January has been a jam-packed and an incredibly busy month for our coffee company. Last weekend we picked up the supplies we need to finish the roastery. I can’t believe I just said that! We’re moving forward and making headway. It feels great.
Our roastery insulation for the pallet walls will be finished using air-crete, drywall, and some good washable paint.
The air-crete was important to me because of its insulative value as well as being fireproof. We live in a wilderness area and I would never want to be the source of a major fire outbreak with our coffee roaster.
Originally we had planned on using straw light clay for the insulation and then plaster the interior with earthen and lime plaster, but when we found air-crete, we knew that would be less energy and time intensive.
It takes a few weeks to get everything, but it was ordered and should be here by the third week in February.
Dom and I (and some help) will be working on the roastery in February and March.
The large open bay door area will be framed out for large double glass doors that we’ve been carting around with us since we lived in West Virginia. The doors were salvaged from Snowshoe Ski Resort where Dom used to work. They are steel, 8-foot high matching exterior doors.
He has been wanting to use these doors for over three years now. The entrance door is a project I’ll be working on in mid-February. I’m pretty excited about it!
Below is a photo of the door at the entrance of the rig. I will be using that door for the entrance to the roastery. The area outlined in red at the center of the door will be filled with a thin layer of roasted coffee beans. Basically inlaying the door with beans and then pouring epoxy on top to keep the coffee beans protected. I haven’t decided if the wood on the door will be stained or left weathered. It will all depend on how the coffee beans look contrasted in the door.
There are a lot of things that need to be shifted around to make working on the roastery possible. We cleaned the roastery out during the summer, removing things that were being stored in there but couldn’t be used. Then we had major stormy weather in October and our storage tent that had all our things began to leak with water so Dom moved everything into the roastery.
Our on-demand tankless hot water heater busted about a month ago, and we’ve been without hot water ever since. We have a larger on-demand tankless water heater to install, but we decided to wait until after we finished our bathroom to install it. I was frantically searching for a proper bathtub and it was elusive for a while. It’s not that there were no tubs around for sale, it’s just that Dom had a particular need for a claw ball tub and not a regular bathtub. Tubs tend to be on the shallow and short side, and because he’s tall, he can’t enjoy a bath unless it’s a claw ball tub. We had one when we lived in Vermont, and it was the only one he truly enjoyed.
So I was looking and looking, and finally, I found one that didn’t break the bank AND the person was willing to accept payment and hold onto it until we could come and get it. Craigslist and FB Marketplace are filled with people who flake out and don’t end up coming to get things, and I needed to assure the people with the tub and our stove that we will come when we say we would.
That has worked out well for us because of our busy schedule and the fact that we only have one vehicle. I could do more and free Dom up if I had my own SUV. Instead, we have to make appointments to pick things up on the weekends when he’s not working which takes away time to work on our home projects. It’s a catch 22, and so frustrating!
Anyway, the bathroom was gutted and the floor was sanded. Yesterday the first of three coats of urethane went on the bathroom floor. Sunday we’re shooting to have the windows and drywall installed. I’m hoping that we’ll have a functional bathroom in a few weeks.
Once the bathroom is finished, the air-crete will be here and the pallet walls and the ceiling in the bathroom will be filled. However, before we can work on gutting the rig, we need to build a storage shed to put all our things. They are being stored in the roastery and we can’t work on the roastery to finish it until all the stuff is out.
When the shed is completed, the next project will be gutting the main part of the rig. The kitchen and RV bathroom will be removed. The new bathroom is a pallet addition off the back of the RV. Our daughter Hannah has converted her own small city bus into her own tiny home, and the RV shower, stove, and sinks will go to her so she can finish her tiny home.
It’s all a big juggling act. We’re positioned finally to start all the work. There were things we needed to purchase new, but the majority of our supplies are salvaged from old buildings, donated from great neighbors, or saved from demolition. It’s been sitting in piles and it is starting to look like a salvage yard, not a place we live.
I started looking for a coffee roaster that can roast more than 12 pounds per hour so that we could scale up production. I found one that will roast 45 pounds per hour and he sold it to us so inexpensively that I couldn’t say no! It will be our in-between roaster that will allow us to roast a larger amount while we’re building our hearth wood-fired coffee roaster.
Our hearth roaster will be a 15-pound roaster that is the prototype for a 30-pound roaster which would produce about 90 pounds of coffee per hour. The 30-pound hearth roaster will go into the new facility that we’re hoping to build in the next five years. The new facility will have not only the large hearth coffee roaster, but also a bottling line and large commercial kitchen for making cold brew.
We’ll be building a GeoBarn here and we’re bursting at the seams thinking about it! GeoBarns are amazing. When we lived in Vermont, Dom worked as a subcontractor building these barns from the ground up, for both residential and commercial applications. When we were trying to figure out what kind of building we wanted for our main facility, he said he wanted a GeoBarn and nothing else would do! That’s how much he loves these barns. Not just that, but everyone at GeoBarns is amazing, caring, and incredible humans. From inception to execution, the elegant and timelessness of a GeoBarn speaks for itself.
Below is just one of the fabulous GeoBarns that we had the pleasure of visiting. It’s the Silo Distillery in Winsor, Vermont. Click here to learn more about it on the GeoBarns website.
