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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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!

 

Finding Hope in a Winter Wonderland

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The morning rang promise.  The air outside twenty degrees and the inside of the house had warmed to forty eight.  But the sun shone so brightly, so gloriously this morn and I found that the prairie’s cold edges had been softened by an overnight snowfall that left the spance of barrenness now dancing with tiny diamonds, facets of crystals, sunlight, and festivity.  I let out an exhale.

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Have you ever had those evenings when you blow out the oil lamp beside the bed, huddle under the covers, and pray to wake up in Hawaii?  When discouragement and nit picking sadness won’t leave you but rather leaves you weary and desperate?  Such a night it was.  The feeling of insurmountable and never ending happenings start to take on its own unreasonable aura.  For all the dreaming and praying and begging and planning and succeeding at finding our dream homestead, if you had told me that the house in an arctic blast would never get over fifty degrees, I would have said, “Oh, hell no.”  I don’t stand outside when it’s in the forties, I am going to stay inside in it too?  Yes sir.  I have let go of all the souls that passed on this year but the sadness remains.  I understand that it is tough times for folks but I went to bed wondering if I am being foolish with what I do.  Healers don’t exactly bring in the big bucks, and sometimes they don’t bring in the little bucks either!  We are here to help people who choose not to go to the doctor or hospital and there is absolutely nothing we cannot help with.  But we have received more inquiries on social media about our old house and whether it’s for rent than for remedies.  Our friends visit doctors who give them medicines that make them sick.  Should I go get a real job and give up?  Do people really need me?  Should we move back to the city to somewhere that has heat?  Should we….and then blissful rest overtook me until the dog heard something at one in the morning.

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But then I awoke to this scene.  The house feels warmer somehow.  An older gentleman that has been battling severe nerve damage for many years in his foot is coming by for more medicine because it’s working for him.  We are getting ready for a craft show tomorrow where we will see friends, perhaps help some folks with our remedies, and get excited for Christmas.  We will get by and I should be thankful that we have a home, food, and some heat.  This lifestyle may not be for everyone but it is certainly for me and Doug and I am thankful for those new beginnings, new mornings, and snow covered fields that remind us of all we have.  Homemade gifts are in the works, hot coffee in the thermos, and life on this homestead goes on and is certainly sweet…if not a bit chilly.

 

Inspiring Art of Nature and Holiday

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-18 degrees outside with wind chill.  Since we cannot fly to the tropics we are keeping busy on this wintery day!  Jack Frost’s creativity and beautiful artwork in the windows inspired some of my own.

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While we are inside trying to stay warm it seemed a very good time to put on some music, turn on the propane heater to help the stove along, and work on Christmas presents and art.

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Last month I had an idea.  I am both fascinated and sad looking at old, dilapidated homesteads, long ago abandoned by the road side.  The idea was to take photos of these homesteads then transpose a scene of what it may have looked like in its hay day via paint and a bit of imagination.  So one day I had my camera and asked Doug to stop at one of them.  I am not much of a law breaker (outside of selling raw milk by share) and I was nervous about trespassing.  I kept asking Doug, “Is someone here?”  There were no windows or doors on the property so of course the answer was no, save for the coyote pup that dodged under the foundation and a few pheasants that disappeared from our camera lens.  I wish I had relaxed and taken better photos but what I came up with sparked my imagination.

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This is the old barn on the place.  I placed a piece of glass over it and drew this scene…

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The photo is underneath to show what it looks like now and the paint shows what it might have looked like then.

Doug put on the Perry Como Christmas album, the heat is starting to penetrate our chilled skin, outside the world is a magical wonderland, inside is a holiday workshop.

What do you like to do on cold days inside?

Winter Storm on a Homestead

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The season’s first storm blew upon the land.  Racing winds howled across the prairie.  The sounds both ominous and exhilarating.  The house shook, the wood stove crackled, cats snuggled close.  The midnight sky showed only coal black.

This morning the house read forty-five degrees.  Our breath showing in threads in the main room.  In the kitchen the little wood stove-that-could chugs along trying to keep up with the frosty chill.  A gentle snow is falling.

Horses escaped their pasture to the north and came galloping across our pasture.  A dozen majestic creatures stirring the snow and playing freely as they made their dawn run.

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The howling prairie now calm and peaceful, it is eleven degrees with the holiday snow flitting down.  The kitchen is warming, the coffee is hot, and the day ahead seems best spent beneath a warm comforter watching holiday movies!

But first chores need to be done.  Bundled up and braving the cold we need to check on chickens, break their icy water, give them food to warm themselves.  The goats are still away.

There is a great peace here.  A silent solace that calms the spirit.

Three cords of wood stacked high, a fire in the kitchen where we rub our hands together to keep warm…such is a homesteader’s life.

The Art of the Christmas Card (starting early to make it special)

It is two and a half weeks until Thanksgiving, what on earth am I doing writing about Christmas cards? you might ask.  There is an art to Christmas cards and one that takes time.  I am writing in defense of the good, old fashioned Christmas card and the proper how-to of a meaningful missive.  And so, two and a half weeks before I will be cooking my first turkey I bought Christmas cards.

