Successes and Failures

This lifestyle involves learning a lot of new and wonderful things.  It also includes a fair amount of failures.  Yet, thankfully, a lot of successes as well.  One can’t have one without the other.

Success story:  When I started this blog almost two years ago I had posted a stock photo of shelves of canned goods.  A lot of folks asked if it were my shelves of canned goods.  I honestly said that there is no way that was mine, so beautiful and prolific.  I can honestly say now that my current pantry shelves are every bit as beautiful and will feed us well for the winter.  Work well done.

cans (stock photo)

root cellar (our new pantry complete with 400+ jars of delicious food)

Failure: (temporary, I do hope)

We attempted to take the chill out of the old house as we were working in there the other day.  We started a roaring fire which quickly dissipated and left the house a balmy 56 degrees.  We need to learn how to use a wood cookstove and how to keep a fire stoked in the relatively small firebox.  It needs to be able to heat the house and not need attention every five minutes.  The house smells like wood smoke, rather nice, but not what it is supposed to smell like, I am sure.  Time for research!

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Our Homesteading Journey (what we have learned, what we still need to learn!)

We always called this our practice farm.  The place we would learn valuable homesteading skills while still living in town so that when our homestead came forth we would know a great deal before diving in head first into a cold winter with a wood stove.

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Things we have learned on our Practice Farm:

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1. We learned that chickens are not as scary to take care of as previously expected.  In fact they are easier than cats and dogs to care for.  They also add amazing amounts of entertainment to the yard and many a good meal of delicious eggs.

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2. We are able to farm anywhere.  Even in a sandy, weed covered plot in town with extremely expensive water.  A piece of land that sits at over 6500 feet above sea level and where not many folks are crazy enough to farm.  Those of us that do around here hold a remarkable bond.

3.  We can survive running our own business.  If we are passionate, glean bills like mad people, and keep a simple lifestyle, we can live on quite a little sum.

4. We can provide almost all of our own food with a little help from our friends.  We now can over five hundred items to eat over the winter.  We pay half the price of the health food store and support local farmers and ranchers by purchasing humanely raised meats.We can buy from local farms what we do not produce.  This year we produced a good portion of our food supplying all vegetables for summer and into fall and some to can for winter.  In the summer we also dine on fresh eggs and homemade cheese from our own goat’s milk.

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5. We learned that we have an addiction to goats.  They are like outdoor puppies, full of fun and lots of affection.  And they give delicious milk for heavenly cheese.

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6. We are no longer afraid of hoards of bees.  10,000 bees is actually quite quaint and awfully fun to watch work.

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7. Ducks are a hoot.  Perhaps not very practical though.

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8.  We are able to sustain tremendous loss.  Losses and deaths of friends, financial losses, losses of beloved animals.  Losses of bits of ourselves and somehow come out a bit stronger, if not weepier, and hold them close in our hearts.

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9.  Grandchildren are the best healing agent.  They simply make life brighter and more colorful (particularly when they write on the walls).  Graduations, weddings, and family make life very rich.

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10. We could never go back to the city.  We actually exhale as we enter the open prairie.

11.  The most important thing we have learned on this journey is that if you write out and put out to the world your desires, the universe conspires to put everything in place so that you may have it.  Be careful what you wish for but prepare to be blessed!

Things we will be learning on our new Homestead:

I cannot believe that everything we asked for came true.  A small, old house (1905) with the square footage we requested (850 square feet).  A wood cook stove, a well, a pantry, two bedrooms, a chicken coop, goat pens, places to walk with the goats, a view (of Pikes Peak was my exact request and I am quite close to it).  A large fenced garden, close to a small town but not terribly far from the city (in case of momentary lapses in judgment whereupon we find ourselves gorging on fondue and seeing a mediocre movie) and a great library district.  Doug wants to be near a place to shoot pool and a good breakfast joint (I guess I can’t say that in Colorado anymore; I mean restaurant).

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1. First and foremost we better figure out the wood cook stove.  It takes wood and coal.  Where does one get coal?  How much do we need?  What the heck is a damper?  Am I going to freeze to death?

2. Doug will be mastering the art of chopping wood (hello lumber jack!) and hauling mass amounts of water.

3.  Many skills I do not know I need that I will inevitably need and which you, my dear reader, shall be the first to learn along with me.  What a journey we are heading on!  So glad you are with us.  We will be moving our name and sign to our new homestead.

