Baby Farmgirl

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We raised our pre-teens and teens in the country and I wish that I had moved them out here a bit earlier.  My daughters still want trucks and found boys that love outdoor activities.  They are pretty country.  Our son promptly moved back to the city!  I like it here though.  Folks are polite around here and will help each other out in a pinch.  I like how even the teenagers friend me on social media and wave as they drive by.  The people here are good people.  My granddaughter, Maryjane, is being raised in the country, in fresh air, and clean pastures.  When she comes to visit Grammie and Papa’s house she delights in the animals and wants to be outside a good part of the time that we babysit.  What a blessing to raise children in the country.

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May we all find that childlike wonder in the country.

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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Ruthlessly Paring Down (am I a junkaholic?)

The house was built in 1905.

We are downsizing.  Our current house is 1100 square feet and the new one is 850.  Once my children come pick up their things I will have plenty of room, right?  Oh wait, I may have forgotten (until standing face to face with it) the 900 square foot basement here (filled) and the 500 square foot garage (also filled).  Why is it that I must put a sentiment to all material items?  A character to all inanimate?  The four hundred plus jars of canned goods?  Yes, those ought to go over to the new house.  Fifteen or so blankets and quilts?  It’s gonna be cold this winter and the wood stove looks small now.  The antique, gorgeous couch that has been peed on by three goats, two cats (thanks to the goats), and a baby?  Um, no, this should definitely stay but I keep trying to pack everything instead of truly simplifying.

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50 or so odd wall paintings and décor.  Christmas stuff.  Oy, lots of Christmas stuff!  Bikes, three tubs of photos, other holiday décor (plastic pumpkins anyone, perhaps a witch?), garden tools, more art and sewing stuff than kitchen stuff.  Millions of wash rags.

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I am making a craft/sewing area.  We have a small space to store outdoor tools and such.  I have to rethink storage.  Things like, if I am going to take the picnic basket, where am I going to put it?

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But the biggest challenge is trying to wrap my head around where all this stuff came from.  It seems that we downsize every time we move yet have more stuff than I can fathom.  Sentimental stuff, you know, from Craigslist.

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It’s time to get ruthless.  Places for folks to sit, some wall décor, beds, pretty linens, some dishes (Okay, all the dishes, baby steps, y’all!), and things that infuse our house with welcoming touches.  Seriously, no one wants to sit on that couch.

It Takes Two to Homestead

“What does your husband do?”  Um…same as me.  I have been asked this dozens of times as if we could only manage if he moonlighted as a software engineer or cook for Pizza Hut.  He was working at the coffee shop for fun two days a week last winter and had to quit because his Honey Do list was expanding at an alarming speed without him home.

My cousin is excited to go off grid.  She asked me how Doug and I homestead without jobs or income.  I thought it was time here on Farmgirl School to set the record straight.  If you want to be a homesteader, here are some of the facts.

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1. You must have a cottage industry to pay the bills. 

Yes, we will be practically off grid when we move but we will have rent, propane, cell phones, and internet still.  We aren’t leaving forever to be hermits.  We also will need money for gas and car repairs since we don’t have horses and will need hay and chicken feed (and dog food and cat food) and a few groceries that we don’t make or grow yet.  Not much, our total income required will be $1500 per month.  That’s wonderful but we still need an income to make that much.  We are herbalists.  We have a pretty elaborate Apothecary here.  We make over fifty herbal medicines, salves, beauty products, honeys, and teas.  We grow the herbs, and sell our formulas at farmer’s markets, craft shows, and over the phone and internet.  I always say “we” but here’s the breakdown.  Yes, this is my creation.  I am the intuitive healer.  I am the one who developed all of these medicines, who continues to study, research, and create the most effective medicines out there.  Then Doug steps in.  He is the empath and loves talking with people and he is a natural salesman.  When people come by the booth I generally raise my book higher.  Not because I don’t like people, I do, and one on one I am great, but I am no salesman.  Doug is a retired IT guy, he makes sure the computers are running well, that I can get to my email, the website, my blog.  He develops labels, logos, and marketing materials.  He fills product, loads the car, does markets when I have other things to do.  He has memorized the answers, understands the science, and can help people as well as I can.  Without me there wouldn’t be an Apothecary, without him there wouldn’t be a business that could sustain us.  Not make us rich, just sustain us.  That is just what we want.

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2. There is Women’s Work on a homestead.

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Now, don’t get your apron strings in a knot, this is the truth.  Though we help each other when needed, there are definite divisions in our workload.  If I had to go outside and pound eight foot fence posts into the ground, run fencing, wrestle 150 pound goats, bring in hay, chop firewood, haul firewood, and till, I would be out there for awhile.  By the end, I would either be crying or off to find a glass of wine and a book.  I don’t like that I am not as strong as a man, but I have come to accept it.  Doug handles the heavy work of the farm like a pro.  It’s actually pretty sexy.  I am okay being in the kitchen (barefoot with a baby on my hip is fine too).  I am naturally inclined (as most women are) to nurture.  I enjoy canning hundreds of jars of vegetables and fruits.  I enjoy getting three meals a day on the table.  I love that my husband enjoys my cooking.  I feel pride that we provided a lot of it.  I enjoy a clean house (though right now it never seems to be).  I love to decorate.  Heaven forbid there be large posters of Broncos players in my Laura Ashley living room.  I will take over the decorating.  I enjoy sewing and making gifts.  I enjoy homemaking.  I like putting clothes out on the line.  I love my garden.  We help each other in our respective areas but a homestead runs on old fashioned ideals.