Our days seem to fly by! We’ve accomplished a lot since we moved here in April 2019. Our goal is to have the rig and the roastery completed by our one year anniversary of moving here. I think we might be on track to make that happen.
We’re making headway and it feels great.
I’ve always been intrigued by living fences and using trees and hedges to create a barrier that animals would be hardpressed to make it through. In the past, farmers often used plants that had thorns to keep livestock in or out of different areas, as well as keeping some wildlife at bay.
We have 14 acres here. When we lived in Los Lunas, we only had about 1 1/2 acres. I find that one acre is far more manageable than 14. Even five acres is a bit daunting to me. Not because of the size of the land, but because of how I plant and grow things. I take small spaces and pack them full of different types of plants, both edible and ornamental. If I am planning a 60’x60′ garden, I can pretty much guarantee you there will be more than 500 different species living and thriving in that space.
Our land has many steep hills that are more like a mountain. There are areas that go straight up to Mineral Creek (a seasonal creek). We’ll be getting a surveyor to give us the official boundaries of our land so we can properly plant our living fence.
I’ll most likely be using black locust to create the living fences as well as finding an area to grow them to harvest wood via coppicing. I chose the black locust because I can get over 25,000 seeds (about a pound) for under $10.00. I know I’ll need more than that, but it’s a good start.
The black locust tree is amazing. Here’s what Cornell Small Farms had to say:
This tree, which has often been given a bad name for its opportunistic rapid growth and robust thorns, is said to be native originally to the Appalachian Mountain range, though it has become naturalized throughout the United States, southern Canada, and even parts of Europe and Asia. The species is incredibly adaptive, growing in many elevations, microclimates, and soil types.
While some have named it an “invasive” tree given its rapid growth and willingness to spread by seed and root suckering, others see these characteristics as advantageous, if only populations are properly managed to harness these qualities. Make no mistake, locust is not a tree to plant and walk away from. It is best when incorporated into managed activities on the farm, of which there are a remarkable array of options and benefits, including:
- Because it fixes nitrogen from the atmosphere, the trees grow incredibly fast (3 – 4 feet in a season) and can quickly become windbreaks, shelterbelts, and shade and shelter for animals in silvopasture grazing systems.
- The nutritional value of the leaves is similar to alfalfa, making it a valuable feed for ruminant livestock. Some sources claim excessive consumption can lead to toxicity, but many farmers have found their animals naturally limit their intake. (horses excepted)
- The tree has been used to support nutrition in other crops, from grains to other trees. Research has shown increases in nitrogen in barley grain crops interplanted with locust, and black walnuts interplanted with locust as “nurse” trees were shown to rapidly increase their growth.
- The flowers are important sources of food for honeybees. In Hungary, Black Locust is the basis of commercial honey production.
- The high-density wood is the most rot-resistant wood we can grow in our climate, making it an ideal material for fenceposts, hope poles, outdoor furniture, decks, and other projects that require weatherproof materials.
- It’s BTU rating is among the highest, making it an excellent firewood in both heat value and coaling ability. At our last house, we actually ruined a woodstove by burning too much locust, which gets extremely hot.
If anything, Black locust is almost too good at what it does. All these attributes have resulted in extraordinarily high demand; both sellers of locust poles and lumber, as well as those in the nursery trade at the meeting, reported not even coming close to meeting the demand for their products. There is a lot of room in the market for more farmers to grow, harvest, and sell black locust products in many parts of the region.
We plan on using not only black locust but also honey locust, Siberian pea shrub, hawthorn, willow, dogwood, sea buckthorn, more sycamores, cottonwood, poplars, aspen, and I’m even thinking of trying my hand at sugar maple. I’m confident we could grow sugar maple here. Our day time temperatures are above 32 degrees and our evening temps fall below freezing most of the time.
It would be an interesting experiment, that’s for sure!
Anyway, knowing that black locust is a pretty rugged pioneer tree, I chose it to be our gatekeepers.
In the future, we plan on also terracing our steep mountain-like hills and planting berries. To do so, we need our living fences in place and doing their job at keeping out bears, deer, and other wildlife that would be hellbent on eating the buffet of delicious goodies we’ll be growing. Trying to fence the perimeter of our property with deer fencing is cost-prohibitive. But two pounds of black locust seeds planted and a few years growth will yield not only the fence we need for almost free, but will also provide us with wood, the bees with food, and a prolific source of new seeds which we can sell in our upcoming online store for Firelight Farm.
It’s coming. We’ve been working on what we’ll be selling in our store as well as on Etsy. I’ve been working on our branding for the last few months and I can’t wait to launch! It won’t be until the end of the summer, however. I have way too many things on my plate right now.
Between scaling up our coffee company, and repairing the rig we’re living in, I’ll go nuts trying to also take on our farm’s products.
This weekend we’ll be ordering the black locust tree seeds, ornamental grass seed for the duck yard, and asparagus crowns. The crowns will go in the ground way before we ever plant the black locust.
It’s an exciting time for me. I only planted a few things last year and spun my wheels doing so. We had chickens and roosters run amuck, big dogs to contend with (they come rambling through the property often with their dog gangs), deer and bear browsing our oaks and juniper berries, skunks invading our personal space, and coati chasing away feral cats and kittens.
