Recovering from Emotional Pain

Recovering from Emotional Pain

“Givers need to set limits because takers rarely do.” ~Rachel Wolchin

The month of June we’ve summed up with the phrase, “the shit show.” There were a lot personal things that happened to us as a family. Things that I’m not at liberty to discuss because I would never out someone for personal satisfaction. I will, however, talk about us during the shit show.

Dom and I have always felt we had much to give. At times we give until it hurts, and then we give some more. But we don’t give blindly. We give to others based on patterns we see in their lives. If we feel they are doing all they can but just can’t seem to get it all together, we’ll come alongside and help in whatever way it might be. It could be a construction project, helping to pay a bill or two, a listening ear, a meal, or even just some coffee to let them know they’re thought of fondly. We give as we see the needs open up. It’s in our nature.

It led us to Maine and on that crazy odyssey I’ve written about on our website. Helping others. Yes. Being taken advantage…yes, that happened too.

But this isn’t a sob story about how others have wronged us. This is a song of victory about how we find out who our people are and who is just using us. Sob stories always involve someone who was “trying” to help someone and got burned. They got bilked out of their money or life savings or some other story like that. It’s the little old lady who’s pills were taken by the unsuspecting drug addict posing as a kind neighbor. Or the lovely but lonely person who had their things stolen by someone who claimed to be a friend.

Crimes happen most often by people the victims knew.

This is similar to what we’ve been through. However, the difference is that as we came to understand we were being taken for a “ride,” we put our foot down and said no…no more.

But does that work? Nope.

We blame ourselves only and take full responsibility for our actions that led to others taking too much from us. No one else is to blame. As soon as we saw that our time and money have been siphoned away from us, we put a stop to it.

There are patterns that we’ve learned over this last year that I feel have helped us reach the end chapter of our four-year odyssey. These patterns are important to understand especially if we want to move forward in our lives.

These patterns don’t look like patterns because it takes time for them to form. When friends and family are involved, the lines to those patterns become fuzzy, blurred, or missing altogether.

How do we really know who needs our help? How do we help without becoming jaded and losing all faith in humanity when we get burned?

The answer, we discovered, has more to do with their conduct and less to do with how we want to help. We used to help others because we didn’t want to see them suffer. It seems noble right? Well, I’m here to tell you that in our case it was nothing more than not wanting to feel BAD or guilty…especially if it was in our power to help. Did you get what I just said? It would seem that our desire to help certain people was really done out of an alterior motive of not wanting to feel bad. It really had nothing to do with the other person.

Now, add to the mix, someone who has done something terrible to your family. They lied, they stole from you, took all your time, and then cried and flipped it all on its head to make us the bad guys. What do we do in that situation? Do we cave in and just let it go? Or do we love ourselves enough not to do something because we feel “bad.” Emotions are powerful things. When people start using your emotions against you, that should be a red flag.

Let’s talk about red flags!

Red flags are those almost invisible things that warn you someone is trying to pull one over on you or isn’t who they keep claiming to be.

My list of red flags:

  1. Someone who never quite gives you all the details, but claims they were wronged. They need help, but you can’t seem to get the truth out of them.
  2. A person who at first seemed to hit it off with you, but over time they pull away and you are left as the only one who communicates with them, and instead of good communication you get a vague sentence or two about nothing at all. You might be willing to chalk it up to “hey we all get busy with our lives” but don’t go there. Just because YOU get busy, doesn’t mean that person who is always on their phone or computer, is busy.
  3. The time suck. This is a HUGE red flag. If a good majority of your own personal free time is taken up with someone else’s problems, which they refuse to handle themselves, you are being taken for a long hard ride down victim ally. Don’t go there. Examples would include doing hard physical labor for someone who could do it themselves but want you to do it for them for free. Driving them places because they no longer have valid insurance due to nonpayment. Paying their bills because they spent their money on “wants” not needs and don’t even have a job or work schedule is sketchy.
  4. Someone asking you to be responsible for their _________ fill in the blank, because they can’t do it. They don’t want to face the consequences for their actions, they want you to be responsible for their stuff or life in general, and will make you feel guilty if you don’t do it. This has a LOT to do with paying for someone else’s lifestyle choices. BLOOD SOAKED RED FLAG.
  5. Someone who claims they have done so much for you, however, nothing was given freely. Instead, you paid fair and square. It would be like if someone sold you a car for $12,000. The car had great sentimental value to the seller. You purchased the car from them. You go on your merry way, and later on, the seller comes back to you wanting something, and when you refuse, they claimed they did something great for you. What did they do? They sold you a car, you purchased the car. It wasn’t given to you. You purchased it with your hard earned money. Don’t ever let anyone make you believe that they gave you so much when there was a price tag attached and you paid in full.
  6. Someone who claims to be one way and talks all the time about being honest, ethical, moral (fill in the blank), and by their constant actions prove they are liars and the opposite of what they claim. Liars always tell the truth…remember that! They’ll tell you with their actions when their words betray them.
  7. If you’re investing more time and money into a friendship and it doesn’t seem that it’s a reciprocal relationship, it might be time to reprioritize. What is happening is that you are allowing yourself to be used, and it isn’t a friendship at all.

