Face to the Sun (early crops and prayers)

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This is my favorite sculpture.  It was created by Roxanne Swentzell.  I could not bring the statue home but I was able to obtain this greeting card from her gallery in New Mexico and I keep it on my secretary.  It emanates my favorite feeling.  Face upturned, worries decreasing as I feel the warm sun on my face.  Even the pumpkins speak to me as my farm’s name is Pumpkin Hollow Farm!

Today will be seventy degrees here in Kiowa, Colorado and I intend to do just this.  To lift my face to the heavens whispering prayers of thanks and soaking up that beautiful sunshine and warmth.  I will plant the early crops today.  Radishes, kale, spinach, Swiss chard, and lettuces I will give extra fervent prayers to as I need them in three weeks for our first farmer’s market.  The bok choy, cauliflower, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, and broccoli will take a bit longer.  Spring peas, snap peas, snow peas will go in buckets up against the house with a makeshift trellis behind them to give them something to play on.

With my hands once again in the dirt, the worries and sorrows of winter will be past and the present power of nature and new beginnings will pour forth as the water showers the awakening soil.  I will breathe deep, be thankful, and infuse life into the soil as it infuses life into my soul.

Happy Easter everyone.  This was my favorite song as a child sitting in church in my hat and beautiful Easter dress, content.

“This is the day that the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it…..”

Homemade Toothpaste (and the problem with fluoride)

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When I was on a witch hunt for poisonous chemical products in the house when the kids were younger, I was surprised to find toothpaste on the list.  Artificial sweeteners are undoubtedly toxic for us, there were some other pretty sketchy ingredients listed, but the surprising toxin?  Fluoride. But, fluoride is a natural occurring mineral  in the soil, right?  That is called Calcium Fluoride.  It is found in small trace minerals in the ground and water and these small amounts are good for the teeth.  The added synthetic parading as fluoride in water and toothpaste and dental products?  Sodium fluoride, a byproduct of the aluminum industry, illegal in every other country.  Big dollars are paid to cities to dump it in our water supplies.  This chemical is added to dental products and big marketing dollars go into telling us how our teeth will fall out without it.  Even the dental schools are under the influence of big business.  Fluoride actually causes tooth decay and even cancer.

Our teeth have never been cleaner since we started making our own toothpaste.  It is so easy.  I stopped selling it and started telling folks how to make it ’cause it’s  just too easy.  This recipe is so versatile but for a good general start I have given you measurements.  Feel free to do what you want!

Lime Mint Toothpaste

1/2 cup of baking soda

1 teaspoon of lime essential oil

1 teaspoon of mint essential oil

Shake well.  Wet toothbrush and touch toothpaste, the perfect amount will stick.

Orange, Vanilla, Mint, and Clove Toothpaste

1/2 cup of baking soda

1 teaspoon of orange essential oil

1 teaspoon of mint essential oil

2 drops (hot, not too much!) clove essential oil

1 tablespoon of vanilla extract

Steamed Easter Eggs (and Seder Eggs and Egg Soup)

The higher in altitude I move the harder it is to get perfect boiled eggs.  Add in fresh, pastured eggs and forget it.  Last year I posted the Perfect Boiled Egg but that only worked with Ethel’s eggs.  I know, weird, but for some reason her white eggs just peeled perfectly every time.  We would like to have more than two eggs to hard boil though.  Easter is coming up, you know, and I have these fabulous colored eggs to work with!  Browns, some dark chocolate and some light tan, spring pink, crisp white, and sky blue…these eggs don’t even need dyeing!  But no matter how pretty they are, when I go to peel them and they are either slimy inside or by the time I take the shell off there is nothing left but the yolk, I start to get a little steamed.

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I read in Countryside magazine where a reader had written in that she steams her eggs.  I remember steaming my eggs when we lived in our first house in Parker.  The old steamer that my grandma had bought me for graduation stood on the counter with it’s timer letting us know when our eggs were done.  They were perfect every time.  When we moved to Elizabeth and then Kiowa, the altitude threw it for enough of a loop that I had to adjust the settings.  But no matter what I did, the eggs never turned out quite right.  The steamer found a new home at the Goodwill.

But here was a homesteading type gal saying to put them in a steamer basket attachment in a pot.  Which I happen to have.  So I gave it a shot.  The reader/writer had recommended thirty minutes until the perfect egg.  They came out undone and rather slimy.  I upped it to forty minutes and most of them cracked and peeled perfectly with only a few stragglers.  This week, as I prepare for Easter brunch and Maryjane’s first Easter egg hunt, I will steam them for forty-five minutes.  Perfect?  I do hope so!  I have deviled eggs, and egg salad, and egg soup in my future!  (More on that in a moment.)

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Shyanne works at a tea shop and how they peel their eggs quickly is by tapping the hollow part on top with a spoon.  Then they slide the spoon under the skin and peel it off effortlessly.  I tried and loved this.  My fingers always get a bit raw after several eggs.