But still, it’s amazing to start planning how everything will work together and then taking action and watching things take on a life of their own.
Dom and I have always believed in trying to reduce our use of plastic and things that end up in a landfill. But belief and actions aren’t mutually exclusive. After not really paying attention to how much waste we personally produce, I started looking for ideas of how to transition to a life with less plastic. I knew for sure what I was going to do for my coffee company which took a few weeks to figure out the steps I needed to take to transition. It happened towards the end of the holiday season when we had over 50 orders a day going out. Every time I opened a new tin tie coffee bag that is lined in plastic, or put a label on the front and back of the coffee bag, and then throwing out the label backing, I thought about it.
I thought about how I was missing out on building soil for our farm. None of those label backs can be used. They’re all plastic bound to paper.
I devised a plan for transitioning, and the shipments of new plastic free, compostable packaging have already arrived.
I’ve even started reorganizing and making changes in how I set up my workflow, the materials I’ll be using while working and how I’ll use any leftover materials.
That was fairly easy.
Then I discovered a lifestyle movement called Zero Waste.
I think it broke my brain. I agree with a lot that this lifestyle is hoping to achieve, but I’m unsure if we’ll ever be a zero waste farm and family.
Our biggest concern is Simmi. She has severe life-threatening food allergies to peanuts, most tree nuts, dairy (cow, sheep, and goat), eggs (duck and chicken), soy, and wheat. Simmi was diagnosed with life-threatening food allergies when she was only nine months old. We cannot shop for bulk items from a bin…ever. Everything we purchase for her must be sealed.
Here’s the scenario:
We’re at Sprouts or Whole Foods in the bulk food section. About an hour before we get to the store, someone who was casually walking around the store eating nuts (you’ll see them if you look) decides to get foods from the bulk section. Without first washing their hands which have nut oils and salts from eating, they get a bag and start putting basmati rice into the bag. Then the scooper slips out of their hands, and they pick it up NOT from the handle but from the scoop end and put it back into the bin. We use it next, and the tiny particles and oil residue still on the scooper contaminates rice we cook for her. We thought everything was okay until she goes into anaphylaxis and we need to administer epinephrine.
The bins are being refilled by the clerk who first decides to fill the soy flour, peanut bin, nuts, granola bins, and then without changing his/her gloves, opens the rice and pours it into the bin. With contaminated gloves, they put their hands into the rice to help it along into the bin. The air is still filled with particulates from the other products that went in, and he just contaminated the rice as well.
These are things that happen every day.
When we lived in Vermont, our favorite place to go was the co-op in the town we lived in. One day Simmi started sneezing and couldn’t stop. We were walking past the backroom where they happened to be filling smaller bags with something she was allergic to. It was in the air and she was breathing it in. We had to leave the store immediately. Then it happened in another store we went to. This time she broke out in hives, had a hard time breathing and we needed to leave. We were at an indoor farmer’s market and they were making fresh pies from scratch.
So we cannot under any circumstances use bulk bins for Simmi. I’m a Celiac, so bulk bins are out of the question for me too.
I’ve started to pick apart what we purchase each week. The first item up is Simmi’s pasta. Because her diet is already restricted, I’m not up for removing pasta just because it is packaged in plastic. However, I have found a recipe for making her pasta and a manual pasta machine to cut it into strips.
We can make her pasta and forego the cost of ready-made pasta. This would be a good solution for us, and it would be something she can learn to make for herself.
The cost of bulk flours for her is way cheaper than buying one or two pounds at a time. Bulk flour can be put into a large container and save on garbage.
We can do the same with bulk rice.
I don’t think there will ever be a time when we could consider ourselves a zero waste household, but we can greatly reduce how we purchase products and be mindful of the garbage being produced while making sensible choices.
I also see that people in zero waste are carting their glass jars and cotton bags to the stores in order to not use plastic bags or plastic containers. While this is admirable, I think it is a little bit too much with all the separate cotton bags for produce. Tomatoes won’t mind being intermingled with the other softer veggies, and I don’t think celery and carrots would have a problem being lumped together either. After all, they are often mates when put into a hardy stew.
These are just a few of the things that feel unnecessarily cumbersome. I understand putting bread into a cotton bag, but most things won’t mind being next to each other for a few hours between shopping and home.
The next thing I have a hard time wrapping my head around is all the justifications. We live in this weird world of absolute extremes. I’ve seen it with homesteaders, where one will bicker with another if they choose to work outside the home. Everyone seems to have rules about the proper way of living a lifestyle.
Zero Waste seems to have the same issues. One person will tell someone else they’re doing it wrong. If you’re into eating a keto diet, one will tell you that you can’t eat this or that and be truly keto.
I’ve seen it with those who live off-off grid too. That’s where you choose to live without generating any electricity or regular propane and fuels and basically live in a pre-industrial lifestyle. Then someone will come along and point a finger at the off-off grid person and claim they can’t use a computer.
It’s really sad.
