Redecorating for the Season (easy tricks for a beautiful home)

20171027_071224In the winter I was experimenting with how to set up our new house.  An art and writing area, a music and reading area, and a sitting area took up separate sections of the old living room.  Then my classes started and I needed to be able to seat ten people comfortably and have a bigger conversation area.  The living room was rearranged again.  Now I am looking at having my family over for Thanksgiving dinner and entertaining for the holidays.  I will need a place for the Christmas tree (I know, I know, it’s not even Halloween…) and I wanted the seating area to surround the wood stove for cozy nights with a delicious book and a cup of hot chocolate.  Add to that I wanted to display my medicines for when customers come by, and have a place for all of my plants so I tapped into my inner Martha Stewart and spent the day redecorating!

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Faux fur rugs and gold toned throw pillows cozy up the velvet futon which reclines to become a double bed for guests.

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On the other side of the wood stove the love seat sits. A colorful sofa cover and earth toned throw pillows set a comfy space to play the guitar or have a drink. Guess what is behind the cow painting? The television! Wish I would have thought of it years ago. I am always trying to hide that thing!

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I knew our life transitioned into a new stage when I agreed to buy matching recliners. To me, recliners are the ugliest things ever and I swore I’d never have them in the house. (They are awfully comfortable though…)

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There wasn’t room for the coffee table in front of the recliners so I made it into a stand for my farmer’s market kit of medicines. Games, movies, and music are stored on the bottom shelf of the coffee table.

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Books are always at the ready and Maryjane’s books are easy to reach for when she comes to visit. A set of old doors creates drama, and my lovely grandfather clock adds charm. My collection of Native art and my feathers adorn the shelves.

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The table is closer to the front door than the kitchen now but I have more space to expand the table here. I can roll the giant aloe plant to the corner and add another table in here to accommodate more guests.

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My desk is an old sewing machine table and it can be rolled into the bedroom when it’s time to add a Christmas tree after Thanksgiving.

I didn’t spend a penny on this redecorating day and it only took a few hours.  The house feels cozy and the pumpkins and colors add an autumnal spirit.  Twinkly lights are always in order for a charming home.  Wishing you a beautiful season filled with warmth and family and home.

 

 

Hypocrisy and the Homesteader’s Guide to Saving the Earth

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First things first, a compost bin.  The very weekend we move in I do hope Doug can build me a compost bin.  He makes it with pallets, three open spaces to move the cooking fertilizer through.

The thing about apartment living is that it is really difficult to be ecologically friendly.  They don’t recycle in this town.  There is nowhere to put scraps (no chickens to be found).  There is nowhere to compost (piles of coffee grounds on the balcony would be a bit weird).  There are hills of trash here, eye-opening, mouth gaping amounts of overflowing trash near the dumpsters.  I am shocked and saddened.  And yet, my things join the piles.

I am very much against the pipeline going through Indian land. I am also very much against the fracking, hideous wind mills, and pipelines going through farmer’s land (who don’t get to protest, by the way, they just get the land stripped from them) across the country.  I can get mad and share a post on facebook about stopping the black snake then I go get in my car and drive to work.  I understand that I am among the billions of hypocrites on this lovely planet.

The answer lies, perhaps, in mindfully (perhaps maniacally) opting to use less electricity, oil, and its many ugly faces.  We know we are killing our beautiful Earth (we know she is getting mad as hell) but we seem to not know what to do about it.  Our life has woven itself so thickly through the oil reserves that we don’t know how to function.

Once I step into my new homestead tomorrow I will be starting a compost pile.  I will find recycling.  I hope someone still does it.  I will reuse.  I will be like my elder generation where one is not sure if the contents of a container in the fridge is butter or leftovers.  I will get chickens and feed them my scraps.  I will use organic methods to grow as much of my food as divinely possible.  I will get oil lamps again and still crazily unplug appliances and Doug’s IPOD.  I will use carbon neutral wood to heat my home (though it will be nice to have that back up furnace!).  I will be more mindful.  I will do the best I can.  I will walk.  I will ride my bike.  I will purchase less.  I will sew more.  I will….

