Posted in Homestead

The Busy, Busy Summer

It has been an incredibly busy summer and here autumn is in full swing. Homesteading here is a pleasure and our first farming season was wonderful. In June, I was terribly discouraged, even considering giving up. I had started gardens six times bigger than any of our previous homesteads and was upset that I wasn’t able to keep up by myself.

Enter angels in cars and vans with backpacks and stories and ideas and joy and youth. Becoming a WWOOF host has been great fun. World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms is an amazing program; “The new backpacking across Europe,” according to my husband. A woman in her thirties with a master’s degree and a desire for a new career, new life, searching for herself (and a liberal cowboy). A young woman fresh out of college, feeling the peer pressure of starting a career, but really wanting more freedom and a homestead, fulling embracing her apron strings. A young man straight out of the military with some serious soul searching to do. A nineteen year old with ambition and wisdom beyond her years, with a great desire to change food deserts and start a farm. My last woofer is here now, a 6’7″, hungry, twenty year old basketball player. He is here for two weeks helping me put the gardens to bed and to prepare the homestead for the colder months. We will then have our house to ourselves again, and then will welcome more young, future homesteaders here in the spring. We have a greenhouse now, are adding extensive raised beds, and are putting in a vineyard with fifty-five vines. The help will be most welcome! I am eternally grateful to all of them. http://wwoofusa.com

These shelves are now much more full than when we took this picture!

I remembered exactly why we put up food! After a few years of slacking, the empty grocery store shelves of early spring reminded me. This year we put up over four hundred jars of food, have a full freezer, and root cellar vegetables. Our garden is still filled with root crops. Medicinal plants fill the front garden. All of these gardens were prairie and shale. I am enjoying teaching my techniques to create prolific gardens. A book is in the works.

So many projects planned! Rain barrels, greenhouse beds, raised beds, and a modern root cellar addition to the house.

Baby lambs will be born any day now at our friend’s farm. The same gal we got two from all those years ago before we lost everything. Here, everything is restored. All things that are taken from us will always be restored. I have started weaving and will be selling my work. I work at a local winery on Saturdays as their in-house sommelier, and I just love it. I have visions of making our own wine from our own vineyard and using the pressed off wine grapes to dye our own wool from our own sheep and then spinning it into lush yarn to weave my own creations. Homesteading allows so many opportunities for creativity and peace.

Coming upon my eight year anniversary writing this Farmgirl School blog, I contemplate our journey. From farm to rented farm to apartment to urban farm to here- this beautiful spot on earth, and realize that in the craziness of the world, and elections, and pretend pandemics, and social media…there is no place like home. And may that home always be a homestead.

We found this street sign while out on vacation. How perfect if we lived on this road!
Posted in Farming

Becoming a WWOOF Host

I read a great book recently called, This Tractor Life; A Memoir of Food, Wine, and Woofers by Pamela Jane Lincoln. I was initially a little disappointed that it was primarily a cookbook (I have a zillion cookbooks but this one is rather good!) but it was more than that. Those little things the universe does to subtly direct our paths is always fascinating to me.

We had heard of World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms (WWOOF), a great program that helps farmers find much needed help and up and coming farmers find mentors and places to learn. This Tractor Life takes place in Australia on an organic farm and vineyard. The author tells stories of the recipes she shares, most coming from young people that shared her farm for a weekend or a month. Stories of woofers from all over the world intrigued me.

Stephanie and Emily holding a very little Maryjane

We watched the old Winnebago with bikes attached to the back roll past our little farm in Kiowa some six years ago. The New York plates gave away that our visitors had arrived. I had received an email from Ethan, who read my blog, asking if he and his girlfriend could come learn herbalism from me and if they could help on our farm.

Our rented farm in Kiowa

They were twenty-four years old, excited to be in Colorado, and were delightful. Ethan had on overalls and his long, blond hair was up in a beautiful man-bun. Stephanie’s long, blond locks were tucked behind her shoulder and her lovely Swedish face was always smiling. They camped out in our driveway for six weeks.

The local policeman (knowing full well that they were our farm interns) would harass them constantly in good humor. Ethan was on the phone at the fairgrounds, up in the stands to find good reception, with his jar of iced tea by his side. The chief approached him and asked him if it was moonshine and gave him a real good ribbing before letting him jump the fence back to our house. They were entertainment for our tiny town. They were young and dramatic and fought and made up loudly for all the town to hear. They were fascinated by our large western sky, something I had always taken for granted. They would yell, “It’s time!” each and every evening, grabbing lawn chairs and their glasses of wine and would go sit in the pasture with the goats to see our fantastic sunsets. We had wonderful meals and good company.

I still keep in touch with Ethan. He is a farmer in upstate New York. Last I heard, Stephanie had started an herbal business.

I very nearly gave up last week. Was just ready to get a small raised bed of tomatoes and a hot tub. Our gardens are much larger than before and I am at the very edge of what I can do mostly by myself (my husband does things as he can while working 40+ hours a week). I also know that our gardens are not nearly the size they need to be to sustain us. I admit I need help. We thought we would be able to find a local kid to help, or even a farm intern, but that hasn’t been the case. Our children live a touch too far to come help their mom and it is not really what they want to do on weekends anyway.

This program might be just what we need. We applied yesterday to be hosts. We have an orientation Tuesday and then we will be ready to receive guests. The WWOOFing program is set up as a directory where farm interns can find hosts. They choose anywhere in the world they want to go to, then contact a host there. The hosts provide room and board and the willingness to teach and the guest puts in 3-4 hours of work a day to help with the farm. The farm has to be organic (certification not necessary) and sustainable.

Even though we are a small farm, there is lots to do and learn here. I am a practicing Master Herbalist, we are putting in a vineyard, greenhouse, and rain barrel system. We have large gardens and medicine plants and wonderful things to see and do around here. We are excited to meet people from all over the world and host like minded people who feel farming is as important as we do!