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Now what the sam hill is egg soup?  My husband grew up calling it Egg in Saltwater, but somehow over the years the kids and I started referring to it as egg soup.  It is one of the first courses at his family’s Seder.  Steam and peel with a spoon a perfect farm fresh egg and place in a bowl.  Lightly cut it up with a spoon and add a half a cup to a cup of warm water and top with salt or smoked salt and pepper if you’d like.  We eat this for breakfast often.

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There are many ways to dye Easter eggs.  I am afraid that we have always used the box from the grocery store of dyes.  How very uncreative of me.  How will you dye your eggs this year?

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The Boy That Stole My Heart

I cannot believe that it was twenty one years ago when I fell in love.  He had curly brown hair and sweet blue eyes that would later turn to green.  He stole my heart instantly.

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He was a playful little guy, always up for fun and adventure.  A twinkle in his eye and a wide smile always greeted me in the mornings.  He adored animals.  I had a wolf hybrid at the time that took him in as his own pack.  Andrew was a modern day Mowgli.  He ran about the back yard on all fours, never really learning to crawl, howling at sirens, and yes, peeing on trees.  He would sit on the large dog and jump through windows to get outside with him.  He didn’t care for clothing much and for a stint, while he was two, would only wear a karate belt.  He would mimic Bruce Lee in the living room and then would love to be snuggled and kissed.

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He loved his new little sister when she joined the household and then his other sister the following year.  He was extremely protective, and still is, and kind to them.  He certainly had his moments of being a rough and tumble big brother, but that is to be expected.  He was the ring leader of their trio and kept the girls busy outdoors for years until he went off to college.  He developed board games, and hideouts, and hours and hours of make believe fun.

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When he was in fifth grade, he thought himself to be a pirate.  A real one.  He got his ear pierced on his upper ear and had a gold hoop.  He wore a bandana.  He was adorable.  He wasn’t trying to be adorable, he was trying to be a pirate.  Andy would get in trouble in school for not reading the required age level books.  He preferred the high school level because that’s where all the pirate books were at.  Treasure Island was his favorite.  When he loves something, he learns everything about it.  So when we went to St. Thomas on a family vacation he had to correct the tour guide respectfully a few times.   This child knew everything about Blackbeard and pirates.  What a great time that was.

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As he got older he was interested in youth group, girls (except he was too shy), and writing.  He started making music, and learned eight instruments.  He would walk around town playing his banjo for city workers.  He and the girls were homeschooled and spent a lot of time playing music, writing books, and playing in the park.  He and his future wife would meet when she was six and he eight in the neighborhood, and when she was thirteen and he fifteen they became a couple.  Being the only daughter, her parents did not want her to date so they were off and on for five years until she turned eighteen.  We had moved to a neighboring city four years before and then he moved to Denver for school.  Time nor city could keep them apart.  They are getting married July 5th.

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Andrew often calls or texts me.  At 6’1″ he is still my little boy.  He is a talented musician, writer, and performer.  He is still a kind person with a big heart.  I cannot believe the time that has passed since a very tired, barely nineteen year old, caught glimpse of her true love.  A little boy named Andrew.  Happy Birthday Sunshine!

Andrew

Horse and Carriage Needed (and the article about us)

This may be God’s way of telling us to stop driving all over the state.  To get back home and get our chores done and eat dinner at the dining room table.  Kindly stop gallivanting all over the place!  When the truck in the driveway with 300,000 miles is our most reliable vehicle (the old one and the new one we got off Craigslist with our income tax refund are in the shop), there is a definite possibility that we need to learn to stay put!

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This is where it would be nice to live in the city.  Did I just say that?  A nice homesteading friendly city.  Hop on a bike, walk, take a bus, only drive to farmer’s markets.  We would save so much money, only need one car, and be in better shape.

A friend of the kids used to say when driving out here to get them mimicking the highway sign, “End of the Earth 8 miles, Kiowa 7 more miles”.  There will be no bike riding or walking up the extremely hilly highway to town seven miles.  I would guess it would be mighty dangerous taking a horse and carriage up that route as well.

This is just fueling (this part scares Doug) my anti-electronics and anti-automotive feelings.  Get me a bike and a few extra oil lamps Papa, we’re goin’ Amish.

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These are the times that I need to remind myself why we do what we do.  We work from home so that we can get things done around the homestead while working, and be conveniently located to the swing under the tree for breaks.  We work together so we can spend more time together and enjoy visitors and friends to our house at any time.  We can walk to the library, bank, post office, and can get ice cream at the gas station if in dire need.  We can walk to the bar if  in even direr need.  We can lounge in our back yard with our chickens and goats reading a farming book at two in the afternoon and enjoy the warmest part of the day before taking the clothes off the line, and getting ready to make supper.  We are living the good life.  The good life for us means we cannot afford a reliable vehicle but why do I need to drive that much if I have all this?