We must….

A Pioneer’s Life For Me

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I was dreading going into the goat pen.  Elsa has mastitis and we have been diligently treating it but that along with her spoiled little girl self makes it incredibly difficult to milk her.  It takes all of my strength to hold her as Doug milks her out.  All of our muscles are shaking by the end and she has kicked the milk bucket a few times.  Our clothes are covered in milk and goat hair and I am often near tears.  Last night as I looked up before going in the pen a beautiful sight transpired.  The same one that made us feel we made the right choice moving out here.  The brightest rainbow arched across the sky, seemingly right above us, from horizon to horizon it promised peace.  Its colors sparkled in the rain that fell in straight glistening showers downward watering the gardens.  The sun shone through it and all was bright.  Today we will tie her back legs.

I love the peacefulness of home.  Now that Emily has moved back in, we drive considerably less.  We feel better in our bustling schedule around this homestead.  I love the heaviness of the cast iron skillet as I prepare eggs fresh from the coop and slice warm bread that I baked.  Dandelions, or other produce later, are mixed into the eggs throughout the season along with homemade cheese.  I hope fresh fruit will join these.  We look across our table and see how much of it we produced.  We are aptly satisfied and proud yet strive to produce nearly everything we consume.  Of course we shall rely on the humble farmer that provides the grains for our table.  The coffee from far away.  The teas exotic.  But our year long sustenance grows each season on this homestead as we produce more and more.

The milk hits the bucket in a sing-song tune as Isabelle stands sweetly on the stand.  She occasionally turns to kiss Doug’s ear.  She loves him and seems to want to impress him.  This year she is giving over a gallon a day of fresh milk.  I pour the warm milk into his coffee once inside.  The creamy morning treat warms the farmer.  These simple pleasures transcend the ordinary ones we knew growing up.  Last night after Doug had fallen asleep I sat in the rocking chair my father gave my mother upon learning that she was with child over forty-one years ago.  I sat in front of the wood stove and let it warm me as I relaxed into my book, the oil lamp highlighting the page, a cup of hot tea by my side.  The house and land is quiet.  My muscles are tired but my mind is joyous.  There is cheese pressing, bread dough rising, and at least the dishes are done.  I am reading an Amish book.

I have sat in an Amish home and read accounts.  They are not unlike mine.  Keeping the world out is something I strive for.  The news stays in its dramatic studios of fear.  Anger, stress, and sadness dissipate quicker here.  We are not immune to financial wonderings and relationship woes but here in this setting they work themselves out and the spirit is restored quickly.  We pray openly here and are thankful for our blessings.  We call on the Lord for signs, for help, and for comfort and receive them as we listen softly in the night by oil lamp and quiet.

The aprons hang on the wall and tell stories, I decide which one I wish to don this day.  I have long skirts, and long slips, and layers to make them stand out because they are comfortable, and feminine, and fine.  The apron pocket holds what I need as I bustle from clothes line to barn yard to kitchen.  Three meals a day grace the table and the children always know they can come home to a hot meal, peace and quiet, and an escape from the world beyond.

The counties out here argue over fracking, over wind mills, over water.  Not here! they say.  Yet folks will not give up their luxuries and want these means of fancies and want destruction to get them so long as they cannot see them.  We work on our own solution, to use less.  To find alternative ways.  And the classical music plays softly in the kitchen and the electric kettle often gets turned on but bird song could fill the musical need and a kettle whistling from wood stove could suffice.  And the world could howl outside our door but our respite remains here in our pioneer ways.  I put on my sun bonnet and head outdoors to plant.

Modern Pioneer Woman (crackling fires and homesteading)

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I forgot to mention one of my favorite cookbooks yesterday!  “The Pioneer Woman Cooks” by Ree Drummond is filled with mouthwatering recipes that can feed a crowd or easily be halved.  I highly recommend the Fig and Prosciutto Pizza.  I love the step-by-step photographs and stories.

