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!

Top Five Books for Winter Reading

During the summer I often only have time to read magazines between farmer’s markets and gardening, and babysitting, and the shop (and soon to be a full blown urban farm), but in the winter I have more time.  The sun goes down earlier, I am called to warm sheets quicker, tea by my side, a book (not an e-book, mind you, I prefer the loveliness of paper) in my hand, and I am whisked away to new places amongst new people for a time.  A way to stop my swimming mind from wandering from subject to worry to plan.  These are my top five books for winter reading.

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1- The Velvet Hours by Alyson Richman

This book takes us to the plush apartment of an elderly, elegant woman, at once a hermit and extraordinary storyteller of her time as a courtesan.  Taking place at the cusp of World War Two, her granddaughter both listens to her grandmother’s stories and becomes a woman in a world where being half Jewish in love with a Jewish rare book seller could prove dangerous.  A lovely tale of love and luxury, of loss and simple pleasures, I enjoyed every word.

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2- If There’s Squash Bugs in Heaven, I Ain’t Staying by Stacia Spragg-Braude

I laughed throughout this book.  The author follows an older farmer around for a year and creates a memoir of the life of a Farm girl in Corrales, New Mexico, easily transporting us to her youth, introducing us to family members throughout time, then back to present at the stove stirring this or that to be preserved.  Incredible farming wisdom and homesteading tips are inevitably sought during this delightful story of a life lived simply and near the earth.

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3- The Dollhouse by Fiona Davis

Mind you, fiction is not my reading of choice.  I challenged myself this year to read more fiction.  This book delivered an enticing story that jumps from past to present as a young reporter tries to find out the truth behind a maid’s mysterious death by interviewing the elder models that still inhabit the once prestigious Barbizon hotel.  Secrets unfold and kept me thoroughly entertained as it took me to sexy jazz clubs in the 1950’s, Puerto Rican singers, smoke, spices, and models trying to make it set the scene for a beautiful tale of love and second chances.

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4- Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert

One I have already read but must recommend you read if you haven’t yet.  The beautiful ideas of self renewal, travel, food, love, spirit all entwined in one enticing book with gorgeous prose and colorful scenes thrills and inspires me.  Then watch the movie.  It is spectacular as well.

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5- The Bookshop on the Corner by Jenny Colgan

I’ll have this one finished in the next day or two.  It makes me stay up past my bedtime to read (which is really saying something as I am fast asleep by 10:01 every night!) just to capture a bit more of the Scottish hillside, hear the brogue, see the kilts, pet the lambs, and travel around with the protagonist who has left her ordinary librarian job to sell books in a large restored van at markets.  I am smitten, and oddly desiring a pint of something.

Bonus- As for magazines I am wondering if some of my fellow farmgirls may have overlooked one.  Oprah magazine is one that I will subscribe to every year.  I have plenty of farming and homemaking magazines but this makes me.  Filled with constant inspiration, encouragement, and great book ideas, I cannot stop pouring over the glossy pages of this beautiful ensemble of ideas and friendship.

What are you reading?  Book recommendations?  Happy reading!

Irony and Good Reading

How ironic is it that we have to save up money to become backwoods homesteaders living below the poverty line?

It almost makes me laugh.  Almost.

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Ah, to keep my mind off of eternal questions like that I read.

What are your favorite books?  Here is a list of some of my favorite reads.  I would love to hear yours.

  1. Made From Scratch; Discovering the Pleasures of a Homemade Life by Jenna Woginrich started me on this journey.
  2. Followed by Barnheart; The Incurable Longing for a Farm of One’s Own again by Jenna Woginrich
  3. And her latest- One Woman Farm; My Life Shared with Sheep, Pigs, Chickens, Goats, and a Fine Fiddle. 
  4. A Diary of Dixie by Mary Boykin Chestnut are her true memoirs written in the midst of the Civil War.  Fascinating!
  5. Medicine of the Cherokee by J.T. Garrett is filled with stories, history, and wisdom.
  6. The Good,Good Pig; The Extraordinary Life of Christopher Hogwood by Sy Montgomery was heartwarming and fun.
  7. The Little House books by Laura Ingalls are a wealth of homesteader knowledge.
  8. Poetry by Robert Frost, Maya Angelo, and Mary Oliver…

There are so many more I have loved and enjoyed….share with all of us your favorites!  Winter is the time to catch up on reading and planning.

