost immunity.  The beans give it protein and satiates hunger.  The layered flavors are savory with just a touch of heat and salt.  One pot, quick prep, and the meal serves 4-6.

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4 small potatoes

1 yellow/orange beet

1/4 of a purple cabbage

3/4 cup of baby lima beans (or other bean)

2 Tb curry powder of choice

2 ts of garlic powder

5 cups of broth (Preferably from the root cellar.  I used red chile/corn.)

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Chop vegetables and layer everything into crock pot and set to low for 8 hours.  After 6 hours I add 1 Tb of salt because I don’t put any in my broth.  Adjust accordingly to what your soup needs.  It may not need any extra.

Serve with delicious, warm sourdough bread (tomorrow’s recipe)!

Winter Book List 2019

I am done reading seed catalogues for the season.  I got my extensive order in and am dreaming and scheming up all sorts of garden plans.  From indoors, on my sofa, with a cup of great coffee and my sleeping farm dog who doesn’t love cold.  All that dreaming aside, this is the time for catching up on projects or reading.  Otherwise one might be prone to give in to seasonal affective disorder and crying until spring.  I have lots of books and plenty to do around her to get me through until spring crops.

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#1 #Do Not Disturb; How I Ghosted My Cell Phone To Take Back My Life by Jedediah Bila was a must.  I try to put my damn phone down long enough to read it.  When I was young (“Oh here we go…” I can hear you say.) we could not have even fathomed such a thing.  A phone without a cord?  A phone that you can take with you?  The computers had math games on them.  There was no Google, we had encyclopedias and libraries.  When the first shoe box sized phone came out in my great aunt’s fancy car, I couldn’t believe it.  So, to say that I am not sure how much time I lose checking email, texts, instagram, facebook, and googling things is beyond my scope of imagination.  I have eye strain, anxiety, and I see the detriment these things have brought our society.  Where children and spouses are ignored, personas are created, and time disappears.  Yes, I am reading this book!

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#2 Pioneer Girl by Bich Minh Ngugen is magnificently written with captivating prose and such convincing characters and scenarios that I am tempted to google what is fact and fiction as the narrative is so convincing in this Little House on the Prairie obsessed novel.  Read it!  You will love it.

Also on my list to start-

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#3 Mud Season; How One Woman’s Dream of Moving to Vermont Raising Children, Chickens, and Sheep & Running the Old Country Store Pretty Much Led to One Calamity After Another by Ellen Stimson- I checked this book out many years ago from the library and I am not sure why I didn’t get very far in it.  Did another book show up that I wanted to read more, was it not interesting?  I don’t know but the plot sounds fun so I will start it soon.  I have a friend who did just this, left and went to a small town, a place in the country, and started a farm and café in Vermont.  Perhaps she read this book!

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#4 My Gentle Barn; Creating a Sanctuary Where Animals Heal and Children Learn to Hope by Ellie Laks- I follow this beautiful sanctuary on social media and I am looking forward to going there via the pages of this memoir.  My small sanctuary that I told you I was starting last year has come to be and eventually we want land where we can welcome more animals so reading first hand the pros and cons and ins and outs and triumphs will be a lovely way to learn.

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#5 Grow the Good Life; Why a Vegetable Garden Will Make You Happy, Healthy, Wealthy, and Wise by Michele Owens- You don’t have to tell me twice!  I am well aware of the powers of the garden, but I love reading other’s accounts, often hilarious and educational.

I have a few other memoirs ready to start as well and I hope no one requests them at the library so I have time to read all of them!  Wishing you great reading this cold winter season.  What are your favorite books right now?  Respond in the comments so we all have more books to look into!

Winter’s Song

I love springtime and the return of the birds.  The warm sun on my face, my hands in the soil.  I do love seed packets and promises of gardens galore.  I love tree blossoms and flowers and bees and more.

I love summer and all the fun to be had.  The gardens and watering.  Fresh peas off the vine and corn growing high.  I love the long days and al fresco meals.  I love the way the hot sun feels.

I love autumn and its flurry of work.  Harvesting, preserving, the fatigue that comes.  The colors, the holidays the promises of rest.  The smell of wood smoke and coffee and warm blankets ’round the fire.

In my hurry to get back to spring, I was stopped in my tracks.  I checked on the chickens all warm in their house.  Big flakes of snow were falling suddenly from the sky.  The smell was so fresh.  The coolness livened my skin after the warm house within.  Such quiet descended as the flurries went on.  Just birds in the trees trying to keep warm.  Chirping and singing, they had quite a time.  As the flurries of fluffy snow came tumbling down, resting on trees and the sleeping ground.

Winter songs are of rest and peace.  Of cleansing and warmth.  Of cold and restoration.  This time I treasure for its ability to calm.  I am enjoying my hibernation.  Ready to be out in the garden beds in no time.  But in the meantime, the house is warm, the coffee’s hot, the snow is falling, and all is still.  Winter whispers, “Take a breath.”