I don’t want that for our family. We don’t fit the mold of an environmental family. I don’t do things to “save the planet.” I do things because I care about the planet, especially how it impacts my family and my community. My desire to be plastic free has to do with the love I have for my community as well as my land. I’m not trying to change other people or how they choose to live.
My desire to farm organically doesn’t lead me to condemn or shame those who don’t.
My need to have compostable coffee packaging is very selfish. It is if we want to call a spade a spade! I want to be able to create soil for our farm. I can’t do it with what I’m using now. If it doesn’t have a past life purpose, I don’t want it, nor do I want others to be burdened with not knowing what to do with the packaging either. I want to put empowering tools into my consumer’s hands that allow them to recycle the packaging or even compost it. If they don’t, it’s okay, but at least I empowered them to make a new choice.
Some people will try and reuse plastic in order to save it from a landfill. I can’t do that either. I HATE seeing plastic containers around. I even despise plastic 5-gallon buckets, but I’ll use them until something better comes along for storing things. I don’t find it attractive to use old Folgers plastic containers to store things either.
But that’s me. Not you. And just because I feel that way about plastic doesn’t mean I would condemn or shame you for using it the way you want.
We’re going to do our best moving forward to be accountable for the waste we produce. That’s about where it ends. I’m not planning on making others accountable for their waste products. We all need to follow our own convictions.
Guess what is going into the landfill that we can’t avoid? The rig we are living in right now. At some point, we will be taking it apart, and it will be put into a dumpster and hauled off along with all the things that couldn’t be recycled.
However, by 2022, our hope is that we no longer will need to bring anything to the dump. At least, that’s the plan.
Are you living a zero waste lifestyle or looking to move in that direction? What are some of the changes you made to keep yourself accountable?
Plastic has become the foundation of our modern life. From simple things like straws and food containers to life-saving devices and commercial packaging, it is here to stay. You would be hardpressed today to find real clothing. Most clothes today are made from plastic or a combination of a poly-cotton blend. People cook with it, store things in it, and find it difficult to live without.
We are no different from everyone else. Sometimes I think we’re worse because we know better! By ‘we’ I mean Dom and me. Back in 2011, we started the process of getting rid of plastic products from our home. Toys, storage and food containers, even clothes. We purchased glass jars and bowls for storing food and made the effort to shop for only cotton, wool, silk and natural fibers for our clothes.
Then we sold our house and moved 10 times over the course of 4 years. When our lives were constantly in flux, it made it difficult to make being plastic-free a priority.
Always in the back of my mind is that gnawing feeling of guilt that we have not kept our commitment to being plastic-free.
Dom and I recommitted to phasing out plastic as much as possible starting in 2020. I was very grieved by the lack of reusable materials I was creating for our coffee company, especially during the holiday rush. Everything from packing peanuts from companies shipping me supplies to my own use of lots of plastic products that are cheap and readily available has made me pause and decide to be accountable for my part in our plastic problem.
This year we’ll be transitioning our coffee company to more sustainable and compostable materials used in the creation and distribution of our products. From coffee bags with tin ties to glassine inner bags and paper bag outer packaging that is still tied with twine. I was embossing every bag I put coffee in which created a very unique packaging with texture and layers. I will be keeping the texture, just not with my own embossing. You see, the embossing powders I use are plastic, which gets melted onto each bag I emboss. I’ve embossed a few thousand bags in the last year and not a single one of them could be taken from the kitchen and put into a compost pile and turned into soil.
I know that not everyone composts. But we do. I don’t want to burden the garbage dump with our garbage because I couldn’t figure out a more clever way to have sustainable packaging. While not everyone composts and farms or gardens, many use recycling. Unfortunately in our rural county, we don’t have a recycling program. Garbage is either sent to the dump or it’s burned. We’ve done both. We’ve also separated plastic, glass, metal and brought it to Silver City where it could be recycled, however, Silver City no longer recycles glass (from what I was told) and we would need to drive our glass recyclables all the way to Las Cruces to dispose of them. I’m sorry, but there is nothing sustainable about spending over $50 in gas to take our glass containers to a place three hours away from us just to get rid of glass.
Sometimes things feel insane to my brain.
I’ve been looking at alternatives for our coffee company, as well as future farm products and things for our personal use. We don’t see how we can be 100% plastic free and maybe its because I’ve been in plastic for so long that I see no way out completely.
As an example, write now as I write this sentence, I’m sitting on a chair that has a plastic foam cushion. My old raggedy gray sweater is acrylic (plastic) and not wool, the keyboard I tap my fingers on…plastic. The modem, plastic. The paint that coats my desk holding my computer? Plastic. The little area rug under me? Plastic. My printers, mostly plastic.
There are so many things that we have that are made from this ubiquitous material. Cutting down and replacing where possible is the only solution we see as being responsible.
So what do we do with the things we are phasing out? If it’s a product that still has years of use, we’ll give it to those who need/want it. If its something that can no longer be used, we’ll recycle it. And that’s where it ends. I don’t want to a part of this problem any longer.
Animals are dying, people are dying. They don’t realize how many chemicals are in the plastic and they’re cooking or warming up food in it. And let’s not get started with the fact that all these products are petroleum-based and polluting our planet while they are being manufactured. Polluting the earth while the petroleum is being extracted.