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3. Homesteading is hard work but worth it.

“When do you ever have downtime?” I was asked yesterday.  Often times we are asked when we ever work.  Since folks aren’t around here all the time they don’t see the inner workings of this homestead.  Right now with the farmer’s markets, harvesting, putting up food, and moving it may look like we don’t have much down time.  We work very hard physically for a good part of the year but it is enjoyable and feels good.  It is much healthier than sitting at a desk for eight plus hours a day.  It is really satisfying work.  If we don’t feel good or are injured we can rest.  Our schedule is completely made by us.  We work very hard during the warm months so that we can rest and do things we enjoy in the cold months.  We always have to milk the goats and feed the animals and do housework but our life is a string of pleasant events.  We eat fresh, unprocessed foods.  We enjoy good company and have great friends.  We get plenty of fresh air and enjoy the antics of animals.  We have a lot of time together.  Watching friends and family lose spouses, we realize that each day we are together is a gift.  And we have a very fun, quintessential Grammie and Papa’s house that will be host to many fond memories for grandkids and a respite for our children.

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I suppose one could hypothetically homestead by themselves but they would only get half the work done and still require outside help.  It would be a tad lonely.  I’m not saying one couldn’t do it, but it sure makes it easier to homestead with two.  Without me there wouldn’t be a homestead, without Doug there wouldn’t be a homestead.  Life is sweet here.

Moving Time for the Herbs (successful transplanting)

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Not only are we moving our furniture and belongings, but we are moving an entire garden!  All the medicinal plants (save for a few annuals) are heading to the new homestead.  My friend, Deb, taught me how to transplant the herbs successfully when she gifted me with a few of them last year.  It’s pretty easy and only requires that it is done fairly quickly!

1. Place the shovel next to the plant and lodge it as deeply as you can and gently work it up to dislodge the roots.  This may take a few times.  When sufficiently loosened lift the plant into a waiting 5 gallon bucket or pot with a drainage hole.

2. Add good soil around it to fill in the holes and water well.

3.  Transplant within 24 hours preferably.  You want the plant to hardly miss a beat.  Into the truck the plants went the other night and yesterday morning we took them over to the new homestead.

4.  When you get to your new location dig a hole for the plant.  Put a little compost in the bottom of the hole and place the plant into it surrounding it with good soil (from the pot you brought it over in would be good) and water well.

5.  Now if I’d had more room in the truck I would have brought over a bunch of composted straw.  I will do that this week and nestle it all around the bases of the new plants to give a light feeding and protection.  It is a blanket of sorts.

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You can cut the plants down if they are overgrown.  I let the vigorous annuals stay full sized because I want them to drop seeds.

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

This new garden is much smaller than the quarter acre I am used to here.  But there is unlimited potential for new gardens around the ten acres.  The fenced garden is 600 square feet and consists presently of four foot weeds.  I pulled weeds along the edges and planted my plants.  The middle is for another day.  My idea is that the new garden will be surrounded along the edges by my medicinal and culinary herbs as well as berries and perennials.  This will deter pests but will invite in honeybees, butterflies, and birds.  It will be a beautiful ring around the garden.  The trick will be keeping these crazy herbs in one spot!  They do love to jump and grow all over!

 

The Magic of Soap and Paint

Here are some before and after pictures of our new homestead.  I will post pictures after I have finished decorating as well once we move in.  One doesn’t need much to make an old, dilapidated looking house look fresh and inviting…like home.  A bucket of soapy water, a few gallons of paint, and some friends can make an amazing difference!

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A few more pictures…

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We decided to leave the bedroom green.  It is lovely and serene.

We decided to leave the bedroom green. It is lovely and serene.

This bathroom was dark brown and took two full hours to clean!

This bathroom was dark brown and took two full hours to clean!

Tomorrow we transfer a truck load of medicinal herbs and fix fencing.  Two week countdown….

 

 

Making and Canning Juice (and moving box fun)

We were gifted three boxes of apples, a windfall from our friends’ tree.  After putting up eight jars of sliced apples, nine jars of applesauce, and drying a load of apples, I still had a box and a half.  Doug and I go through a fair amount of juice and organic juice is not cheap y’all.  Here’s how to make delicious juices from windfalls, purchased boxes of fruit, and/or frozen fruit to keep all winter.  It’s ridiculously easy.

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Load up a large pot 2/3 full of fruit.  I sliced apples in half (I did not even bother to core them, I just made sure they didn’t have bugs in them!) and did one batch of just apple.  The second batch I threw in the contents of the partial bags of frozen fruit in the freezer.  Cranberries, raspberries, and a few strawberries joined the mix, adding their own festive color.  A couple of cinnamon sticks and a cup of brown sugar for fun went in as well.  Fill the pot to a few inches from the top with water and boil lightly for two hours.  Pour into clean quart jars, wipe the rims off, replace the lids and place in a large pot with water covering the jars.  Boil for 10 minutes.  Add 1 minute per 1000 feet above sea level.  I boiled for 17 minutes.

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Once the lids seal, mark them and place them in the pantry.  They are good for at least two years and you didn’t waste a single fruit!

On another note, we are busy packing and getting ready to move to our new homestead.  I had to share a few pictures Doug snapped of the moving box fun going on at our house.  There is either a baby or a cat or both in various boxes.  I guess they want to make sure we take them!

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