Farmgirl School Turns Two

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Time does scurry along, doesn’t it?  My second anniversary starting this blog came and went this week.  This blog has become a seamless beginning to my morning, an outlet to the world and new friends, and a way to share our crazy farm happenings.

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dad and i

But a blog is nothing if it doesn’t have readers and I am always so humbled and grateful that I have readers.  Thank you from the bottom of my spiral scribbling, chicken hoarding, pumpkin growing heart.  It is always fun to look at the stats this time of year and see what numbers Farmgirl School has obtained.  495 followers (up 200+ from last year), 51,552 hits to my blog (up over 30,000!) and the three most popular blog posts of the year were Ten Things to Know Before Moving to a Small town, How Much is it to Have a Farm Animal, and A Visit to an Amish Home. 

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This last year was particularly eventful and you were with us every second with support and cheers of encouragement.  You learned about our journey to our first farm, dreamed with me about our invisible homestead, cried with me when my farm girl in crime and dear friend, Nancy died.  Then when our goat and other animals died too.  You were there when Maryjane turned one, when Shyanne graduated, when my son, Andy, got married, when the interns came, through the planning and skill learning of getting ready for God to grant our greatest prayer of a homestead, and the day we learned we had found one to rent, you cheered us on and sent congratulations!

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grad

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The world got smaller as I started writing to a fellow blogger and met her last week for the first time.  I have met some of my readers at farmer’s markets.  I have found a whole new set of friends and family as the spance of time and space shortened, friends around the world and the country, all from writing.

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I am so happy when I learn that I have inspired people to move to the country, pursue their dreams, become herbalists, get chickens, or that I am brightening the days of those that just want to laugh at our antics and remain where they are at!

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All these things have been a great gift to me.  I read an interview with the author of “The Alchemist” who talked about finding one’s true calling in life.  One true passion.  Not becoming a mommy, or a job necessarily, but what your one true purpose is.  It is the one thing that you do not have to fight, or think about, that comes completely naturally, that is a part of your very being.  Mine is to write.  I am a writer.  Every thought process and happening in my life floats across the screen in my mind as a blog post or poem, as a letter, in words.  A writer can write but is much more fulfilled when there are readers.

Thank you for sharing our life with us.  For following in our adventures and for letting me pursue my one true purpose.

‘Tis Thanksgiving Eve

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‘Tis Thanksgiving eve

a prayer hushes over the land

of grateful hearts for harvest so full

such bounty in our lives and hand.

 

We bow our heads in repose

to give sweet thanks for blessings abound

for those before us that bowed their heads

their new lives on this prairie found.

 

A feast to eat before us

everywhere in the wild to be found

our little cottage so filled with love

warm sun setting without a sound.

 

We will be thankful and not want

so easy to wish for something more

we could be unloved, hungry and cold

and sleeping on a sodden floor.

 

So we bow our heads and say grace

lest we forget that our basic needs are few.

Tomorrow we will be thankful too.

And the day after.

And the day after.

Happy Thanksgiving!

 

Making the Holiday Season Better (love and acceptance)

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The time is upon us for dinners with family, coming together with friends, and being around others.  We often say that we are getting together with loved ones but there are enough jokes out there about dreading family this time of year that there are obviously still issues.  Those issues stem from not accepting others as they are.

Why is it, in the human psyche, that we must try and make others to be just like ourselves?  Many problems would dissipate should we just love and accept each other as is.  I have such a profound passion for this subject that I could not help but write about it.  To touch on it before the holidays.  Why can’t people just be themselves?  Why must they match certain criteria in order to be fully loved and accepted?

“Oh, he is a pot head.”  Head shake.

“Kind of a thug.”

Wrong religion, wrong manners, wrong background, wrong child to date, wrong haircut, wrong class, wrong….

As soon as you think you don’t do that, please rethink and make sure about that.  If your child isn’t doing the job you wanted or going to college or living how you think they should, do you lecture incessantly?  If your child brings home someone, are you quickly critical because it is not who you imagined?  Are there people that are loud and inconsiderate in the group?  Is there someone that complains about everything?  Can you accept these people?

The child that is making his/her way in the world needs your support, your openness, your hug, no matter what their age.