Here are some of the things we’re looking to incorporate into our lives from now on. We’re not buying everything all at once, but instead, budget it in over the course of a few years. Slow and simple works best for us.
We regularly use Ball jars for storing foods, and we also have flip-top jars for storage, but we’ll be migrating over to jars with a wood top. Mostly because I love the way they look. We would put gluten-free pasta, rice, dried and other non-perishables in them.
We’ll be transitioning away from Ball jars for canning to Weck jars. One of the problems with regular mason or ball jars is that you need new jar lids each time you can something and the lining of the jar has a plastic coating on it. While I’m not condemning those who can using Ball, Kerr, or Mason jars, I’m just saying that we don’t want to use them for our family, or for future farm products that we will be offering. The lids on Weck jars are glass and do not contain any type of poly coating. This summer I canned up peach preserves and thought of giving them as gifts this Christmas to our family, but I changed my mind and decided to wait until after we own Weck jars to give food as gifts for the holiday season.
Plus, I love the way they look. 🙂
Another step we’ll be making to reduce waste is to purchase in bulk or to take our containers to the co-op to fill our jars with what we need. I wouldn’t be bringing jars, but instead cotton or linen sacks so that the clerk can tare the sack before weighing. This can be done with most dried goods. We can also utilize the store’s meat department to have our meat wrapped with paper instead of plastic-lined butcher paper.
For clothing and shoes, I think this is the most difficult for us. Real clothing is expensive. And that’s the rub for us. Organic cotton, 100% wool, real silk, flax linen…all very costly. Especially when you have a man that can wear out a pair of pants in a matter of just a few weeks. He uses everything to its bitter end! Holes in the knees in just under a month, worn thin because he works harder than any man I know.
A daughter who is growing faster than I care to admit! She’s on the fast track to being as tall as Dom in the next few years. She’s tall with these supermodel legs that just won’t stop growing! Her feet? She’s already wearing my size shoes and she hasn’t turned 13 yet. It’s difficult finding clothes that she will wear because she only likes POLYESTER clothing. Yes, that wasn’t a typo. This kid loves all the fuzzy poly clothes. I’ve purchased her merino wool sweaters in the past, and she even thinks those are itchy. I gulp on the thought of buying her leather $75 shoes that she will outgrow in a matter of two months. And that’s just shoes! Boots and play shoes she’s pretty rough on as well.
Simmi sleeps with about 10 blankets. That is not an exaggeration. From greatest to least, every time she gets a new blanket, she adds it to her collection. She even sleeps with all of them in the summer. There is only one fully cotton blanket in the bunch, and that is the quilt I made for her back in 2013.
She’s also not fond of my quilt, although she’s begging for me to make her a new one. When I do, it will be of organic cotton with a real wool batting. I have enough raw wool to last a few years. A friend of ours calls us to pick up the wool when she has her sheep sheared each year. So far I’ve collected about 5 large bags full of wool, just waiting to be processed.
I’m not sure how to get Simmi onboard with our transition. I’ll be purchasing new merino wool blankets next month, and my hope is that she’ll see how much better it is than the acrylic blankets she’s hoarding right now. My goal is to have her (and us) outfitted for the fall and winter of 2020 with organic cotton sheets, merino wool blanket, and a goose down blanket. I’ll also be making pillows for us to sleep on with the wool we have.
I’m taking it slow with Simmi. She’s been through a lot in the last four years and only now has started to understand that we are finally home. No more moving! No more needing to worry about if I am going to get sick again, or watching me suffer losing my hair and not being able to breathe. It’s a lot for a little kid to go through. My older children went through it too.
Personal products such as toothbrushes can easily be replaced with a bamboo toothbrush with natural bristles.
There are so many personal care products we can get relatively inexpensive instead of using plastic products. We’ll get there, and my hope is that by this time next year our family will be a little more plastic-free. It’s a great goal for our lives.
2020 is here! Happy New Year.
Dom and I haven’t sat down to officially write down our goals and intentions for the new year, but as usual, they are pretty big and exciting. First, I’d love to recap 2019 and touch on our future plans because it was a pretty incredible year for us.
Our initial plans prior to moving here included others who are no longer living on the land. They’ve moved on to new and exciting adventures. As things shifted, for some strange reason, my thinking did not. I still went about working on the land as though the others were still present. It took a good six months for me to plan out how the land would best function with others also living here, which mainly had to do with our planned gardens.
Since everyone has moved on, we’ve finally changed the direction of our plans for farming and living.
Our camping came to an end at the beginning of November. We were hit with a cold snap that went right through Dom and he was unable to handle the cold during the evening. Simmi and I were fine, but since he was feeling it in his bones, we made the transition from our tents to the rig where we have woodstoves to keep warm. We’ve been updating the rig for us to live in since we had only planned on the rig being used for Buffalo Mountain.
It was a good thing that Dom changed his mind about tent living because the tents were old when we purchased them and sun-worn in our high desert climate. About two weeks after we moved into the rig, we had a few very strong storms that ripped the tents to shreds. We had already moved all our things out of the tents, and if we had stayed the course it could have been disastrous.
I think often to what could have happened if we installed our woodstoves and decided to stay put. The tents ripped wide open in the middle of the night. All our belongings would have been ruined, including our mattresses. It would have been a financial nightmare.