Those are just a few red flags. There are many more that I could write, but this post isn’t about red flags. It’s about understanding ourselves and how we move forward despite having our asses handed to us because of the decisions we made.

I refuse to be a victim. One thing both Dom and I say to each other when we feel wronged is, “Victim is not a good look on you.” That is code for change your attitude, you did this to yourself.

It doesn’t mean that we sweep being wronged under the rug. No, on the contrary, it means that we hold those who have wronged us responsible. To not hold them accountable is to remain a victim. We hold them to account for what they have done to us. We do this because we love ourselves and each other. I would never allow anyone to take advantage of my husband’s generous nature. If I saw it happening, I’d nip it immediately. But when we have together made decisions to allow certain people into our lives or to give when we don’t know the full story, we invite uncertainty and become vulnerable. There’s strength in vulnerability and we’ve learned to embrace it. It says to the new person in our lives, “We have no reason not to trust you, but if you give us a reason we will have no choice but to let you go.”

Letting go of people or situations is difficult for some. In a way, it means giving up. But not to us. Letting go is how we say “I love you” to our own souls. It dares us to allow our souls to shine. It dares us to keep our hearts soft and malleable when all our emotions want us to recoil in bitterness and resentment. Letting go also means that those you’ve invested your time and love into are being released from your life. It’s like grieving the loss of a friend or family member while they are still alive.

For us, letting go of friendships have been difficult. We love deeply and fully, and when we need to say goodbye, we realize just how much we’ve invested. When we realize that we made the right choice in letting go of someone, we get to see what they are really made of.

This brings us to the chorus of our victory song, so to speak….

When a friendship or relationship ends, you get to see their true colors unless their true colors were there all along hiding in plain sight. No, the chorus of our victory song is about making the correct choice in ending a friendship and watching that person become destructive, vindictive, and violent as a consequence of our decision. These are all real actions. The person who says they love peace, truth, and love, but destroys your property and puts your child at risk…which would be more accurate? Their words or their actions? It doesn’t feel good while something violent is being done, but it becomes a solidification that you did the right thing in letting that person go.

I might strike a nerve with some in what I’ve expressed. Mostly because we all want to give. But you are responsible for your giving. You might believe that you are doing it out of good will because your heart hurts for this person in need. Just remember, regardless of the outcome of your giving, you are still responsible for your actions. Giving to others never absolves you from being accountable for your actions. Giving to others is very similar to making an investment in something. Would you invest in a company on the stock market that would lose all your money or would you invest wisely? What would happen if you invested and all your money was lost? Would you blame the company or your decision-making process? I know that I wouldn’t blame the company if they lost money, I’d hold myself accountable for not doing the do diligence it takes to make a wise investment.

Relationships are almost the same as investing in stocks except that with bad relationships if you’re not careful you could end up losing your integrity if you don’t stay true to your soul. And that is more costly than any dollar figure you could throw out there.

As we close the last chapter of Our Nightmare Four Year Odyssey, I can say with all certainty that investing in the right relationships will help heal the wounds from bad investments. Forgive yourselves for making the wrong choices, and love yourself enough to make new friends. Invest in yourself by being a true friend to your soul. You won’t be disappointed and it will help you recover from the emotional pain of being personally accountable.

Full Steam Ahead!

Full Steam Ahead!

“The way you do anything is the way you do everything” Martha N. Beck

Getting back into the swing of farm life is more challenging this time around than when we had our organic CSA in Los Lunas, NM. Back 8 years ago, we spent the first six months rehabbing the house (it was a real shit hole!) and then started doing earthworks and planting trees. A little garden in front, fruit trees to anchor the different growing spaces and that was about it until the following year when we laid the work for our farm. I didn’t have work outside the home so I could concentrate on planning and getting seeds and trees. All our time from morning till night was spent advancing our goals. We learned about life and death on the farm. We also learned about loss. About who we could trust and who we needed to avoid, it happens with families. But no matter who we slice it, we have always done things the same way.

The saying, “The way you do anything is the way you do everything” applies so fittingly to me in my daily life. I don’t wait for things to manifest before I’m willing to make something happen. I keep moving, keep striving, keep motivated. It’s in my nature. I still wake up amazed by all the life growing up around me. Berries ripening, invasive plants I try to become friends with, small critters who live among us curious about who we are. It’s how I do life…every day.

Back when we operated Luna Hill Heritage Farm, I ran around all day trying to get everything done. Animals to feed and care for, plants to harvest, seeds to sew, weed pressure, bug pressure, making meals, homeschooling, spending time with my family, trying to maintain friendships.

Can it all be done?

Yes. But there needs to be balance. Daily. If our lives are consumed with putting out fires all day long, that is how our lives will be. One big knot of worry and chaos. I know I always bite off more than I can chew, but this year I’m learning to pace myself.

The list of things that needs to be done in this place grows by the day like a hungry monster. I need to constantly re-prioritize everything according to what’s going on, especially since this time around we are also building our coffee business. With our coffee company in its first full swing of commercial coffee orders coming in (we put our business in a time out while we got settled), weaving in chicken feedings and watering my little seedlings get shifted a bit.