 

 

 

What is Yule?

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What is Yule?  Is it the same thing as Christmas?  You know, the Yule log was from Yule.  Turns out it is not a dessert but rather a celebratory log that creates a symbolic fire.  Many of the colors and traditions of Christmas are actually from Yule.  Even the 12 days of Yule!  Yule was around a long, long time before Jesus was even a twinkling in his mama’s eye.

It was decided to place Christmas at the same time as the pagan holiday Yule to overshadow it.  So, was Yule a time where witches went singing about town creating havoc and devil worshipping?  Goodness, no.  Yule is the celebration of the solstice.  From the 21st on towards summer the sun shines for a bit longer each day.  If you were a farmer (remember pagan holidays are also called agricultural holidays) you can bet your Yule tree that you would be celebrating!  Woohoo!  Bonfire and dancing in the moonlight!  Get me my seed catalogue!  Or on the darkest night of the year perhaps we have a feast with family and friends and sit by the fireplace.  We revel in the rest winter brings in its quiet reverence and dream of the season to come, ever being grateful for all we have and all we are.

 

 

Glittering Grace

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” Across the plains of glittering grace,

behold Winter’s beautiful face”

“…But all along the Rockies you can feel it in the air
From Telluride to Boulder down below
The closest thing to heaven on this planet anywhere
Is a quiet Christmas morning in the Colorado snow…” Nitty Gritty Dirt Band

“Country Roads Take Me Home…” John Denver

The deer pictures were taken from my front door.  The rest were taken driving to see our daughter.  Colorado is certainly a beautiful place to live and we are lucky to see all the seasons in all their glory.

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. 

Blizzard

It’s warm inside (as opposed to last year in the heatless homestead!) and the smells of coffee welcome the morn.  Last night I ran through the snow and climbed the now completely covered staircase to the driveway to see the light.  The sky was pink with storm and the brightened sky was odd for late at night but the beauty and mystery of it all was exhilarating as sixty mile an hour winds whipped up snow tornados and filled the fresh air with magic.  The blizzard had arrived.

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We woke to high drifts and wind making the snow look as if it were falling upward.  Streams of sideways thick snow continues to fall on our patch of earth.

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I said a blessing over the trees last night.  Told them to spread their roots out and hold on, be strong.  As old as they all are they have seen more storms than I but these storms can be brutal to trees and I wanted a bit of protection over them.  They stand strong this morning facing the winds that are too riotous to tame.  It is a gloriously beautiful morning.

The Magical Homestead (and spreading positivity)

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We have moved to the most beautiful place on Earth, I am certain.  I feel overwhelmingly blessed to have been given such a gift.  It is a different world out here.

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The certain way the prairie hills undulate and the distance from neighbors makes it feel very much like we are alone out here, the sky seems to fall at a curve leaving us to believe we are ever in a snow globe.

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The chickens are snug in their warm coop and the goats look like abominable snowmen with their thick fleece.  The views from their pens are utterly graceful and lovely.

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I have found myself wanting to stay in this marvelous time capsule forever.  To breathe in fresh air and hear nothing but wildlife rustling in the brush.  Snow shaking softly from trees.

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Today we are taking a little trip though.  A ride through the mountains to our favorite hot springs in Idaho Springs.  Just a daytime jaunt.  A bit over a year ago my favorite graduating class gave me a gift certificate there and I can’t wait to feel the warm mineral waters on my skin.

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The world has seemed a mite colder as of late.  So much negativity.  Today won’t you join me and consciously put out solely positivity into the social media world and in your meetings with people?  How many compliments shall we give unbidden?  I think I will give four to strangers.  The world is a wonderful place, let us add to the magic and spread joy.

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(Doug captured some beautiful scenes in our yard, don’t you think?)

 

A January Weekend

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Saturday shone bright and warm, full of tall snow capped mountains and warm, piercing sun that filled us with light.  We headed to Woodland Park for a winter market.  We haven’t been there since Nancy passed away and since we were the 5 Farmgirls.  I was surprised by the outpouring of support and joy in seeing us again.  We went as Pumpkin Hollow Farm and Garden Fairy Apothecary.  Each market worker hugged me as I came in.  Folks stopped by the table and recognized me.

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“You’re the goat lady!” one gal said.

I wasn’t sure if she was remembering me or Nancy.

She said, “You used to come with your sister!”  Sister, yes, just not biological.