Buffalo Mountain Coffee:
Our coffee company has been going through quite a bit of growing pains and I have felt the squeeze. Since we moved into the rig, we needed to move everything for Buffalo Mountain to another section of the rig, separate from our living space. Doing this reduced greatly the amount of room I had to work with. I had three areas originally for work which included an office, an art studio, and the coffee room, but Simmi will be moving into my office, Dom and I are in my art studio, and all our equipment and inventory is in one small space.
In the coffee room (as I call it) I have to work in stages, which really drags out the hours I work. We’ve made it as efficient as possible, however, my workflow suffers quite a bit. The roastery is our top priority but it needs to be balanced with what we need for our family.
From November up to me writing this blog post, we had so many orders come in for the holiday season that there were many nights I never even went to sleep. Dom works in construction and we’re not at a place financially yet where he can work full time at Buffalo Mountain, so I designed the space to be only used by me, and made it impossible for us to hire outside help for the season. This set great limitations on what he could do to help get orders out the door. Buffalo Mountain was severely short-staffed! The fact that we still only have one car adds insult to injury because it would mean that after being up all night filling orders, I had to take him to work each day.
I was exhausted! I still am. However, financially we were able to move Buffalo Mountain forward significantly. I don’t take an income from our company yet because everything is always reinvested back to the company to move us forward. We bootstrapped our coffee company so we wouldn’t have a huge debt load or burden. While it is difficult at times bootstrapping, I’m glad we chose to do it that way.
We have the supplies necessary to finish the roastery and some of the other projects we’re working on. There are some very wonderful people in our community who have donated lumber, windows, and other materials and we will have everything we need to get our plans accomplished in the new year. We chose to use recycled materials because it helps others in the community to get rid of what they don’t need, and it helps us to utilize actual money on things we can’t get recycled, like inventory, supplies, and assets vital to Buffalo Mountain.
In the wake of the holiday rush, I was flabbergasted by the amount of waste that is produced by Buffalo Mountain. There is very little about our company that is environmentally friendly, and that is a problem for us. In building our company, I didn’t really consider using products that were environmentally friendly because they were cost-prohibitive. However, with the mountain of waste products in the form of label backing, plastic tape, and other things that can’t be composted here on the farm, we’ve decided to change our packaging moving forward.
We’ll be phasing out what we use now, by using it up and slowly transitioning to an environmentally friendly packaging. We won’t be using sticky labels any more. I have found a company that sells labels that can be compostable, but they are still quite cost-prohibitive, and I don’t want to pass that cost onto our customers.
2020 is looking amazing for Buffalo Mountain. In 2019 we made three times the amount we did in 2018. It’s great to watch the growth, year over year.
As I mentioned, we are currently living in the rig. For those who don’t know what the rig is, it’s an RV with four additions built onto it prior to us buying the land. It was used mainly for Buffalo Mountain before we moved in. Now that we’re in the rig, we’ve turned our attention to making it more liveable for us over the next year. We want our space to be comfortable, but not too comfortable that we don’t move forward with our house plans.
The addition/rooms put onto the rig were built with pallets. They didn’t have insulation so insulation was added to the office space and where we sleep.
There were places in the rig where wild animals could get in, and we had a very interesting thing happen one night about three weeks ago.
Simmi came into our room saying there was a skunk in the rig in the middle of the night. I didn’t believe her because it just sounded absurd to my sleeping brain. But it was true. It was a baby skunk not more than about 5 inches from nose to tail.
He came up under the rig and found a small hole to climb into. Then he made his way down to our room and got snapped in a trap we had set for mice. He started jumping and trying to free himself and started spraying his little stinky scent everywhere. Dom was able to get him out of the house and by the time he got him outside, the little guy died. Dom buried him in a burlap sack out in our ash pit.
I had a reaction to the smell of that tiny little cutie pie. He didn’t have a full skunk smell, just the smell of onions and garlic. Within about an hour, I passed out for six hours. My body couldn’t handle his scent.
Not everyone was as repelled as I was by his scent…his mother found his scent and tried to dig him up. He was already dead, but she refused to leave the sack. She stayed on the ash pile for three days and died. It was quite heartbreaking. Simmi cried, I was upset, and Dom was disturbed. We have never witnessed such dedication as that of a mother skunk. We brought her food and tried to help, but if we got close to her she would have sprayed us.
Dom found any holes where an animal could climb into the rig and closed them up.
The mama skunk was such a beautiful little creature. I think she was still young herself because she hadn’t reached the full size of a mature skunk.
Anyway, sealing up any small holes in the rig will prevent such a tragedy from happening again.
Rehabbing the rig is going slow, but soon we’ll pick up the pace. For the last six weeks, it has been nonstop work for me with Buffalo Mountain as well as homeschooling Simmi. Not an easy task to do both fulltime. But I made it work!
Our lumber keeps arriving from neighbors and people in our county, and we’re confident we have what we need to now gut the main part of the rig and redo it.
The kitchen will be refinished. All the cabinets and the RV bathroom will be removed and in its place, we’ll have bottom and top open shelves.
