Natural Notes and Cozy Decorating

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I carefully arranged the candles and the oil lamps.  Fluffed the fur pillows.  I hung things on the wall, then took them back down.  I took the curtains down.  I added a tchotchke, took it out.  Peace and serenity is what I desired.  I turned the guest room into our bedroom and will turn our bedroom into guest room.  Just wanted a change of pace.  My beautiful rustic bed frame that didn’t fit in the other room greeted me.

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Perhaps it is the two retail shops worth of stuff crammed in my basement.  Or perhaps it is the beautiful books I have read about a Nordic lifestyle.   Maybe it is the time of year, the cool morning causing the furnace to kick on, the wood stove at the ready.  Maybe I am secretly signaling to myself that I need a break.  My other room looks like a tornado hit it.

I have too much stuff.

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Perhaps I will box some things up and add them to the already daunting pile downstairs.  Things I don’t necessarily want to rid myself of, but things that are contributing to the overwhelming feeling of chaos.  For the moment, I just take on one area at a time.

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I have a Nordic decorating mantra at the moment; Use Natural Elements

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Wood, candles, fur (I have opted for faux fur and will risk making polyester extinct), natural elements from the outdoors, simple, sweet, uncluttered, soft, cozy.

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Eight dollar plush blankets and a few throw pillows transform the couches from dog bed to lush reading spots.  Throw pillows are an inexpensive way to add theme.  The blankets can be rolled up when the farm dog comes in and takes his place on the sofa, or they can be washed and a lot wasn’t invested in them.

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I placed the couches back to back to create two distinct areas in the l-shaped living room.  One faces the television for movie nights and one faces the wood stove along with a few rocking chairs.  Kitties placed haphazardly about create a cozy feel.  (Oh my gosh, I have a lot of cats.)

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Back in my new serene bedroom with hardly anything in it, I used only twinkly lights, oil lamps, and candles to light the room.  A rocking chair creates a quiet nook.

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Old trunks stand in for side tables.

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An old heavy door leans against the wall.  I used one of those over-the-door set of hooks to hang sweaters.

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I don’t have any window coverings in my house so the interiors are flooded with natural light in the day and at night twinkly lights and candle light rule.  Such a blessing to have a home.

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Firewood, Trucks, and Guitars

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Just a few homesteader necessities!  When Doug’s sister said that her beautiful crab apple tree had finally fallen over due to a storm we didn’t waste time getting down there to retrieve the wood!  Wood is necessary on a homestead with wood stoves. This year we would like to not use the propane (hello heart attack when you see the bill and it doesn’t even heat the room) and not freeze our booties off.

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Now in order to get the wood we needed a truck.  We gave our truck to Emily and thought we could go without one.  You should have seen us packing hay and straw bales in the back of the Chevy HHR we drive.  It has been a patient farm car but it is not meant for this type of lifestyle so with our tax refund we bought a truck.  Mind you it is in the shop again but when we get it back Friday it is going to be one heck of a ride.  I love it.  The HHR is being bought by someone who lives in the city and is excited to have a smart looking smaller car.

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I have fallen in love with my guitar.  I have played lots of instruments but never with this type of passion and sense of fun.  I am trying not to be so serious about it.  I ask my teacher (who I think might be my daughter’s age) a million questions and he says this week my homework is to learn to comfortably strum.  In 4/4 time?  I ask.  Just strum.

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My goal is to play the local town fairs next year and play at my own festivals this year.

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So, I am strumming away on this lovely homestead with my big truck and piles of wood and potatoes to be planted today and the grandbaby coming over.  ‘Tis a good life, my friends, a very good life.

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.

flue is open
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.

Prairie at Dawn (and you can rest in January!)

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I stepped outside before the sun’s colorful hands glided over the edge of the prairie.  The lighting was surreal and looked as if I lived in a Renaissance pastel that might hang in the museum.  A painted landscape so beautiful my mind could hardly fathom.  The owls called to each other from tree to tree and the city lights in the distance shone against the silhouette of the mountain.

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Our year starts in spring when the baby goats are born and we start our early planting.  Spring is filled with preparing beds, planting at the right times, bottle feeding goat kids, cooing over baby chicks, and praying for warm weather.  We are also madly getting ready for farmer’s markets.  Preparing, bottling, labeling, farmer’s market checklist; tent, tables, chairs, displays, application fees, products made…ready, set, go!

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And we catapult into summer where for the next four months family and friends have troubles getting a hold of us.  Those close to us understand.  We live a whirlwind of sunrises, farm animals, farmer’s markets, farming, herbal business, preserving, holding classes, getting ready for winter.  Always getting ready for winter.

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Sporting my new fashion look.

September seems like it will be slower as some markets draw to a close and we see our pantry filling up but for the next three months we will still be actively preparing, just as the ants and bees do, to settle in for winter.  Always wondering if we have enough stored.  Enough food…enough water…enough wood.

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Moving was a wonderful thing since it marked the end of our years of pining for a homestead.  It is exactly what we prayed for.  Low enough rent and no utilities that we can afford to be healers.  The landlords share the property which is not something we would have ever considered before until we started being intrigued by the idea of cohabitating homesteads where we started to think that we should not share property with friends.  Too complicated.  But, the idea is sound.  The owners here are quiet and leave us to ourselves but we are all here if the other needs us.  Best of both worlds.  We are near my favorite city.  In twenty five minutes I am at a library, coffee shop, or restaurant if I want to be.  Then back to the confines of the vast prairie, large stars, and serene silence.  I am humbled to be here.  But moving was exhausting and we find ourselves longing for rest.  But there is something about Autumn that makes me want to keep working.  An innate desire to get things done and prepared.  The longer I homestead the closer to nature and natural seasons and intuition I get.

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Our friend, Jim, was one of my students; he is a Vietnam Vet, commander for a veteran’s organization, lover of plants and herbs, a survivalist, loyal friend, and in the tree business.  He gave me a great deal on three cords of wood.  Even though it is a lot of money for us, a winter without utilities will even things out.  He dropped off the cords one by one while Doug and I spent the afternoon stacking wood.  Doug kept stopping to pull up his jeans.  Forget a gym membership.  We work hard, our muscles are defined, we eat healthy, homemade food, and though we’ll be a little soft by the end of winter, we’ll be right back in the swing of things for the remainder of the year.  Homesteading looks good on folks.

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We have a pantry full, two freezers full, now a total of four cords of wood, and we are getting closer.  Time is ticking because we are still doing farmer’s markets through the end of the month and craft shows through the middle of December.  In between we get ready for our winter rest.  We are drying off the goat; we have plenty of cheese made and milk frozen.  We are getting ready to breed Isabelle again.  Today the gutters will be cleaned, homestead area mowed, garden worked on, chimney cleaned, and orders filled, even though we are under the weather.  The seasons don’t stop for sick days.  Soon we will only have craft shows on the weekends and the holidays to look forward to.  Then for three months we will rest and grow restless and be ever ready for the seasons to start over.  We are thankful to live this lifestyle.  This is truly the good life.