Here’s a list of all the things that need to be accomplished before we can even start our market garden. My hope is to have our first fall crops in the ground by mid-July:

  • Horse tape needs to be finished
  • Brush around tape needs to be cleared
  • Move horses onto pasture full time
  • Chicken coop/compost run needs to be completed
  • Set up feeding and water station near the coop for chickens and ducks
  • Move chickens to the new coop
  • Turn compost piles
  • Install a permanent tomato bed on the west side of the compost chicken run and plant tomatoes (by mid-June)
  • Make new soil from compost for market garden
  • Finish adding old manure to market garden beds
  • Finish forming the market garden beds
  • Weed the market garden
  • Purchase 150- 1/2″x10′ PVC, 10- 1″x10′ PVC, and rebar to create low tunnels for market garden beds
  • Purchase 6ml greenhouse plastic for market garden
  • Purchase two bolts of tulle for market garden
  • Purchase 100′ hose and high-velocity sprinkler for market garden
  • Purchase 4-way splitter
  • Purchase pond liner for the duck pond
  • Put up new fencing around the duck run and pond

All that has to be completed by mid-July if we’re going to get crops in the ground for the fall. All the warm season fruits and veggies are in the teepee greenhouse waiting for when it will be safe enough to be planted outside. I would like to get them in the ground by mid-June the earliest. We’ve learned living in the high desert that warm season crop seedlings become desiccated by our dry winds, have to tolerate high fluctuations in temperature variations between daytime and nighttime, and can be hit with an unseasonable hard late frost. In my experience, it has always been more than one late frost. The high desert is not the easiest place to grow food, but once you learn how your area of the high desert functions, you can plan accordingly.

One of the biggest mistakes people make when planning a garden is believing that because it might have been unseasonably warm one year or for the last 10 years, that everything will be okay and you can start planting those tomatoes in mid-May. If those crops are covered at night and for freak weather events, then yes, by all means, get those babies into the soil. For me? I’m not so quick to do that. This is our first year growing things in the Gila Forest. The microclimate here is beautiful but just as unpredictable as a college kid on spring break!

Our ongoing holdup at the moment is the chickens. They’re everywhere and until they are contained fulltime in their new space, my hands are tied and I’m limited to what I can accomplish.

I’ve had a few plants sitting outside and so far the chickens haven’t bothered with them. Honeysuckle, trumpet vine, Spanish lavender, and rhubarb. It would be a different story, however, if I were to put them into the ground! The first thing those chickens would do would be to scratch and dig at the base of the plants. They can’t do that when the plants are still in pots. So I wait and work on the endless list of other things that also need my attention. Like property cleanup, cutting down dead trees and branches, painting and rehabbing the business hub, chicken proofing my coffee roasting area. That one was big! I thought I was going to go on a chicken killing spree when they got into the area where I roast coffee and crapped all over the floor. Something about the new set up made them say, “Hey! This is the PERFECT place to throw a party and crap all over the clean stainless steel table and floor! Woohooo!” Yeah, it took me an hour just to clean it all up and sanitize the work table. Then I chicken proofed it. My insane need for cleanliness when it comes to my coffee roasting area almost sent me to the loony bin. We also learned that you can’t leave the door open to the business hub because the chickens will walk right in and make themselves at home. Oh, and forget trying to work with any kind of tools. One of the chickens decided to make Dom’s tool area the perfect place to sit and learn how to build something. I think she’s was mostly entertained by Dom’s work habits. I find him highly entertaining and watch him often. Maybe the chickens got that from me?

Yeah, they need to go into the coop!

“The way you do anything is the way you do everything.”

What are the things you do on a daily basis and end up being the way you do everything in life? What is the reoccurring theme? Are there things you wish could be different? I know I’m always working to improve daily habits. I’m my own worst enemy at times. But still, here I go…full steam ahead!

Six Weeks of Being Betrayed

Six Weeks of Being Betrayed

It has been six weeks since we moved here, and it has been six weeks of being betrayed. Betrayal is a nasty word and one that is only fitting for our situation. Our lives have been filled with joy, happiness, inspiration, and wonder. Simmi is acclimating to life in our semi-wild location. Dom has been busy with work. Sara has been working around the land and taking care of the horses.

And me? Betrayed by my own body. My autoimmune problems have gone away, but in its place comes my clumsy ways where I bang into walls, trip over small sticks, bang my head on corners of cabinets, lose my balance standing on the first step of a ladder, and cramp my hands up so bad that I can barely pick up an ax or hammer without it slipping through my fingers.

It all started when Simmi destroyed the zippers (both sets!) on her tent. The first set is on the outside of the tent, and the second set is on the screen. You see, she LOVES to make a small opening in the tent, and then dive in. There is no time to unzip the tent properly because what’s the fun in that?! No, this child wants to dive through the smallest opening possible. I kept telling her not to do that because she’ll damage the tent, but she didn’t believe me.