Winter Evenings and What Are You Reading?

These cold days are quiet and sweet.  I am trying this year not to immediately begin pining for spring and planting season.  I figured I won’t even look at seed catalogues (oops) or plan out my garden (weeelll…), but I am enjoying the relaxation.  You know, spring and summer is filled with baby animals, and digging, and planting, and harvesting, and watering every day, and preserving, and weeding, and more!  Winter is for settling in and restoring.  In the spring and summer we get more done because the sun is out.  Right now in the freezing dark of suppertime we stay in.  What do you like to do on winter evenings?

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I am the self proclaimed rummy queen.  It’s probably best because I am terrible sport!  I used to play rummy with glasses of iced tea with my great-grandma.  I remember double decks and a large table of family playing at my grandma’s house.  I remember my cousin, Helen, teaching me how to play when I was eight years old on our way up to a cabin with my grandparents.  Doug grew up playing gin among other games.  Do folks play cards anymore?  After dinner the past several nights the shuffling of cards can be heard from our dimly lit kitchen table.  Laughter, music, and memories.

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Winter is also the time to catch up on books!  We love to read and we end every evening with reading and a cup of steaming tea.  Right now I am reading, Meeting the Medicine Man by Charles Langley.  It is out of print and I highly suggest you try to secure a copy off of Amazon.  It is fabulous.  I last read it ten years ago before I started working with medicine people.  It is a glimpse into the world of the Navajo and medicine people.  Of good and evil and the people that help keep the community safe and bring things back into balance.  What are you reading?

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My television is covered by a painting.  We rarely utilize it but for our favorite show (The Voice) and football and the occasional movie night.  It is more pleasant with it not being the center of attention.  We are able to converse more easily, make more memories, and enjoy the ease of these lovely winter evenings.

 

How to Make a Rich Skin Salve for Super Dry Skin

I have told you before; it is dry here.  Not just dry, like you might need some lotion and lip balm, it’s eczema, skin itching, nose bleed dry here in Colorado.  I love to travel places with humidity.  But, my home is here.  In the winter, lotion doesn’t cut it, even though I make the most fabulous lotion, I need something stronger in the cold, dry months of furnace and wood stove and zero percent humidity.  Last year I showed you how to heat infuse herb oils in the crock pot to keep in the bathroom for after you shower.  This year I want to show you how to make a really great thick skin salve that can be used on cracked heels, finger tips, dry patches, or if you live in the desert, all over your body!

It’s quite simple, really.  In a wide mouth quart jar add 2 Tablespoons each of calendula flowers and comfrey leaves and 1 Tablespoon of lavender and/or roses. (Try online at mountainroseherbs.com or at your local health food store.  Next year grow them!)

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Now pour in 2 cups of olive or sunflower oil.

Put jar in saucepan and pour water in pan to half way up jar.  Bring to boil.  Make sure no water jumps in the quart jar.  Double boil the jar of oil for 45 minutes.  (You could place it in a sauce pan directly and heat on medium low for 20 minutes, stirring often,  but you really risk burning it.)  I like to use a chop stick to stir every five minutes or so.  Keep an eye on your water level!

When the oil is infused, strain the herbs out through a fine sieve and put oil in a clean, dry, wide mouth pint jar.  Add 1.5 ounces of beeswax, emulsifying, or candelilla wax to oil.  Heat in double boiler again until wax is melted.  Stir with a chop stick often.

When completely melted, you can add 30 drops of lavender essential oil, or leave it as is.  Stir with chop stick once more and let cool on a towel on the counter until set.  Do not cover until set.

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The salve lasts for years but you will use it up in a month if you live in Colorado!  Wishing you warm cups of tea and perfectly moisturized skin this holiday season, my Friends.

You can find many recipes for salves and herbal medicines in my book, The Homesteader’s Pharmacy. 

Or just make it easy on yourself and order from our family apothecary, WhiteWolfHerbs.com

 

How to Make a Nourishing, Infused Oil for Dry Skin

It is so dry around here that I do believe a stale cracker blowing across the desert in a windstorm has more moisture than my skin has right now.  Colorado is always dry-most of the state is high desert- but winter is the worst!  It is time to make a nourishing infused oil and calm that itching down.

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A small crock pot is perfect to keep in the bathroom plugged in.  After the concoction is infused in the crock pot, you merely have to turn it on warm as you get into the shower.  Or pour a bit into the bath.  Use on lips, hands, face; the whole body will just absorb it with fervor.

You can easily just use the oil as is.  In Ayurveda sesame oil is used.  Olive oil is a natural sunscreen and has a long shelf life.  But I am more of a sunflower girl, myself.  Rich in vitamin E and oleic acid, sunflower oil is nourishing and absorbs easily.  I am also an herbalist so I infuse some medicinal herbs into my oil.  It makes it all the better.