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It was me that she meant because her son came over to the table and when she asked if he remembered me he replied enthusiastically, “Yes, she’s the goat lady!”  He remembered when I would bring the baby goats on a leash and let kids bottle feed them.  It left an impression and he was excited for this year’s goats to come to the market.

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It was good to be back and we look forward to the remaining winter markets and this summer Emily and Maryjane will be joining me once again at the Woodland Park farmer’s market.

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Sunday was a lovely day as well.  We taught a soap making class and friends came to visit.  Our Broncos did not win their game but Maryjane filled the disappointment with laughter.  She is full of fun and hugs and surprises.  Dressed in her Bronco best, she makes the most darling cheerleader.  She sat on the couch hooping and hollering next to Papa with a kitten on her lap.

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The snow began to fall thick and blanketing as we came home last night from dropping Maryjane off with her mother.  This morning a foot of snow lay glittering and peaceful across the expanse of space.  Doug was insistent that we could make it to Elizabeth for him to work at the coffee shop so we did our best to get out of the driveway only to get stuck in a snowdrift a mile down the road.  Our neighbor’s son came along and helped us out and we toddled back to the house ready to embrace the snow day at hand (which means housework and taxes but maybe a bit of reading and relaxing will take place too!).

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I am warmly humbled by old friends and acquaintances, reliable, friendly neighbors, and wintery weekends mixed with sun and snow.  Back in my snow globe away from the world I am warm and comforted by winter’s encompassing embrace.  Back to the garden books with a cup of hot chocolate I go.

 

Winter Rest (and making it last all year!)

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A time for rest, a time for play, a time for work.  Balance.  I am great at all but the first one.  I feel like I have been going really fast for forty years!  I sit down to read but there is something more pressing to do.  I try not to make lists, to just go about my day, but then I feel like nothing gets done.  I make lists and they are impossible to complete.  I expect everyone around me to be working if I am!  And I feel guilty for taking a break.  What the heck is that?  This month, this year, will be different.

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After our whirlwind year of events and then moving, I am tired.  Happy, but tired.  Now that I have less to do (though there is always something to do) I find that I can convince myself a little better to take it easy.  I am not sure why I have been rushing through my life!

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This homestead is changing me.  The beautiful stillness outside, the complete silence, the feeling out here is not rushed.  This time of life is changing me.  The children don’t need to be rushed anywhere.  Doug doesn’t need to rush to work.  I don’t have to hurry and get things done and supper on the table before everyone gets home.  Things are slowing down on their own.  Now we need to.

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We have spent a lot of time rushing places.  Always ridiculously early.  I still do not like it when people are really late but I am learning to relax a little and let things fall into place without stress.  We are still on time, we just aren’t an hour early to everything.  We’d be two hours early to farmers markets.  I would get so frustrated with Nancy for not being there early.  For coming in right before we opened.  But we were always set up and ready for the crowd.  It was when she died suddenly that I realized what a waste of energy and time I had spent wishing she would be on time.  Our relationship during the markets wouldn’t have been strained and I would have more delightful memories (and an hour longer of sleep) if I had just settled down.

We are spending more time visiting with people when we drop off medicine. Here Maryjane got to meet a horse that did tricks!

We are spending more time visiting with people when we drop off medicine. Here Maryjane got to meet a horse that did tricks!

We had one market that we did for years that if you didn’t get there two plus hours early then you got squeezed out of your spot.  Doug was always frantic to get there and even though he tried not to be frustrated with me while I was picking last minute produce to take, it was still stressful.  We dropped that market and won’t return this year, opting instead for markets where we know we will have a spot.  It is time to stop rushing here and there.

I need to keep in mind that I don't have to be on vacation to relax!

I need to keep in mind that I don’t have to be on vacation to relax!

Here in the house on this beautifully foggy morning I let Doug sleep and take in the silence of a cold winter morning where I have nowhere to be.  I realize that our bodies cannot possibly withstand constant work and play with no rest.  I must learn to take a magazine over to the couch with a cup of tea and not get up for its duration.  I must learn to take leisurely walks and breathe.  I must learn to breathe.  Especially now that we have fewer places to be.  Come summer, when the chaos begins, hopefully I will have learned to breathe, move methodically, smile, accept, get there when I get there, and notice life around me.  Increase my senses and take in this beautiful world we live in instead of rushing through it.

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What are your favorite ways to rest?