And then it happened. Both zippers broke. It’s not like we can take the tent down and just run it through my sewing machine to repair it. I have to sew it all by hand. The key word is hand. I had zippers from the extra tent we have, so I removed them and started sewing. It took four hours to get the first set of zippers properly attached. My hands were so cramped it was difficult to type or do any work. It took nearly a week for my hands to start working properly. Once they were somewhat recovered, I had to get the second set of zippers put on because a storm was coming.

Six more hours of sewing the outer zipper. This zipper was more of a challenge because of the thickness of the canvas. After I finished the second set, I could barely move my hands. I was betrayed by my own body. But I did it to myself. I pushed through and destroyed myself.

Six weeks of being betrayed.

My hands are finally getting back to normal. I still have problems with fine motor skills and typing is somewhat of a problem, but I can use my ax again without fear of it slipping out of my hand and cutting open my head or leg, or anyone standing in close proximity. Being accident prone is something I’ve always had to contend with, but when hands are so cramped they can’t do what they’re told, it makes my issues with banging into things and falling even worse.

It’s kind of like when you bang your toe on something and then all the sudden you keep banging it in that same area. When I fall because I tripped over a small twig or leaves (yes, I’ve tripped over a leaf last week) and my hands aren’t working properly, my fall is even worse because I can’t catch myself.

Betrayal sucks!

Beyond my quirky accident-prone ways, things are going great here. Here are some photos of the goings on around here…

Dom built a temporary teepee greenhouse. The poles were taken from trees the horses stripped.

We originally wanted to use our leftover plastic furniture wrap. It kept snagging and ripping so we ended up using some plastic we had laying around.

I sewed fabric straps to anchor onto the outside. Dom will need to attach them where I can’t reach. The straps keep the plastic from moving and provides a way for me to string up the outside and inside of the teepee to prevent the plastic from moving too much in the wind.

We added a door lined with chicken wire to prevent the chickens from getting in. They have been conspiring all week to get in and eat my little sprouts. We’ll be adding bricks to the front since it gets pretty muddy at the entrance.

The door was made from branches and attached with some old cabinet hinges we had. Making this little greenhouse was fun and it didn’t cost any money to make.

The seedlings have been enjoying their new home. We currently have artichokes coming up in the aquaponic system and next week they’ll be moved to the greenhouse.

I’ve had this cutie pie with the most adorable little freckles helping to move the seedlings into the greenhouse.

See what I mean? As I was stripping the bark off the poles, the chickens were plotting the great seedling heist. A few of them managed to get in there and I had to chase them out.

My girl has the best laugh.

She loves playing cards with her dad. She likes to trash talk while playing. It’s hilarious. When I hear Dom and Simmi playing, and she’ll say to Dom as she wins, “Eat it old man!”

I love him.

We started building the chicken compost run. It’s made from wood that was laying on the property, screwed together and lashed with jute. The side walls will have welded wire attached, and chicken wire will line the top. We have a nice stinky pile of compost under that tarp. On the right side is where the horses are (they’ll be moved soon to the pasture full time), when they are out of the area I’ll be putting tomatoes on that side. Tomatoes can handle compost so it will be a good set up and it will shade the compost pile and the chickens towards the end of the day. We’ll also be adding honeysuckle and trumpet vine to the chicken run to shade the girls all summer. They’ll also attract many pollinators for the garden.

At the close of Sunday evening a few weeks ago, Dom was frustrated, hot, bothered, and ready to be done. We pushed through the dehydration and cramping hands during mid-day in the hot sun because we needed to get the chicken run covered with chicken wire to protect the posts from the horses. Yet, even with a torn meniscus and working on the uneven ground all dehydrated and weather-worn, the end of the day scowl was the only thing showing his pain. I feel fortunate to have such an amazing person to walk through this life with. When he came home from work he apologized to me for the way he handled the day. I was unsure why he needed to apologize. He said, “I love that we get to work together, but I know I could have made the whole day more fun for both of us. Instead, I barreled through and made everything a chore.” What he doesn’t understand is that every moment I spend with him is heaven, and the fact that he would apologize and want to make it even better rocks my world.

We have wild grape vines setting their fruit. We’ll be cutting back most of the vines in this area and grafting different types of table grapes to them. We’ll be putting up a pergola for Farm to Table events and the new grapes will grace the pergola.

I got my hands on the last pot of Spanish lavender. I’ll be taking cuttings to make a lot of lavender that will grow down the driveway and in the potager garden and well, everywhere else. I love lavender!

Scored some rhubarb and I’ll be planting it next week.

When the Benadryl hits hard, goofy faces happen.

Sara is loading horse manure onto each of the market garden beds. Soon we’ll dig the pathways and form the beds.

Hopefully, in the next few weeks, my hands will be fully recovered. In the meantime, I’ll be busy creating new plants from cuttings, planting more seeds, continuing to work on the market garden, and working on the business hub. Now that I can type again, I can also start writing more blog posts!

Oh, and in two months we’ll be welcoming some ducklings! I’m so excited about that. We’ll be driving to Arizona to pick up Dutch Hookbill Ducklings. I haven’t decided how many we’ll purchase, yet. This month I’ll be ordering the pond liner and getting the duck area ready. It’ll take a month to get all the rocks moved into their pond.