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Christmas cards began in the mid 1800′s as a way to get more folks to use the new postal service in Europe.  It did catch on but for the most part, in the Americas and in Europe, the cards were too expensive for common people to send.  In the early part of the 1900′s home made cards started to become popular and were typically given directly to the recipient.  I have several post cards that I have collected from the 1800′s and early 1900′s that wish family a Merry Christmas.  I think Christmas cards in this day and age are more important than ever.

Sure, we message, text, call, or see people on social media every day.  We can keep in touch with family across the globe, send pictures, see funny quotes, and not miss a moment.  However, there is a sort of veil over all of that type of communication.  A falsity or feeling of disconnect.  There is nothing like opening a beautifully etched card, colorful and festive, and to find special words intended only for you in a script that cannot be duplicated on computers and machines.  A photograph, a wish, a blessing.

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The problem with today’s Christmas cards is that folks have become so dreadfully busy so a scribbled signature beneath printed words is all one might receive from the mailbox.  This card carries little soul but the script of the sender.  A mindful card to send will add joy and meaningfulness back to the holiday at hand.

Step 1- Choose a card that appeals to you.

I get bored easily so I get two boxes of many types of cards.  I love western art so I opt for the Leaning Tree cards.  There are artsy cards out there, animal cards, funny cards, gold foiled, glittered, or home made…don’t just get what’s on sale, find your signature card.  And do it earlier than later because cards do not get restocked.  If you find it and love it, get it.

Step 2- Make a list. 

Every year I write down who I received a card from to make sure I don’t miss anyone.  I send a lot of cards and every year I end up adding ten or so more names to the list of recipients.  It matters not if you receive a card in return.  Send a card to those that have a place in your heart, your life, or have been meaningful to you in the past year.  It is easy to fall into the, “Oh I have to send a card to so and so…”  No you don’t.  This is not supposed to be a chore.  Send to those you want to.

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Step 3- Make sure you have all of your addresses current. 

Send inconspicuous texts or calls to find out up to date information before it is time to address envelopes.

(Do you see now why we start so early?) 

Step 4- Decide what you want to slip inside. 

Do you want to send photographs?  A poem?  A Christmas letter?  Start designing that now.  I like to send photos of the children but they are all grown now and we don’t have school pictures.  I pull together my favorite photos of them over the year and their significant other, one photo of each family unit, a fun one of our granddaughter, one of us, maybe a fun farm one….until Doug tells me that is enough!  He can only fit so many photos on one 3×5 photo card.  He is quite brilliant on the computer (that makes one of us) and enjoys putting these holiday photo cards together.  I make sure the cards I picked are big enough to accommodate.

If you are going to send a Christmas letter make sure it is an entertaining missive.  I have received ones that bragged incessantly about all of their year’s charity work and children (no one really wants to hear straight bragging), some humorous and tongue in cheek (talking about how their goldfish were doing!), some that highlight various family members.  Make sure it has a photo and some humor or interest to it.  Those close to you already know what has been going on.  My great-aunt’s Christmas letter serves to educate the rest of the family on various cousins’ happenings and we always look and see if we made the letter!

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Step 5- Address the envelopes.

This is the most tedious of tasks to me.  I like to do it early and take my time.  Addressing one or two here and there.  Purchase holiday stamps and stickers to affix to the front flap of the card.  This assures it won’t open during shipment and adds a special touch to an ordinary envelope.  Plus, who doesn’t miss using stickers?

Step 6- Fill out card.

Turn on Christmas music, drink eggnog…maybe a little brandy in it, don’t think you have to do it all at once.  This is typically my last step and is done right after the Christmas tree is set up.  I like to get my cards out early.  I can’t wait to send them.  Each card should have a personal message written in it to the recipient.  Do not just quickly sign your name and send it off.  That took no heart at all.  And these are essentially small gifts.  Over the years we had the children sign their own names and draw a small picture.  Folks loved receiving these and each year the children’s handwriting changed and the pictures got better and then the kids moved out so we sign their name for them now.  I miss those little pictures they drew.  We have also always signed the names of our animals.  It started with cats and a few dogs and people thought it humorous and mentioned how they loved that Snuggles was still around or that we got two new kittens, or just thought it was quirky (if not weird) that all the animals signed the card.  When we started a farm I didn’t do it one year.  People feared that all of our animals were dead.  It might be silly, but it is one thing that distinguishes our card from others.  Not every day does one receive a card from twenty four chickens and three goats.  Make your card your own.  The idea, after all, of a Christmas card is to make someone smile while opening your card to them.  That you took the time to write them.  That you thought of them at this blessed season.

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Step 7- Complete card.

Insert whatever you are sending into card.  Make sure recipient matches envelope.  Place card in envelope.  Seal.  Put sticker on.  Make sure you have it stamped and properly addressed.  Mail.  Enjoy cards that were given to you.  Remember, someone took time from their busy schedule to send you a card.  You were thought of, are missed, are cared for.

Now, I need to find a turkey recipe.

I would love to hear from you!  If you would like to send us a card for Thanksgiving or Christmas, I would be ever so thrilled and I will send one back!

Mr. and Mrs. Doug Sanders

7080 Calhan Road South, house #2

Calhan, Colorado 80808