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I enjoy being a modern pioneer woman.  We hoped and prayed for this little homestead to somehow make itself known and available.  This sunny, quaint homestead is peaceful surrounded by miles and miles of birdsong and prairie.  My heart rests easy here.  However, if you have been following me for awhile you know we had some tearful, freezing moments this last winter.  It was cold.  Much more so than I can fully express.  I was upset that I believed the small wood cook stove in the kitchen would heat the whole house.  I am most upset that my animals seemed to fare poorly from it.  It seemed to age my older cat, Ichabod and Bumble the Greyhound.  It broke my heart to see them so cold.  Even “Little House on the Prairie” had a proper wood stove!

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The new wood stove was fired up last night to test it and Ichabod found the warmest spot possible.

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The final bill made me gasp and tear up, actually.  I thought that I could pay the lease through with tuitions so I wouldn’t have to worry so much this summer.  (No more worrying!) But it all went to pay for warmth.  Which will be worth every penny.  And I thankful I had the money for it.  I love the funky style of the stove.  I look forward to (though I am not rushing!) cooking on my new stove and being blissfully warm while the snow tumbles down.

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I so enjoy this lifestyle.  I love my long skirts and aprons.  I love my clothes line.  I think I will get out the clothes handwasher for summer.  I love kneading bread and hearing the tops of the jars pop closed of preserved garden fare.  I love the sight of a rotund lamb running and jumping, the sound of milk hitting the pail, the rooster crowing.  I love growing and cooking fresh food and sitting on the porch with a glass of wine listening to the frogs in the pond.  I love waking up at dawn and going to bed at dark, no alarms.  No outside work.  No schedules.  Just the bustling of a busy homestead and the sound of a crackling fire.

Rainy Days, Worries, Manifesting, and Farming

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The rain has been gently coming down for days.  It will continue today.  My cold crop seeds, parsnips, potatoes, garlic, onions, radishes, mustard, stir fry greens, spinach, Swiss chard, snow, snap, and Alaskan peas, pak choi, carrots, beets, lettuce, herbs, all these things stay in their blanket of fresh soil and the water will rejuvenate them into life.  The rain dampens my heart just a bit.  A sliver of warm sun would do me good but perhaps this rain will wash away my worries.

Oh, we all have worries.   I take them as a waver in faith.  I know all is well and that we are where we are supposed to be but sometimes the mind can get oversaturated with thoughts.  Perhaps I should stand in the rain until they are gone.

Did I move too far away?  We end up driving back to our old town nearly every day.  Over 160 miles for two round trips to watch our beloved baby.  Back there again for Celtic Festival meetings and bank trips. I only know the friendly faces that I miss seeing regularly at the coffee shop and around town.

Will the landlords grow tired of the animals and the farm and the comings and goings that go with it?  Already a comment was made about the chickens.  Did I make a mistake?

Did I really just practically give away our means of paying bills?  I dreamt I opened another apothecary, this time in the high end Cherry Creek district.  A laugh of course.  Why can’t I be patient and finish jumping off this cliff and see that we will be just fine financially?  That we are living the life we wanted.  That we are always fine.

Perhaps I am tired from assisting Isabelle’s birth and then watching her baby go to her new home yesterday.  Perhaps the weekend caught up with me.  Perhaps I should go sit in the rain.  It is so cold though.  Coldest winter we have ever endured.

My cousin, Heather, said to me, “You manifested everything else, why don’t you just manifest another wood stove?”  And of course we did and it is being put in tomorrow.  So enough with the worries.  We will have food here on this farm, new friends, our family, and a spectacular view.  Another shot of coffee and plan the week’s course.  There are animals to care for and seeds to plant.  No time to second guess myself now.

This was from the series of paintings I did four years ago of the animals I eventually wanted on my imagined farm.

This was from the series of paintings I did four years ago of the animals I eventually wanted on my imagined farm.

And this is one of our sheep, Sven.  I do love living on a farm.

And this is one of our sheep, Sven. I do love living on a farm.