Pictured above is a Dutch Hookbill Duck. We’ll be getting our ducklings from someone who is preserving this breed in Arizona. She’s an excellent photographer as well!

Here’s what the Livestock Conservancy says about the Dutch Hookbill:

This unique and very old Dutch breed of duck is thought to have originated in the Netherlands between the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries in the province of Noord-Holland. As the name implies, the breed is characterized by its downward curving beak, setting it apart from other duck breeds. It is believed that this trait was particularly useful to duck breeders in making it easier for hunters to distinguish Hookbills from wild ducks that inhabited the same areas as the domesticated birds. In Holland these ducks were managed in the waterways and canals of the countryside and they were expected to forage for most of their own food. Today they are still among the best foragers of domestic ducks.
According to the Dutch Association of Breeders of Domesticated Waterfowl (Nederlandse Vereniging van fokkers van gedomesticeerd watervogels) the Hookbill duck and the Noord-Holland White Breasted duck (also known as the Witborst duck) had similar genealogies. Their exact origin has never been determined but it is speculated that the breeds developed from early importations of Indian Runners. This idea is supported by J. Bonenkamp in the magazine Avicultura (8/1990) where he accounts of finding pure Hookbill ducks among groups of ducks in East India.

The unique appearance of the Hookbill made them desirable as ornamental birds but early on the Hookbill was known for being excellent layers of eggs. That combined with their remarkable foraging capability made the breed widely popular on Dutch farms. In Holland, in the 18th century ducks were provided a place to nest and feed while they were brooding, then ducks and ducklings were all sent out to the surrounding wetlands to forage for their own food and received no further supplemental food. The wings of the ducklings were clipped to make them easier to catch later. By mid-August the birds were gathered and sent to market in Purmerend, where they were purchased by duck keepers who would use them for egg production. The birds kept for breeding were selected to be sturdy and disease resistant, self-sufficient, adaptable to new circumstances, and efficient layers needing less food than other breeds in order to be productive.

The Dutch Hookbill breed declined in the 20th century due to a diminished market for duck eggs and the effect of increasingly polluted waterways that served as their home. By 1980 the Hookbill was nearly extinct, but through a Dutch effort led by Hans van de Zaan, the last 15 birds were collected and used to start a conservation breeding program in the Netherlands.

Dave Holderread was among the first to import the Dutch Hookbill into the United States in 2000. He found that there were three bill types in the population: extreme curve, moderate curve, and straight. In his book Storey’s Guide to Raising Ducks (2011), Holderread outlines that the most effective breeding strategy was to cross birds with moderately curved beaks to each other or an extremely curved beaked bird with a straight beaked bird as the best breeding options. He found that crosses between birds with extreme curved beaks had poor egg fertility. There are still very few primary breeding flocks of Dutch Hookbills in the United States.

Dutch Hookbill ducks have excellent flight capability, especially younger individuals. The birds reach sexual maturity very quickly by around 16 weeks of age. Healthy ducks can be expected to lay anywhere from 100 – 225+ eggs per year. They come in three primary color variations: dusky, white, and white-bibbed dusky. Other colors exist but not in great numbers here in the US. The Hookbill is a remarkable breed that deserves a second look as a viable and efficient egg producer for small scale farming.

 

 

 

 

Answering Questions About Tent Living

Answering Questions About Tent Living

There have been a lot of questions about our decision to live in tents, and I thought I would take some time to answer them. Some answers are easy, others are a little more involved and deserve a more detailed explanation.

Before I start, I thought I would share a video from one of our TV shows, Parks and Recreation. This episode scene was about camping. Not as a lifestyle choice like we’ve decided, but I think it gives a funny representation of what different people think of when they get a chance to go camping:

Camping conjures many images to the mind. Some are fascinated by our decision to live in tents, while others say, “Yeah, but why?” As they smirk unsupportively.

I’ve compiled a list of questions that were asked of us over the last six months from family and friends.

1. What’s the point in living in a tent? Did I miss something? 

This question is the most obvious but deserves the most attention. There are a few reasons we chose to live this way. Our number one reason…it’s the most economical. It seems like that should be the first thing that people think of when they ask the question, but for whatever reason, it’s not the solution they would come up with. Economically it makes financial sense to not be tied to a massive mortgage! We didn’t want to make a commitment to a bank to spend 30+ years of our lives paying for an overpriced house and land AND that doesn’t even include the interest we would be paying. No. That wasn’t for us. We made the decision to live in a remote rural area where it takes an hour or more to get to a supermarket. There is no major industry in our local area, and to try and get a mortgage requires one of us to have steady 40 hour per week work that is consistent day after day and year after year.

That wasn’t for us. We already went the route of owning a house and land with a big mortgage and it required Dom to work two jobs. His commute time was 40 minutes each way, and when he was done with his main job, he went right to his second job. On the weekends, if he wasn’t on the schedule to be at work, he was digging ditches, doing earthworks, digging garden beds, and laying our farm infrastructure. This is NOT sustainable. He was burning out and exhausted. We live on one income. Our daughter is disabled and very early in her life we made the decision that I would be the primary caretaker during the day. I know that sounds strange since most families with disabled children still work multiple jobs, but due to her food allergies and her neurological disorder, she was most safe at home with us.