We have a full-sized Kohler sink and a white Chambers Stove to install. The stove we will be picking up the end of January when things settle down with Buffalo Mountain. Orders are still coming, so it’s difficult to get away for the day.
I’m so excited about getting this stove. I’ve known about Chambers Stoves for a long time, just didn’t think we’d ever have the money to afford one…especially one that has the pots and pans that go with it! I’m geeking out just thinking about it.
The Chambers Stove we’ll be installing is a model A from the year 1936-1939. It has all the bells and whistles of a classic Chambers Stove, AND the backsplash folds down to create more counter space when not in use. That comes in handy when you’re in close quarters on the rig. We also needed something that was thin enough to fit through the RV door, and the Chambers is just a little slimmer than the RV door opening.
It took a long time to find this model. When I found the seller, we struck up not only a conversation about coming to buy it, but became friends and may even partner on future projects between our coffee company and her catering company. The above photos are not of our stove, but ones I grabbed off the internet. Ours needs a bit of work to clean her up and shine again, but they can be restored beautifully. I’m so excited!
We currently are using the RV stove and oven that was in the rig. While I LOVE cooking on it, it just doesn’t provide the space we need to roast things. It has served its purpose so far, but if we plan on living in here for the next year or so, we need the space to be as accommodating as possible. I know me, and if things don’t start to flow the way we need them to as a family, depression and apathy will set in and Dom and I will start feeling sorry for ourselves. Haha That is NOT a pretty sight!
We’ve learned that when our surroundings aren’t what we need them to be, we become complacent, tired, and even depressed. It happened to us early on in our marriage when we would have to move into a new place that wasn’t optimal for us. Over the years, we’ve learned that we need to make something home before we start feeling homesick. It sounds like an oxymoron, but truly, homesick isn’t just for those who miss being home after being away. It’s also being sick mentally and physically while living in your home.
Neither of us wants to be homesick. No thanks!
As soon as we get our rig completely rehabbed (I’ll do a blog post about it), we’ll turn our attention to the roastery. After the roastery is finished, we’ll turn our attention to working in phases on our new house. We had planned on building a cabin, but since we moved into the rig, we won’t need to build a cabin until we’re ready to get rid of the rig. The new cabin will be designed as a guest cabin and we’ll stay in that after the rig is removed and until our house is built.
A few ideas I’ve grabbed from pinterest for inspiration in how we’ll redesign the main part of the rig. We don’t have a lot of height/headroom so we wouldn’t have as many upper shelves, but painting everything white and opening up the space will help it become more functional for us.
I’m debating whether to use our live edge shelving for the rig. I love the look, but I want to use what we have for our future permanent kitchen space. I’m on the fence about. Nothing is set in stone though.
I love the open shelves and open bottom shelf design. We have what we need to do a new floor as well as all the countertops and shelves.
Between the countertop and the first shelf, I’ve chosen long subway tiles that are a bit wonky. I love the texture and movement in them. They’re a bit expensive, but because the area we’ll be using them is small, we’re willing to invest in my sanity and create a backsplash that will make me smile every day. Investing in my sanity is a real thing, by the way!
We’re unsure of the style we’ll use for shelf brackets. I love the black angle iron but it’s costly. However, because they can be removed when we’re ready to remove the rig, I may want to invest in these, knowing they would be put into our final kitchen.
We purchased a full year of workshops and tutorials for building a cob home as a Christmas gift for each other. Our goal is to build our cob home where the rig currently is. Because of my issues with electricity, this house will not have any electricity or plumbing. The plumbing part has to do with my severe allergy to molds. Our main bathroom will be located on the exterior of the house inside an attached greenhouse. Technically it will be in the house, but the greenhouse makes the bathroom separate. Water damaged buildings create mold that is difficult to get rid of. Having any running water inside a house is inviting disaster to my health.
Our cob house will have bedrooms, a living room, a dining room, an apothecary, and a music room, but the kitchen will be separate and completely outdoors, connected by a porch/overhang. This will not be a ragtag kitchen. Instead, it will be designed with rustic elegance and equipped to handle the winter weather. I’ll share more on that as we finish up our final designs.
We’re redesigning the infrastructure. My plans had to be scrapped when Dom wanted to build a cob home. He wants to play in the mud and sculpt our house. Who am I to deny him such a winsome desire? Building a cob house will require a huge amount of earth for not only the walls but also the plasterwork. I created a plan (it took a long time to design) for our potager garden which is a 60’x60′ patch of earth located right next to the market garden. It was the area the horses were in when we first moved here.
Well, my need for having a pond and Dom’s need to play with mud caused me to change my mind about the location of the potager. We’ll be digging out that area to make cob and the hole it creates will make our pond/living swimming pool.
A living swimming pool is a deep pond with a buffer zone where aquaculture is cultivated. No chemicals are used and the buffer zone filled with plants cleans the water. I’ve seen them done complex as well as simple. We’re going for simple.
I want this pond to be passive with only a solar aerator to keep the water moving. I have seen them done very similar to a pool, where a bog is created and water is pumped from the bottom of the pond to the bog where it flows down back into the pond, but it would drive me up a wall to hear the pump going night and day. It would also create an unpleasant electrical field that I would start avoiding since electrical fields cause hives and heart palpitations in me. I want a system that can clean the water passively while creating habitat and a new microclimate for the area.