Inspiring Art of Nature and Holiday

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-18 degrees outside with wind chill.  Since we cannot fly to the tropics we are keeping busy on this wintery day!  Jack Frost’s creativity and beautiful artwork in the windows inspired some of my own.

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While we are inside trying to stay warm it seemed a very good time to put on some music, turn on the propane heater to help the stove along, and work on Christmas presents and art.

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Last month I had an idea.  I am both fascinated and sad looking at old, dilapidated homesteads, long ago abandoned by the road side.  The idea was to take photos of these homesteads then transpose a scene of what it may have looked like in its hay day via paint and a bit of imagination.  So one day I had my camera and asked Doug to stop at one of them.  I am not much of a law breaker (outside of selling raw milk by share) and I was nervous about trespassing.  I kept asking Doug, “Is someone here?”  There were no windows or doors on the property so of course the answer was no, save for the coyote pup that dodged under the foundation and a few pheasants that disappeared from our camera lens.  I wish I had relaxed and taken better photos but what I came up with sparked my imagination.

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This is the old barn on the place.  I placed a piece of glass over it and drew this scene…

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The photo is underneath to show what it looks like now and the paint shows what it might have looked like then.

Doug put on the Perry Como Christmas album, the heat is starting to penetrate our chilled skin, outside the world is a magical wonderland, inside is a holiday workshop.

What do you like to do on cold days inside?

The Wood Cook Stove (now we’re cookin’!)

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We have a really great wood cook stove. I would love a large Pioneer stove complete with warmer, water heater, and oven but I guess we need homesteading baby steps. We needed to learn to use this wood cook stove to heat the house and to cook on.  Our stove is from the early seventies.  It is half propane and half wood.  So, if you didn’t want to heat up the house you could use the propane side.  Propane is expensive so we opt to use the wood side as much as possible!

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I had peppered folks with questions anxiously before we moved in. I bought a “Cooking on a Wood Stove” cookbook. I was a smidge paranoid about being able to pull this old homesteader’s art off. Turns out cooking on the wood stove is easy as cooking in the microwave. Really, if you have a sense of temperature and a feel for the food (if it’s burning it needs less heat, if it won’t boil, it needs more…) then it is easy. It is a matter of height when it comes to cooking on a wood stove burner. If the fire is smoking hot, then you may need to lift the pans to get the temperature you desire. For instance, a pan of trout to be seared gets put directly on the stove in the cast iron skillet. A small pan of sauce goes on a trivet on the stove. It really was much easier than I expected.

The hard part?  Getting the stove going in the first place!  After our entire life thus far with electric or gas stoves and furnaces, we were a bit rusty on starting the fire.  We smoked up the house, had frustrating moments, and didn’t know which way the flue was open.

Jim came over and held his hand back under the pipe from the stove, you could also use a mirror, and saw that when the lever was down, the flue was open (you can see a bit of daylight or feel air).  Inside the oven door is another lever that can be pulled out to let air in from the side of the stove.  I had always thought that the flue being open was to keep the house from flooding with smoke.  This is true with fireplaces but not with wood stoves.  The air helps ignite the flames.  So, when you are trying to get the fire going, the flue is open.  On our stove, once the fire is going some, I close the inside flue in the door.  Then as it really gets going and the larger wood is on and set, the flue handle on the pipe gets pushed up.  This is when the heat stops going up the chimney and begins to heat the house.  The cats gather around the stove and sleep wherever they can find pulses of heat.  It makes this homestead complete.

We are by no means experts yet, but here is an easy step by step of how to start a fire in a wood cook stove.

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Flue is open.

Newspaper is crumpled tightly and placed in bottom across the firebox.

Newspaper is crumpled tightly and placed in bottom across the firebox.

Place smaller twigs, leaves, pine needles across newspaper.

Place smaller twigs, leaves, pine needles across newspaper.

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Small branches are crisscrossed across the kindling.

Small branches are crisscrossed across the kindling.

Doug lights the newspaper that is furthest from the pipe as the air will swoosh it from front to back.

