Freezer Camp

“Hi Ho, Hi Ho, off to Freezer Camp we go…!”  The sing song text came over after I told my friend, Jamie, that the roosters lost their jobs.

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The landlords decided that the chickens should stay in their coop and modest enclosure from now on.  The roosters’ jobs were to protect from predators, to sound the alarm should a hawk fly overhead, and to make babies.  Once they all moved into snug quarters they decided their new jobs were to have sex and eat as much of the buffet as they could.  Egg production declined, and food intake went up.  The good looking fellows, I am afraid, had to be laid off.

I used to get so angry when I would read articles in Mother Earth News or other publications about how eating meat was actually better for the environment.  Or studies that eating meat is actually good for you (I still wonder sometimes).  I was a staunch supporter of no killing.  We were vegan, and our children were vegan, and by golly our cats would have been vegan too if we could have found a way!  We published vegan cookbooks and made fun of meat eaters and went to vegan restaurants and were never going to eat a chicken!  Moving to the country changes one’s ideals a bit.

I noticed my country friends had animals they used for meat.  These animals were raised in a happy go lucky place, fed what they were intended to be fed, and killed swiftly, usually without knowledge of the situation.  These animals were not in a factory farm setting.  They did not wallow in filth, in closed-in cages, eating dead animals and genetically modified foods, many never seeing the light of day.  Abuse on the line of murder is common and that side of the meat eating industry is beyond devastating and morally way off base.  But these animals were living a good life and were spared the atrocity of old age.  My old chicken, Laverne, is the saddest to thing to watch.  We could have done her a service by lopping her head off last year and could have put food on the table as a bonus.

I realized that the unending damage of mono-crops, especially soy, was going into a lot of my “healthier” meat alternatives.  That big companies owned these seemingly peaceful veggie companies.  Animals will be killed, just like people, in wars and in natural disasters, by our outlandish cars, by plowing fields for soy beans.  The pastures and rolling plains dotted with cows could not be if we did not support the local rancher.  Food closest to its source has to be far healthier than the unidentifiable ingredients on the packages lining the shelves of the health food store.

My goal is to provide as much food for our table as possible because I will know where it came from, who touched it, no chance of listeria or e-coli here!  So, Christopher Robin and Owl (I really need to stop naming them!) will do their part on this farm.  They snuck by the inspectors at the hatchery, pretended to be girls, came to live at our farm, had a marvelous time, and now will join freezer camp.  Seems fair!

I am thankful that I can live around animals, give them a great life, and provide my own food.  This is the good life.

Farmicure (the newest look in fashion)

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Back when I was a full time model I always had my nails done in a stylish and versatile French manicure.  My face was covered with foundation to even out my skin tone (freckles) and I always had my hair done.  That seems like a different life ago!

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It wasn’t that terribly long ago (okay it was a little while ago), I still look pretty close to the same, am the same size, but now I call myself a Grandma, spend time putzing around the farm instead of a runway, cut my nails short to play the guitar, and have a new manicure.  Dirt under my nails nine months of the year!  The occasional eye makeup put on should my diva side appear but mostly I am au natural.  This is my natural hair color.  Rather boring after all the years of red, but it is what it is.  Freckles, laugh lines, life has been good.  I like this new look.

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Spinning My Wheels- Take 2 (from fluff to fiber)

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Jill’s friend was selling a spinning wheel.  I told myself I should not be spending so much money.  She had a carder available too.  Both of them were the same price I paid for my spinning wheel two years ago and each had only been used twice.  I figured that if we are crazy enough to jump off this cliff and give this homesteading full time thing a go, then we should just jump full out and see what happens.  If I fail it won’t be because I was five hundred bucks short.

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Do you recall my story?  Two years ago I bought a spinning wheel and two alpacas with the hopes of getting sheep.  Doug termed the name PackyWoo and we were going into the yarn business.  I had trouble getting the hang of spinning and was so frazzled at the time that I didn’t have the patience to learn.  The alpacas were not friendly and kicked, at about visiting kid height.  We were not able to sell them and lost all of that money.  We sold the spinning wheel for less than we paid.  It was a heartbreaking bust.  I didn’t know I was getting sheep.

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My sheep are the two craziest, cutest, little line backers around.  They love to romp and play and hug and nuzzle and get scritched (yes, that is how we say it).  They make me want some more sheep.  They make me want to create the dream I had dreamt before.  Raise the animal, sheer the animal, card the wool, spin the wool, grow the plants used for dye, color the yarn, and use it to knit or crochet hats, and blankets, and shawls, and sell some gorgeous yarn too.  I understand that only having two sheep will get me roughly a pair of socks.  But, I do this stuff for the love of it, not for the profit.  If they could help bring in a little income, they are welcome to.  If they just want to be freaking adorable and brighten my day, so be it.

In the meantime, I have a spinning wheel, a carder, two month old lambs, and a dream.  What could be better?