Plus, it doesn’t hurt that it would be located about 60+ feet from our house. A pond in front of the house? Yes, please! One that Simmi and our family and friends can swim in? Hell yeah.
We haven’t decided on the shape of the pond yet. We just know we want to start digging it in the next year.
By the way, none of these things will be done quickly. But they will be done! My timeline doesn’t work according to everyone else’s beliefs of when a project should start and finish. We have a lot going on in our lives, and I won’t allow myself or Dom to rush through things just to check them off of some list. We want these things and we are willing to wait in order to do them properly and without killing ourselves in the process.
There are so many things that need to happen before we can even start digging a pond. The pond is a part of the new farm infrastructure.
We have the materials we need to start building our duck yards. We’ll be building fencing, a mini pond with its own bog, and a few duck houses. There will be two areas of the duck yard. On one side, there will be housing, food, and water. On the other side, their pond will be finished. The pond is an old water trough from cows that used to graze on the land a long time ago. It’s hooked up to the well. The two areas are separated because anyone who has ducks knows, these little cute quirky birds love to party all night and spend lots of time mating.
They will be trained to stay in the area where there is food, water, and housing at night, and at mid-morning be allowed access to their pond area. Ducks aren’t like chickens where they go into a coop and lay eggs. No, they walk along and boop! one falls out. From my experience, they also lay at night or very early morning. If they are given access to a large piece of land every morning would become an easter egg hunt. Some ducks will try to hide their eggs, and keeping ducks in a smaller area makes it easier to find them.
Galeno is standing in the water trough in the photo on the right. Half of the trough will be made into a bog, the rest of it will be water. It’ll be lined with a rubber membrane and then rocks will be added. We’ll also have a spigot attached so that we can take the duck poop water and use it on plants that aren’t root vegetables. Plants love duck poop water and it won’t burn them.
In the background, you can see the area that will be turned into a living swimming pond. The ducks will not have access to the pond and will only be in their duck yard. They would put too much stress on the pond.
We’ll be finishing our chicken composting run as well. We’re nearly there, but it came to a screeching halt when we kept putting all our attention on things that kept redirecting us personally. I’ll leave it at that because we had to deal with some pretty disturbing things in 2019.
We won’t be getting animals until after our trip to California. We are planning to take a trip sometime between March and June. We thought we’d go for our 16 year anniversary, but then thought it would be nice to go a little later and celebrate Simmi’s 13th birthday. She’s never been to the pacific ocean, the San Diego Zoo, Sea World or any other place. Her life-threatening food allergies always kept us from traveling by plane. But since we live only about 14 hours from California, we can drive there. We want to do so before we get animals because we don’t want to worry about feeding schedules and things like that.
It will be our first trip ever going on a vacation. It will most likely be the only one we ever take. I don’t like traveling to different places. It stresses me out. I love being at home or taking day trips. That’s about it!
We will start with chickens, ducks, and turkeys in early summer. We would love to plant this year, but I’m not sure yet what that looks like since I have no idea where I’m putting the potager garden. In the market garden, we can get that ready, but again, with our upcoming trip to California, it would be better to wait until after we return home to start planting.
I’ve been recovering very well, but I want to speed up my process. Back in November, I started an elimination diet to see what foods were causing lingering inflammation and autoimmune problems. I have a very high pain threshold, so pain for me is different than pain for others. What causes me to ache might be crippling for others. My body has always been that way. Anyway, there is an underlying discomfort that I’ve had for years that I want to be gone.
I’ve tweaked my health over the last few years since returning to New Mexico. If I were still living on the east coast…I would be near death if not already dead. The mold in buildings triggers an autoimmune response and horrible stuff starts happening to me.
My last big flareup was in August 2018 and it lasted through Christmas. I don’t feel 100% and if I think about it, I haven’t felt 100% in years. So I’ve jumped on the carnivore meat wagon. It’s the ultimate elimination diet. I’ve tried to just eat only animal products like eggs, cheese, dairy, butter, pork, fish and shellfish, poultry, lamb and beef, however, I still had issues that wouldn’t clear up. After seeing many of my fellow autoimmune warriors switch to ruminant meat, salt, and water diet and completely send their disorder into remission, I knew I should try it for at least six months. I will also be mostly consuming my beef raw, which I already have been doing since last year.
It’s not a big deal in that I already eat that way, I’m just removing some of the tasty things I have always loved. That will be the difficult part. I’m committed though to figuring out what foods are affecting my body. I’ll revisit reintroducing other foods into my diet in six months unless I’m feeling fantastic and don’t want to jinx it.
It’s been a while since I’ve done an update on what we’re up to, so I think I’ll stop there. I’m hoping to write more this year. I tend to go quiet during busy times or disturbing times. Long pauses in my posts happen, but I want to make the effort this year to put at least two posts per week out. I don’t know if I can make that happen, but I’m willing to try.
I hope everyone has an amazing New Year, filled with blessings, hope, courage, new direction, and clear vision! It’s the start of a new month, new year, and a new decade, and I’m glad I get to share it all with you. Be safe!