Living on land we own in tents while we build our farm infrastructure AND emerging coffee company makes good financial sense. It is a sacrifice of sorts, but not much. We still have a building on the property that contains electricity, running water, and a bathroom, but even if we didn’t have that we were planning on building one from scratch. Having access to the current structure affords us the ability to jump in quickly and be fluid with our coffee company. That was important to us. If we didn’t have the building to work from, we just would have made it happen from a tent. Not a big deal at all.

The second reason for living in a tent is that is completely free of all electricity, the tent can breathe, and it is by far the healthiest environment that we’ve ever slept in. Conventional housing contains some pretty nasty environmental toxins. If there was a leaky roof or water damage and the owner did not address the issue, I suffer. Most (almost ALL) landlords are quick to claim that they have never had a water damaged building. Oh no, they would say, our building is clean! Until I start losing my hair, my breathing becomes labored, and I have an autoimmune flareup. Mold always triggers an autoimmune flare up. Hair dye also triggers an autoimmune flareup, but I haven’t dyed my hair in years. I know my triggers.

Our tents are not moldy, they breathe and provide the best living experience for us to date.

2. Aren’t you cold at night? 

It’s chilly right now. We all have different thoughts about what we can handle when it comes to the cold. Living in a regular home with heat, we became accustomed to having the heat set at night to about 70 degrees. However, when we lived in our little place in Reserve, Dom and I didn’t have the heat on at night. We did have a little electric heater for Simmi in her room, but that was set low. Usually, the nightly temperature in our house was about 30 degrees in the winter after the fire died down in the wood stove. We did have propane heaters as well, but we didn’t use them because the odor from the propane bothered us. That sort of prepared us for the cold nights. Until we moved into our tents, that is…

The first night we slept in our tent, the temperature got down to 22 degrees. We were snuggled under the covers (we have a heavy down comforter) and Simmi sleeps under six blankets all year long. Yes, even in the summer. It’s weird, I know. Anyway, while 22 degrees is pretty cold, we were very warm, and sleeping in the crisp cutting cold air was actually refreshing. I never would have thought that especially since most of my life my body temperature has always been low. I freeze even in the summer. I can wear a sweater all year and still be chilly.

The thing that happens when you live outside most of the day, is that you become acclimated to the cold. We as a society are used to being in 70-72 degrees year round. During the winter thermostats are set to 65-70 and during the summer, air conditioning is set to 70-75 degrees. That’s a lot of money wasted via electricity or gas to keep you warm or cool.

We have wood stoves for our tents but we haven’t set them up. It’s spring and it won’t drop below 20 degrees. We can handle that. This year in the fall, we will set up our wood stoves but we don’t intend to feed the fire through the night. It’s not necessary.

The biggest takeaway living in tents during the cold seasons is to make sure you’re properly dressed and that you have warm bedding. That’s about it. If you’re comfortable (not shivering) there’s no need to worry about the cold. I worried a bit about Simmi being able to handle the cold, but she’s proven herself to be far more robust than I gave her credit for. We were prepared to set up a special propane heater (doesn’t give off the propane smell) in her tent at night if she got upset about the cold…but she didn’t. She falls right to sleep in the crisp air and wakes up refreshed and ready for the day. No complaints. Wanna know when the complaints start? When we’re in the business hub starting a fire in the wood stove in the morning. We fire it up while we’re making breakfast, and she sits there like she’s freezing to death while the stove is generating heat. Why does she do that? Well, that’s exactly what she did when we lived in the little adobe in Reserve. Every morning she would sit in front of the wood stove complaining about how cold she was. This was why I worried about her not having heat in the tent in the first place. It turns out, it’s just a habit of hers. She likes to complain about being cold while she’s getting warm. Go figure!

3. Don’t you miss modern technology?

We have all the creature comforts of electricity, internet, phone, heat, bathroom facilities, and running water. We lack for nothing. We live in two worlds currently. Our business hub which is being rehabbed contains all the creature comforts we have been accustomed to. We aren’t interested in living without those amenities, we just want them to be separate from our living space, aka, our camp.

I LOVE technology. Never forget that for a moment. If I could still have an active cell phone in my possession, I would! I am a technology whore. I would do anything for it. It also lead to me becoming electro-hypersensitive (EHS). No more blue tooth devices, streaming wirelessly, cell phones, or wifi. I used to LOVE wifi! No wires or cords anywhere. That was my favorite. But do you want to know what I love more than wireless capability? The fact that our daughter’s learning disabilities are dissolving. Since being in this place without any wifi signals and no cell coverage, Simmi is now reading and comprehending. She used to HATE to try and read, and now she can’t wait to read us a story. That is a huge win, and it wasn’t a coincidence.