Doug lights the newspaper that is furthest from the pipe as the air will swoosh it from front to back.

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After the kindling catches, add small pieces of wood, then a larger log.  Blow into the fire to make it catch more.  Once the log has caught, close the flue.

After the kindling catches, add small pieces of wood, then a larger log. Blow into the fire to make it catch more. Once the log has caught, close the flue.

Now place cast iron of Dutch oven of beans on and smell it simmering all day on the fire.  A wood cook stove creates the essence of hospitality and coziness in a homestead.

Homesteader’s Necessity

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I try to not to get the “gimmies”.  Gimme this and gimme that.  I try to be content with what I have.  But, folks, I am trying to be a homesteader here and I am missing a major component to success!  I have the gimmies.  I am not afraid to admit it.  I want a wood stove.  The owners placed a lovely metal roof over the existing chimney so I cannot figure a way to put one in at this house.  Besides, I am renting and that is a lot of dough to spend.  But, I will never be a proper homesteader without the wood stove.

Imagine, a cold and blustery eve, warm in our home with cups of hot chocolate and cozy, woolen sweaters.  A book being read by lamplight.  The power goes out (often enough) and you can bet your apron strings that lamp light is not going to keep the house warm for very long!  No stove, no heat.  This bothers me.  So does the electric and gas bill.

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To be able to supply my own heat and know that a Dutch oven can be placed on the top of the stove with beans simmering in rich broth, a kettle of water for coffee or tea, a fire blazing providing security…..ahh.  I am missing a wood stove.  A homesteader’s necessity!

(The first picture is from Mother Earth News.  My dream kitchen!)

Snow Days and Chocolate

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The children are most definitely confused.  When the word went out that school was cancelled for today, it was yesterday and the scene looked like my first picture.  Not a lick of snow, even in the middle of the night when I had to let the Greyhound out.  Everywhere in the city people’s phones have been alerting them of an upcoming blizzard and schools are shut down.  Possible highway closures loom.  Yet, as we speak, at 8:00 in the morning, it looks like my second picture!  But, this is Colorado.

Many people think that Denver is a part of the mountains, but it is actually not.  The other misconception, fueled by Coors commercials and scenes of Colorado during Bronco games is that we are covered in snow all winter through.  A veritable dream land of snow, twinkling under clear blue skies.  Everyone skiing to work!  Actually, we are in a bit of a drought most years.  Our majestic peaks, some hour and a half from where I live, are tipped with snow and the highest mountains are covered.  We have a few flurries during the winter and at least one wallop.  Which we did not have last year sadly.  The wallop is two or three feet of heavenly snow that allows us to sit in our pajamas and drink hot chocolate all day from the comfort of home.  No one really worries because tomorrow the streets will be clear and by the next day you’ll never know it snowed.  This makes for amazing Colorado weather, unless you are a gardener.  Water would be most welcome!  (It is illegal in Colorado to have rain barrels.  Weird.)

So, even though there isn’t much right now, we could get seven inches (which means a foot out here!) and lots of wind so we can’t find our way.  We must decide whether to go open the shop.  If the schools are closed, the shops will most likely be closed too and we risk not being able to get back if they close the highway.  I am going to plead the case to Doug that we must have a day of pajamas, hot chocolate, and wicked rounds of Rummy and other fun games.

Note to self though; next homestead must, I tell you, must have a well (with water rights) and a wood stove.  In the meantime, the coffee is ready, the heater on, the Christmas tree lights are shining, and I have a super secret recipe to share with you.  Enjoy it my friends, and wherever you are, take a snow day!

Chocolate Peanut Butter Thingies That Are So Addictive

1 package of graham crackers, crushed to smithereens with a rolling pin

1 stick of butter, melted

1 cup of peanut butter

1 cup of powdered sugar

Mix all ingredients well and press into a cookie sheet.

Melt ½ a package of chocolate chips and pour over graham cracker mix spreading with a spatula or spoon.

Place in refrigerator to set.