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The boy/girlfriend/husband/wife that is at the family function needs to be welcomed.  Needs to feel welcomed.  Needs a big smile and an arm around them.  Are they completely different than your family?  Good!  Diversity and differences were done on purpose.  God made all different religions, colors, personalities, multitudes of different creatures and people and don’t you think if He wanted them to be all the same, they would have been?

The next part of this is understanding.  We all tend to be egocentric and only think of ourselves.  This is not a harsh statement, it is simply our way of surviving, we tend to think of our needs and selves first.  However, if we could try to understand why folks act as they do (and sometimes you will never know) then you can better love them and accept them.

I know this post has nothing to do with homesteading, but it is so near and dear to my heart being one that was never accepted in situations (and still struggle to be) that I had to put it out there.  It is about family and friends and life and maybe folks just don’t realize what they are doing.

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So, this holiday season if someone new (or old) is in your midst, give them all the attention and care you would for a small child.  A smile, a hug, a conversation.  Acceptance.  Love.  For that is the real heart behind these holidays.

Farmacy: The Medicinal Benefits of Coffee

I am always surprised when clients tell me that they gave up coffee when expressing their intent to get healthier.  I always reply, “Why?”  Now, I am not speaking to you as a farm girl with my second cup of steaming, strong coffee beside me, but rather as a Master Herbalist, which is my job.  Coffee has a myriad of medicinal traits and not a one bad.  Let’s set the record straight, shall we?

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Now despite all of the research and articles coming out about the positive benefits of coffee (and indeed caffeine), for some reason the old myth dies hard.  Hold onto your coffee cup folks, coffee is good for you!

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Here are just a few of the benefits and things we use it for in our apothecary:

Cognitive support.  Studies show (and any student before a test) that coffee improves thinking and memory.  Drinking coffee slows dementia and Alzheimer’s.

Circulatory system support.  Coffee is a blood thinner.  Don’t fall into that, if you are taking Coumadin, you can’t take herbal blood thinners, not so.  You see, herbs balance and heal.  They don’t overdo it.  So you will not bleed to death taking an herbal blood thinner.  Because the blood is thinner, it is flowing more freely, increasing energy, helping toxins escape the blood stream, and decreasing clots and blockages. Because it is a blood thinner, it also acts as a pain reliever, particularly with headaches.

Endocrine and Lymphatic support.  Coffee is a mild diuretic and mild laxative which helps cleanse toxins from the organs.  It also helps repair the adrenals.  Shocked?  Don’t be!  It is a common myth that coffee damages the adrenals.  Artificial stimulants like artificial sweeteners and energy drinks burn out the adrenals.  Do you know what the number one reason is for adrenal fatigue is?  Stress.  That fight or flight response is only supposed to be used to get you out of imminent danger, not through traffic.

Anti-cancer.  Coffee is a plant therefore it is full of anti-oxidants.  Coffee contains powerful disease fighting phytochemicals and antioxidants.  By increasing plant intake, including coffee, tea, wine, juice, etc., the body becomes more oxygenated.  Cancer and other diseases cannot survive in an oxygenated environment.

Respiratory system support.  A cup of coffee can help ward off an asthma attack.  Children can drink it too.  It opens the airways and allows more oxygen in.  (Coffee is good for children too!  It does not stunt their growth.  If it does stunt one’s growth then I am thankful as I am already almost six feet tall and don’t need to get any taller!  I have been drinking coffee since I was very young.)

Coffee is in the category of healthy stimulants that we use as herbalists to help with various issues from chronic fatigue to memory loss.  Other stimulants that are good for the system are ginseng, gingko, ephedra, and green tea.  Unlike their lab created counterparts in pharmaceutical and health store supplements, the straight herbs are extremely healing and extremely safe.

I hope this helps you enjoy your cup of java in the mornings before chores that much more.  To your health.  I think I’ll pour another cup.

Photo Glimpse of Farm, Family, Life

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We went and visited our friends, Lisa, Lance, Brandon, and Brett, on their homestead.  Maryjane is such a little animal lover and horse whisperer already.  Her friend, Tuvia (Lisa and Lance’s grandson) was there to play with her and together they visited with cows, chickens, horses, and dogs.  A farm girl in the works!