4. How do you light your tent up without electricity?

This was a big question. I guess when we’re all used to having technology we never think of alternatives. We currently use taper candles which give off the greatest light and when you combine it with the beauty of the off-white canvas tents, the glow of the candles becomes magical in the tent and from the outside. I love how our tents seem to glow at night. We’ve found that two taper candles light our tent well, three taper candles make it quite bright. We do also have oil lamps, but Simmi and I can’t handle the odor they give off, especially in a confined space. If we’re outside at night, oil lamps work great, but while in our tents or if we’re in the hub after dark, we use candles. Yes, even in the hub we use alternative light source at night if we’re not at camp.

However, one thing that has changed in our habits is that we try to head down to camp at sunset or before. There have been times during these two weeks that we were in the hub after dark, but we’ve made a point to change.

Here’s why…

We know all too well what happens with farm life. Before you know it, it takes over. There are so many projects, too many things on the list that still need to be done, that our personal lives start to disappear. It happened to us when we previously had a CSA. We would be up till all hours of the night trying to get personal things done because all our time during the day until night was spent on outdoor projects.

I’m more interested in balance these days.

The funny thing about candles is that nowadays candles are used for “romance.” No one thinks of using them instead of light bulbs. But that’s why we’re called Firelight Farm. We do have a flashlight, but we need to get a red filter on it. Artificial light after dark is really bad for our circadian rhythm. Artificial light at night turns off the body’s ability to use melatonin which helps us go to sleep at night. Also, melatonin is very important in the regulation of female hormones. I wouldn’t be surprised if women who have problems regulating their hormones or go into early menopause do so because of the habitual use of technology and artificial lights after dark. If you’re up all night and can’t sleep, shut off all your devices (unplug and power them down), turn off all lights and use candles instead. Shut down the electric where you sleep and above all shut off the wifi! It raises blood pressure, blood sugar, cortisol levels, and causes all kinds of physical problems.

We are only awake for a little while after we get to camp. So far we have used a total of 4 taper candles in two weeks.

5. You’ve mentioned that you were going to have an outdoor kitchen and full bathroom, but I haven’t seen that yet and I’m so curious? Please post pics! 

We are planning on building two outdoor kitchens. The first one is our personal camp kitchen not open to the public. The second is our farm to table outdoor kitchen for events we are planning. We are hoping to start our personal camp kitchen by mid-May after we finish rehabbing the business hub. We currently have composting toilets down at camp, but when we build our full freestanding bathroom at camp, it will be complete with flush toilet. We don’t have a date for when the bathroom will be started.

6. Will you plan on living in tents for the rest of your life?

That would be a resounding no, although, we are well on our way to becoming feral. Our plan is to continue building our coffee business, our farm infrastructure, then build a coffee roastery and commercial kitchen. After that, we will turn our attention to building our house and Sara’s house. Our intent is to build all our structures from the materials on our land or obtained locally and/or repurposed.

7. Are you afraid of wild animals and bugs?

Yes and no. Wild animals are here in the Gila Wilderness. We live in an area that has snakes, bears, mountain lions, skunks, wolves, coyotes, eagles, hawks, scorpions, poisonous spiders, fire ants, and more. Our plans are to build a perimeter around our tents to guard against any dangerous animals, but it has been a low priority. If we start to hear coyotes, foxes, and wolves at night, we’ll step up our game and add fencing.

One of the more pleasant things about camping in fall, winter, and early spring is the lack of bugs…other than flies. When there are farm animals there always seems to be flies. We’re in growing zone 7B which means the winter months don’t get too cold and during the day it warms up nicely here. No need for more than a light jacket during the day in winter. This will be our first summer here, so I’m not sure what kinds of bugs will be active and desperately trying to get into our tents. Haha, We will us diatomaceous earth in the nooks and crannies of our tents as well outside around the base of the tent, but other than that, we don’t use bug spray or other types of chemicals.

Those are the majority of the reoccurring questions we get about our current lifestyle. And make no mistake, this is a lifestyle choice.

Many who have been camping might wonder how we could ever do this. We have our very comfortable beds and bed frames, area rug, and our special chairs, and clothes in our tent. All the comforts we would have had in our past bedroom are in our tent. Simmi has her very comfy mattress, dresser, all her favorite blankets, clothes. What more does one keep in their bedroom? How much room do you need? We spend 7-9 hours per night in our bedrooms. That is a long time each day. That is the same every day of the year, and it’s the same in a tent. I don’t think I would be happy sleeping in a sleeping bag on the hard floor or even on a cot. I wouldn’t be happy waking up and putting my feet down on shifty tarp that’s hard to clean or keep clean. I know that I wouldn’t be happy in a thin vinyl tent that feels like a hobo motel!

That is not my idea of camping full time for the next few years. We live very well here. Anyone that will come to stay with us for the week (family or friends) will stay in a tent like ours, with a comfortable bed, warm blankets, and clean sheets. They won’t be sleeping in a vinyl tent and sleeping bag on the ground. If they visit in the winter, they’ll have heat from a wood stove that they will have the option of using through the night.

Any other questions? Leave a comment, I would be happy to answer them…if I have the answer.