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In 32 ounces of sunflower oil poured into the crock pot, I added a small handful of roses, calendula, mullein leaves, and lemon verbena.  I let that infuse on low for a few hours.  The herbs are dried so they won’t mold and sunflower oil lasts easily two years.  Other herbs that might be nice are lavender, pine, or geranium.

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No need to strain.  I use my fingers to apply but you could use a small sponge.  This time of year the oil absorbs faster than you can apply it so be liberal and feel great.

Wintertide

It is about now that I start wanting my house guest to leave.

“Winter,” I say, “Old Chap, is there anywhere else you need to be soon?”

He shakes his head through gales of frost.

I put on another cup of coffee.  Put another log on the fire.

The cold crops go in the ground in six or seven short weeks.  We will have bustling to do to get the new garden fenced and the soil ready.  We will devour the warm days as they come.  Spring will surely rise from the frozen ground.  I appreciate the rest, the rest for the plants and trees, the water, the blah, blah, blah.

‘Tis about the mid of January that I am ever ready for blessed warmth and activity.  Yet Jack Frost rarely hauls out slow so I must welcome the guest awhile longer.

The snow lightly covers the landscape as the golden sun arises and sends glitter across the lawn.  My winter puppy is in love with the season and leads his walk outdoors by mouthing up big gulps of icy snow.  I found a small, fallen branch.  Abandoned after falling out of yonder tree.  The sap still slightly sticky.  I brought it home.  It is the flower of winter, the conifer bough, and it sits proudly in its vase upon the stove.  (The only place the kitties can’t get it.)  It hearkens the beauty of winter-all of its reds and greens and glittered snow and great open blue sky-and reminds me to walk upon its icy tread, to breathe fresh air and not yet make the spring to-do list, but to visit geese and winter ducks and welcome the winter time.

For a few more months anyway….

 

Homestead Gardens and Winter Rest

20180103_073048The first seed catalogue arrived in the mail the other day.  My four year old granddaughter, Maryjane, took a sharpie and circled everything we need to order.  Instead of toys, she circles plants in seed catalogues.  She is one of us.

It is impossible, I believe, for a homesteader to not think of the garden at all times of the year.  I am creating a new space, roughly 500 square feet of ground.  A square, fenced in, next to the chicken coop, three feet from the porch turned greenhouse we are planning, and ten feet from the compost.  I dream of the colorful rows of fresh produce, the front yard of fruit trees and medicinal herbs, the patches of volunteer vegetables and wild foods.  But, these gardens, of course, cost money.  Fencing, glass, extra compost, and seeds do not come cheap.  I know it will all come together wonderfully and before I know it, I will be sitting here next year pondering the next season’s garden!

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I do love January, even if it is not my favorite month in the least.  It makes me rest.  We homesteaders aren’t much for rest.  We are a lot less anxious with our hands dirty, faces in the sun, planning, harvesting, moving.  The ground is asleep.  My fingernails are clean.  And I can dream, and January brings that lovely reflective sense of peace and accomplishment.  We dine like kings on everything we stored in the root cellar, freezers, and pantry from this last season.  We remark how beautiful our house is and our yard is coming together and in just short of one year’s time, we have transformed it into a working homestead.  Our hearts are overwhelmed with gratitude.

Hawks swirl and the large lake is out our south windows and the city bus rumbles by out the north panes proving you can homestead anywhere.  I write on my list that I need lamp fluid for the oil lamps and more tea candles.  Wood is chopped and piled by the stove.  The chickens are waiting to be let out.  The farm dog sleeps and I need another cup of coffee and a sharpie so I can start circling items in the seed catalogue and create dreams for spring.

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Winter Night Beans

 

JpegThe winter wind blows as the flurries of icy snow cover walkways and rooftops.  There is nothing quite like walking in the front door, clicking on the Christmas lights, and being met with the smell of dinner already cooked for you.  A crockpot and beans do just that.  Creating an enticing aroma and healthy, nourishing delight.  So simple too.

In a crockpot pour in 2 cups of pinto beans.

Add (or be imaginative and adjust flavors) 2 teaspoons of ground New Mexican chili and 1 teaspoon of ground green chili.  1 Tablespoon of dried, minced onion, a teaspoon of minced garlic.  1/4 teaspoon of pepper.  1 teaspoon of paprika.  A few shakes of liquid smoke.  Don’t add salt until the last ten minutes or so.

Cut up 3 strips of bacon and add.  Pour in 5 cups of broth.  Set to low and go out shopping (or working).  8 hours later…

When you arrive home add 1-2 teaspoons of smoked salt (or sea salt) and a couple of handfuls of greens.  Let cook for 5-10 more minutes.  Serve with bread or cornbread and honey butter.  (Melt a stick of butter with a good amount of honey.  Pour into container and set in fridge.  Let sit on counter for a little bit before spreading.)

Homestead food at its most delightful.  Happy Winter!