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The aftermath of the cold was sobering but not surprising.  Everything in the cold frame was gone.  I just received this cold frame as a barter for a class so I am still new to it.  Should I have packed it with straw?  Covered it with a blanket?  Brought everything in?

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The bees activity couldn’t help but remind me of Monty Python’s “The Holy Grail”.  “Bring out your dead…” kept ringing in my mind as the bees studiously brought out dozens of dead bees, one still moving.  “I’m not dead yet!”

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We went to a lovely birthday celebration for my future son-in-law and Maryjane’s daddy, Bret.  It was his 18th birthday.  This young man is just wonderful.  He is a devoted partner to my youngest daughter, Emily, and a doting father, who I rather fear is going to spoil that little girl rotten (if Grammie and Papa don’t beat him to it!).  He is finishing high school and going to college full time to be a diesel mechanic.  Very proud of the family they have become.  It was fun getting together with his rather large family at a nice restaurant and celebrating.

Doug and Bret

Doug and Bret

Bret and Maryjane

Bret and Maryjane

Me and Emily

Me and Emily

Lots of family

Lots of family

Bret's brother, Bailey and I try out taking a selfie.

Bret’s brother, Bailey and I try to take a selfie.

My girls

My girls

Cutie petutie.

Cutie petutie.

Outdoors temperatures have rose to the thirties and forties and it feels like a heat wave!  I sat outside for a moment with my face to the sun taking in the warmth and the light.  I love the sun.  The animals are cuddling together to keep the warmth and all is well and peaceful at our little farm.

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I hope this finds you, dear reader, safe and warm and healthy in your own homestead.  And with less than a week before Thanksgiving, I ought to turn off the Christmas music, and start preparing for the Thanksgiving meal.  I am blessed to have friends and a few of the kids joining us this year.  We all have much to be thankful for.

What are you thankful for?

 

How To Make Homemade Soap

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Alright, let’s make soap!  It is easy, you can make it however you like, and you will never buy another bar of drying, chemical laden soap again!

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First, gather your ingredients.  You can buy these items online at places like Brambleberry or Essential Depot but I like to support local business so I head down to Buckley’s Homestead Supply in Old Colorado City and pick up what I am missing.

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You will need a digital scale to measure your ingredients.  Place the digital scale in a plastic freezer bag to protect it.  When dealing with the lye use safety glasses and rubber gloves.  But don’t be overly scared of it to the point that you scare yourself out of using it.  I have licked my finger thinking I had coconut oil on it, rubbed my face, dropped it on my bare foot….a bit of good lotion (like my Lavender Lotion) and a washing gets the sting out really quick.  You will also need a plastic pitcher, a plastic spoon, a plastic mixing bowl, and a plastic spatula (see the pattern here?).  I get mine from the dollar store and only use them for soap making.  You will also need a red solo cup, a measuring cup, and a soup pot.  Only the things that touch lye need to remain solely for soap.  My soup pot and measuring cups stay in the kitchen.  You will need an immersion blender and a laser thermometer as well.

You can purchase molds or you can chop the top off of a paper milk carton and use that.

16 oz. of liquid.  I use goat’s milk.  I have also used half goat’s milk and half wine and one time I did half goat’s milk and half coffee.  That was a great bar of soap!  You could use beer, water, or store bought milk.  How about beet juice for the color or green tea?  Just don’t use anything acidic like orange juice or pineapple juice as the lye will react to it.

7.4 oz. of lye.  Pour this into the plastic cup when measuring it on the scale and simply rinse out afterwards.

16 oz. of olive oil

16 oz. of coconut oil

16 oz. of palm oil (I am not crazy about using palm oil but it is what makes the soap hard.  Later we’ll learn to make lard soap and then we won’t need the palm oil.)

2 oz. of castor oil (This is what makes it sudsy.)

2 oz. of essential oil.  Now don’t get crazy and get 2 ounces of cinnamon or something, you don’t want the soap to be super hot!  Try vanilla, or lavender, rose, maybe orange and peppermint, a combination of oils, or pine for Christmas, or maybe just coffee scented if you used coffee as your liquid and skip the essential oils!  I am not a proponent of multi-marketing oils, just find a good essential oil at the local health store at an affordable price and use it.  Don’t use fragrances!