We Sold a Goat and Now We’re Out Drinking (a field trip)

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The light filters through the vibrant greens of trees in the park across the street through the large windows.  I sit in Jives Coffee Lounge in Old Colorado City admiring its black ceiling, wooden floors, amazing coffee (dark chocolate mocha with cinnamon, ginger, and paprika…died and went to coffee heaven), guitars in the corner, comfy lush chairs, sprites painted across the walls.  Youth reverberates through this neighborhood infusing it with spirit, hope, unlimited potential and dreams.  The rain lets up.  An older artist in painted smock walks down the sidewalk.  I suddenly long for canvas.  The library beckons from the corner and shops line the main corridor.  Festive twinkly lights outline yards and the urban homesteading scene is alive and thriving in this little pocket of Colorado Springs.  Goats are allowed, as are chickens, and clotheslines, and bicycles with baskets.  Bees, backyards, and life fill the West Side.  If I were to move to the city, this is where I’ll go.  But alas, they probably haven’t allowed sheep yet.

We finish our coffees, close our books, and get back in the truck to go get chicken feed.  A stop here and a stop there and we still don’t want to go home.  We head out to Bar Louie for a happy hour drink and a snack.

For a moment we are city people, sitting on bar stools, holding hands, watching the rain on the outdoor patios, imagining sun and summer.  Never have we been so late to plant.  I swirl the red wine in my glass as he tells me about a rule change in the NFL.  The waiter comes over and inquires whether we’ve come out for dinner.

“No,” I say, “We are farmers and this is supposed to be our busiest month.  But we can’t plant in all this rain so we sold a goat and now we’re out drinking.”

Silent pause.

“That sounds like a good story line.” he says.

(Elsa was picked up by five extremely thrilled homeschooled children and their mom to start her life in New Mexico yesterday.  Elsa never really liked it here once we moved.  She was used to being literally in the back yard and she just wasn’t getting all of the attention she had grown accustomed to.  She jumped in their mini-van and was off!)

Here’s to the sun coming out today!

The Journey of Color and Life

Can I be everything?  Can I recognize the ribbons of similarity running through each divine celebration and realize they are all intertwined and so similar that our entire life is a joyous journey overlooked by the Divine?  Can I be Amish and Catholic and Jewish and Messianic and Methodist?  Can I be Buddhist and Hindu and Wiccan and myself?  Can I celebrate Hanukkah, and Beltane, and Christmas too?

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Love God, Love ourselves.  Are those not our only commandments?  Those can certainly be taken from meditation to maypole.  Those that use their books of designated scripture to pick out what they wish and translate it how they wish, to feel pity on others and make themselves feel better are sadly stuck in chains.  That the One created all people and traditions and colors and life is bigger than we can fathom.  I breathe in the excitement of all this.

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I love all people to a point of heartbreak sometimes.  I love to read about different cultures, different foods, different religious celebrations, different lives, and the knowledge that our lives are all simply intertwined in much bigger forces makes us all one enormous family.

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Just as I am Irish, English, Scottish, Dutch, Cherokee, German, Black French, and who knows what else, I am every religion too as I embrace the ways the world celebrates.  I have had amazing physical healings, have seen miracles beyond description, and my faith is deeply rooted.  I am as comfortable in an American Indian ceremony as I am going to confession as I am remembering my loved ones at Samhain.  So many beautiful traditions and ways to worship.  The world is not black and white but rather grey.  No, not even grey, but a kaleidoscope of color.  Celebrate.

The Shy Milking Goat

In all its farm life irony her milk is the tastiest we have ever had.  So creamy, the two tablespoons we manage to get back into the house, that is.

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When we brought her home last year at two days old she healed the wound that occurred when our beloved goat died while giving birth.  Her long legs and big eyes melted our hearts and those around the city as we brought her everywhere with us in the truck.  She went to schools that we spoke at, Walmart, Panera, even the bar (though she was clearly under age) and she brought light to our farm.

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Friday evening my friend, Jill, who gave us Elsa and Isabelle, came over to give Elsa “an attitude adjustment” and showed us how to halter her, let up when she calms down, reward her, milk her out, even if that means a gallon of milk across the stanchion and a very tired human and goat.  It took a long time but she got her milked out.  We are forever in debt to Jill for leading us into the life of goats and for going out of her way to always help us.

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But Elsa soon did not care about the uncomfortable harness.  Her new goal was to train to be a bucking bronco.  My, she would shine in the arena.

Yesterday my friend and current student came to school us.  She has a small dairy down the road.  She and her girls came over to milk Elsa and to show us some tricks.  Elsa won.

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My goals (and budget) did not count on our sweet goat to be a pet.  She does not respect us because we spoil her and do not have an upper hand.  Perhaps she would be like the goat we gave to Lauren last year.  That goat wouldn’t have anything to do with us, would sit in the bucket, and try to run off.  She went to her new home and lets Lauren milk her without a stanchion even!  Maybe Elsa just isn’t our goat.

What to do with Elsa Maria?