Welcome to The Cottage at Pumpkin Hollow Farm…

Our New Homestead

I have been stalking Craigslist.  It is exhausting.  The rents in our county have nearly doubled.  Mention eight cats (let alone a dog, chickens, ducks, and goats…and self employment and bad credit) and it’s amazing how quickly someone else gets the house!  Doug and I talked about what we wanted.  Do we want to give up our farm animals and move closer to town?  No.  Do we want to pick up extra work so we can afford something more?  No.  So we started looking at towns 30-45 minutes away from where we are now.  Really just a shot down a dirt road from here but they are not familiar to us so they felt very far.  Even there, dilapidated trailers or houses in town that didn’t allow animals was all we could find.

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I walked by the desk and quickly typed in the computer-memorized web address for Craigslist to take a quick look to see if there was anything new.  A brief post had been listed an hour prior.  It didn’t give very much information, nor did it mention animals, but I did not dilly dally by emailing, I called straight away.  We hopped in the car and went to see it fifteen minutes later.

Even though I had not given the landlords a clear answer yet, they had turned down potential seekers after we came to see the place.  The couple used to run cattle and there are pens and chicken coops on the property.  They like honey bees.  There is a large garden already fenced.  There is a clothes line.  There is a well.  Hold onto your hats folks, there is a wood cook stove attached to a propane one in the kitchen!  There is everything we could desire.

It is  few miles due south of the sleepy town of Calhan.  Not very far, about forty minutes from where we are now.  I can still pick up the baby to watch her.  I can afford the extra gas money because the rent is cheaper than the townhome I rented some sixteen years ago.  Blessingly low rent.  This could be a place that could stand out in the minds of our children and grandchildren as “Grammie and Papa’s house”.  A fun retreat in the country.  A place we can stay for a long time.  I am so relieved (as Doug is) to set ourselves into a place and stay.

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The owners of the property have their house on the land as well.  His grandfather bought the old house we will be renting many years ago and the house itself whispers stories of its past and of joyous events.  It sits on ten acres where on a clear day one can see from New Mexico to Denver.  The mountains majestically framing the view.  Mature trees surround the homestead.  It is a peaceful place.

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We are putting a bit of work into the house before we move in as the last tenants did not love it like I already do.  Yesterday our interns, Ethan and Stephanie, went and helped us remove the carpet.  Beneath it we found two layers of linoleum and beneath that lay in secret the original wood floor.  I  nearly cried.  I will be painting the main rooms a creamy antique white with a slight gold undertone.  This house longs for bright colors and exposed windows.  There are seventeen feet of windows in the living room alone!  I will share before and after photos as we go, but come along with me as I give you the initial tour!

The house was built in 1905.

The house was built in 1905.

This is the living room looking out the front door.  The houses faces east to embrace the sunrise each morning.

This is the living room looking out the front door. The house faces east to embrace the sunrise each morning.

The rest of the living room. The house itself is tiny, 850 sq ft, but it is well laid out.

The rest of the living room. The house itself is tiny, 850 sq ft, but it is well laid out.

The "dining room" is a part of the living room.  The sixties era linoleum didn't want to come up so it will lend its own charm!

The “dining room” is connected to the living room. The sixties era linoleum didn’t want to come up so it will lend its own charm!

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Our bedroom faces east with lovely windows and two closets!

Our bedroom faces east with lovely windows and two closets!

There is a second bedroom but it is so dark with the wood paneling and the small window I could not get a good shot of it.  It will be brightened up and turned into a guest bedroom and will hold all of our apothecary items.

Now come into the warmest part of the house…

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The wood cookstove

The wood cookstove

A long shelved pantry off the kitchen to store canned goods.

A long shelved pantry off the kitchen to store canned goods.

The small laundry/utility room and back door.

The small laundry/utility room and back door.

Now come see the yard…

Water from the well (no more water bill)

Water from the well (no more water bill)

The clothesline (I am taking out the dryer)

The clothesline (I am taking out the dryer)

A dusk view of the garden.  It is about 600 sq ft.

A dusk view of the garden. It is about 600 sq ft.

One view of the ten acres

One view of the ten acres

The sign we saw on our way back home.  A positive sign indeed.

The sign we saw on our way back home. A positive sign indeed.