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1. Now that we have everything assembled let’s get started!  Place the liquid in the plastic pitcher and put the plastic spoon in it.  Put your glasses and gloves on and pour the lye into the cup.  Now put the laser thermometer in your apron pocket and take the pitcher and the lye outside.  Make sure there are no chickens around to tip the thing over or curious dog noses!  Slowly pour the lye into the liquid while stirring.  It will get super hot, about 175 degrees and will change color.  We have this outside so we don’t asphyxiate folks in the house.  Outside it will cool faster as well.

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2. Back inside measure all oils, except the essential oils, those go in at the end of the process, and place in a pot.  Warm on a wood cook stove (or regular stove) until the oils have just melted.

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3. Taking temperatures.  Now here is where we get our workout.  Check the temperature of the oils.  You can alter the temps by sticking it in the snow or fridge or reheating it.  The oils will cool down faster than the lye.  Once the lye cools down there is no reheating it so this is the point that you have to be rather diligent about watching temps.  The goal is to get the oil and the lye to 105 degrees at precisely the same time.  There can be a three degree temp difference.  But ideally, 105.  Bring lye in when it is 120 degrees to slow it down while you work on the oil temp.

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soap 3

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4. Prepare the bowl, set up the immersion blender, have the tops off the essential oil ready to pour in all at once and have some paper towel on hand.  Put gloves and glasses on.  When the oil and the lye are ready pour the oil into the bowl, then slowly pour the lye mixture in.  Keep the immersion blender below the liquid line or you will spray soap everywhere!  Blend until the mixture starts to feel like pudding.  When you can swirl the blender (turned off) over the top of the mixture and it makes swirly lines that is called tracing.  Add essential oils, and any additions for exfoliation (oatmeal, coffee grounds, poppy seeds…) and continue to blend until almost cake batter consistency then pour into mold.

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5. Place a piece of cardboard over mold and wrap in a towel.  Leave for 24 hours.  After 24 hours peel back paper or take out of mold and slice with a kitchen knife into desired size.  I generally like one inch thick pieces of soap.  Place small side down on dresser and let cure for four weeks.  Wrap and give as gifts or store in a zip lock bag to retain scent.

Homesteading skills like making soap are fun, save money, and will always come in handy!  Look at our Homesteading School on the menu to see what fun classes are coming up.  We’ll start anew after the holidays.

 

 

 

Thermoses and Wood Stoves (keeping warm on a homestead)

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We survived the severe cold snap.  Thirty degrees feels like a heat wave now.  For a time I was tempted to give up the whole darn homesteading dream but after an electric blanket fix, a few glasses of wine, and a near nervous breakdown, I rethought it and we have determined that we truly love living in the country with all of our animals and this was just one tribulation to figure out.  My cousin reminded me that I could manifest another wood stove and Doug mentioned that I would be a lot happier if we just had heat.  The bitter cold made everything seem so desperate.

So new manifestations in the process:

Somehow be able to afford and put in a wood stove in the main part of the house.

Move the animals closer to the house.  I miss my chickens and goats.

I would like to add sheep, donkeys, and horses to the farm.

We’d like to be able to afford to buy this place at some point.

We will not get discouraged with making less money.  I have a gift of healing and it is my calling.  This is what we are meant to do and we will always get by.

Have a little more faith and purchase more wool sweaters at the earliest convenience!

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A homesteading necessity, especially when it is cold, is a good old fashioned thermos.  The old thermoses were well insulated and hold heat amazingly well.  In fact, I emptied a half full thermos of coffee the next day into canning jar to store in the fridge for iced coffee and it was steaming still!  I couldn’t believe it!

The newer thermoses made of aluminum don’t do as well.  If you see a thermos at the antique or thrift store, grab it!

We use a French press to make good, strong coffee, but it will go cold if we don’t drink it quick and we like to savor our brew.  We transfer it to a thermos and have good, hot java all morning long.

A good thermos is great for road trips or just a trip to the library.  Hot tea, apple cider, or coffee at the ready helps us stop the constant drink stops and helps us save money.

So next time you see a vintage thermos, don’t let it pass you by!  It’s a homesteading necessity!