Our First Full Week on Our Land

Our First Full Week on Our Land

We did it. Finally, at long last, we are getting settled on our land. There were a few things that changed prior to moving onto the land and it worked out really well, but we needed to shift our plans. Originally we were planning on building our coffee company’s business hub along with our bathroom and outdoor kitchen. However, our friends who would have lived right next door to us decided to move and made their three RVs and workshop available to us. This was a godsend. I was under the gun (Dom was too!) to get Buffalo Mountain up and running as soon as possible which would have meant that our coffee company would operate from inside one of our bell tents until the building was finished. But now we will be rehabbing the main RV, it will become the business hub until we build our roastery and commercial kitchen.

The RV was a large Winnabego and four rooms were added onto the RV to give them a bit more space. This was their landing pad for when they build their dream home…but their plans changed. I can relate for sure. I can’t tell you how many times our plans have changed within just a week or two. Anyway, we are super thrilled to have the opportunity to transition our coffee company fairly quickly. One room will be used for my art studio, the second room will be used as our office, the third room was created to make the bathroom much bigger, and the fourth room which is located in the front of the RV will be used for handling coffee, bagging up products.

The way we were operating Buffalo Mountain before was extremely tight. We had only one room to use for EVERYTHING. If I needed to put together coffee wedding favors for 100 guests, the room needed to be cleared out so that I could work on the art for the front of the favors. The largest wedding I’ve done had 200 guests and I needed to get everything done in a room that only fit a 3×6′ table.

I’m also a hardcore introvert, so having two extroverts bopping around (one who is with me 24/7) and only having a small space to work was challenging to say the least.

But we made it work.

And now I have a room for each important part of our coffee company. I no longer need to have my office in our bedroom or trying to teach Simmi a new lesson since I homeschool her at the table that I need to work at. She now has her very own special nook for her art projects, beads, and her little tv.

The front of the hub, pictured above, will be painted and finished. They were in the process of building the rooms which were ingeniously created from pallets. The inside is still unfinished, so we’ll be finishing the rooms and painting everything in the next few weeks.

We have been sleeping in our tent but didn’t get much set up down in camp. We turned our attention to getting the hub ready for all the equipment, supplies, and inventory.

Today we brought down our chairs and rug for our tent. We’ve been living like hobos for the last week. We let Simmi sleep with us while she got used to living in tents. It’s a big change for her…for all of us. Tonight she’ll sleep in her own bed in our tent and tomorrow she’ll be moved to her own tent. All her things were moved into her new space. We need to build low profile shelves for her clothes.

Even though our tents are four-season tents, we decided that because it is already spring, not to bother hooking up the woodstoves. The nights have been chilly, but our blankets and comforters are super warm. Simmi has a habit of sleeping with 6 blankets, even in the summertime. There is no way that this child of ours could be cold! The first night we were here the temperature got down to 22 degrees. Since that first night, it’s gotten much warmer at night.

We have our kitchen tent set up, but we haven’t moved our kitchen supplies in yet. We need to purchase a hose to run to our camp so we can create our kitchen sink. We have an on-demand camp water heater that hooks up to propane. Once we have our sink set up, we’ll be ready to live down there most of the day. For now, we’re cooking in the RV, and catching up with laundry.

Simmi did well going back and forth every few days with more of our boxes of things. She wasn’t happy about being crammed into one seat (she likes to sprawl) but she was a trooper.

The horses are doing well. They’re antsy to get out on pasture. Dom made some strides getting more posts up for them and now they are spending a few hours each day out there. Hopefully, in the next few weeks, we can get the rest of the posts up and the tape going for them.

I love seeing them every morning and throughout the day. They have such a beautiful presence about them.

Our kitchen tent. It’s more for eating and hanging out. We’ll be setting up a separate smaller area for our camp stove and sink.

The photo above was from our time living in Maine. It was the first time we had an outdoor kitchen and it helped to prepare us for living outside again.

Mineral Creek has been flowing. We usually cross the creek to get to our camp, but now we have to take a back road from Mogollon.

We live in such a beautiful part of Catron County.

We’ve been watching a few of our friend’s dogs and Simmi is obsessed with feeding them. They’re fatties, but for some reason, she is always concerned with their nutrition.

Our special guests until May. Puna and Bohdi. These fatties are always ready to attack with lots of love and slobbery kisses.

The round pen is up in the pasture.

There’s a swing in front of the hub and Simmi is on it at least 3 times a day.

One of the things I love so much about the land are all the sprawling scrub oak trees.

In the back of the hub is a shade garden with cactus, scrub oak and juniper.

This photo was taken at midday. The shade is a welcome addition in the heat of the day.

Dom’s workshop.

Another structure built with pallets. We’ll work on finishing this building too.

Inside the workshop.

This week we’ll also be working on creating a new coop for the chickens.

This past week my new bible arrived. I’m not kidding you! This book is a treasure trove of amazing ideas. Author Anna Edey created many different systems for managing graywater and blackwater from toilets. The one system I was most interested in was a composting flush toilet where worms are at the heart of the system. I’ve known about her composting flush toilet for a long time, but just ordered her book two weeks ago.

Our bathroom at our camp, along with our graywater will be created using the Solviva method. Eventually we want to convert the business hub over to this system as well.

Things are going well and we’re making great strides.