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The Huffington Post did an article on us yesterday. I have it posted here.  We are thrilled that we may be able to inspire other folks to abandon their cubicle and head out bravely into this beautiful world and do what they want!  It just means I won’t be driving a new, luxurious truck anytime soon, but that’s okay.  My old one works just fine.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/04/09/katie-sanders-letting-go_n_5106816.html

Milking 101 (and the benefits of raw milk)

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I had milked a goat when I was nineteen working at an animal shelter that happened to have taken in a goat.  Looking back it seemed very easy and I don’t remember any issues.  So when we got Katrina I thought it would come back to me.  Of course Katrina wouldn’t let her milk down and I had no idea where to squeeze on her giant Dwarf udder.  A friend came to our rescue and showed us how to milk her.  We were so thrilled with our half a cup of milk each day, that is if we could keep her from kicking the pail and making us lose all the precious coffee creamer.  She supposedly had perfect udders but it didn’t help me because I left the baby on and she really had no desire to share with me.  I sold her and her new mama milks her without a milk stanchion and gets a quart a day!  She just wasn’t meant to be mine.

Jill gave us Isabella Noni, our giant Saanen who gives a gallon a day of delicious, creamy milk.  Jill warned us that her udders were not great.  They seemed like heaven to us after trying to milk Katrina.  I did soon figure out why I couldn’t milk very well after watching another gal milk her Nubians.  She continued a conversation with us, not even looking at the bucket as she milked these goats so fast that I thought we were in a contest at the fair.  She has smaller hands than I do….and then it hit me.  Once Doug gets part of the milk out of the udder on Isabella it is then small enough for me to wrap my hand around.  So, Elsa may be even easier to milk next year!  I am glad we start out with the hardest animals and work our way to the easiest.  If we don’t give up, we are in for rewards!

I would have loved a tutorial before I started milking, so I am demonstrating one here just in case a homesteader out there gets a goat that needs to be milked and thinks they can just wing it like we did!

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First wash the udders lightly with a mixture of mild soap (like Dr. Bronner’s) and water.  I use a slip of paper towel because that is what I saw another girl do.

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Oh, before that make sure she is locked into the stanchion happily munching away on sweet feed.  Sweet feed looks like it was dipped in molasses and smells great.  It provides mama with minerals and nutrients she needs while she is making all that milk.  We had asked the people we used to get feed from for sweet feed and brought home regular goat feed.  No wonder Katrina hated us.  Make sure you have sweet feed!

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The washing of her udders also gives her the hint that she needs to let the milk down.  Wrap your hand around the upper part of the udder.  Do not pull!  Squeeze your hand, letting your fingers come into a fist.  Your hand doesn’t move up or down.  Then keep squeezing all that good milk out until not much is coming out and she is looking pretty shriveled.  If she seems to be getting chapped, add a little skin salve or a touch of olive oil.  Give her a kiss and a good pat on the head and repeat the whole thing twelve hours later.

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Bring the milk in to the kitchen.  I like the two quart canning jars to put milk in because they are pretty but you could certainly refill old milk jugs, juice containers, or whatever.  Put a funnel on top of the jar, then a strainer, then a square of tightly woven cheese cloth and strain the milk through.  We were using coffee filters and they took the whole morning to strain through (I might be exaggerating but honestly, I haven’t the patience for it that early).  Then we tried just the sieve.  It let a bit of hay through.  Then the cheese cloth, and it works just right.

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Label the lid with the date because in the fridge they all look the same.  Goat’s milk stays good for about two weeks.  If it starts smelling sour use it to make soap, cheese, or take a bath in it.  Chickens love it too.  Goat’s milk is homogenized, meaning it doesn’t separate like cow’s milk.  This means it is a pain to make butter out of but a beauty to drink because it is super creamy and delicious.  We recommend chocolate syrup.  Cold chocolate milk is amazingly delicious.

A word on raw verses pasteurized.  Louis Pasteur at the end of his life even questioned his theory.  Once you pasteurize it, you kill it.  There are no enzymes left to digest it leaving many folks with lactose intolerance issues and many others with gas and mucous problems.  Raw milk has all the enzymes and nutrients in tact.  It helps the body to better absorb calcium, whereas pasteurized leaches calcium from the bones.  E coli worry?  Wash the udders.  Do you know what the goat is eating?  We use fresh hay and alfalfa, organic sweet feed.  Clean water, lots of fresh air, and places to play.  These are happy goats.  My goats don’t have parasites, your local farmer’s pry don’t either.  I am not sure why the news is jumping on all things natural lately, I guess the organic, natural, farm movement is taking money from the big corporations, but I will keep on drinking raw milk because I know how I feel when I drink it.  I know that it is good for Maryjane to supplement her breast milk.  Goat’s milk is what our grandmas fed to infants if they couldn’t breast feed.  Have you read the ingredients for baby formula?

For the love of goats!  I will get off my podium and encourage you to go get your milking goat.  There is chocolate milk and hilarious goat antics waiting for your enjoyment.