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.

 

Setting Up a Work Station

Setting Up a Work Station

The last couple of Saturdays we finally spent a lot more time down at our land. Dom cleared more weeds and put up our tent. This tent will serve as our bathroom and supply tent for things we want to keep out of the elements. Inside is a composting toilet, bathroom supplies, baby wipes, and other things we don’t want to lug down every week as we work.

Our friends lent us two more tents so that we have a place for Simmi to play and do her school work during the week when we’re down there working.

We brought down our propane camp stove, our on-demand water, and when we get hold of a small sink, we’ll add that as well. When you have a child with multiple life-threatening food allergies, it’s imperative that running hot water is always available. We can’t wash dishes in a little tub filled with water that gets nasty and filthy. We need a continuous stream of hot soapy water to wash dishes. Having a working camp kitchen is essential to us getting anything meaningful done while we are building.

Our workstation is set up near the well and spigot, so we’ll be able to not only cook food and wash dishes while we are here, but we’ll also be able to prepare the garden beds.

We also set up a fire pit and smoke wall. Bushcrafters call them fire reflectors, but ours isn’t to bring heat near the tent. It’s simply a way to attract the smoke away from the tent. I like how our smoke wall came out and Dom had a blast playing with the small branches to weave them all in. There weren’t any real straight branches to create the wall, so he just got creative.

I love the final product.

At a lot of hardware stores, they sell campfire grills so we’ll probably invest in one of those in the next week since we love cooking over an open fire.

I’ll also be creating a new page that will list either free, repurposed or purchased materials and the running totals of how much we are spending each week.

I will be calling the page Farmstead Milestones (or something like that). I know that others will be curious about the expenses. I’ll say right off the bat we are not interested in getting huge loans, and so this whole process of building the infrastructure and outbuildings comes with the very slow and tiny steps towards our goals. It could take YEARS for us to finally get to build our actual house, but since we decided to stay debt free, bootstrapping it is our only viable option.

Instead of always relying on purchasing materials, we have lots of wood, stones, clay, sand, grasses, and leaves to choose from. I like that nature has a hand in sculpting our experiences here.

I want to walk along (as I already have) and spy a massively curved branch that is both rugged and elegant, and say to myself, “THAT! would be beautiful in the living room holding up the ceiling!”

My heart isn’t in dimensional lumber. It is in the sexy curves of trees that grow gnarly and waiting for the chance to be noticed. It’s the relationship we have to the land. That’s where my heart is and I want everything we build to reflect that.

This is the area on the other side of the fence where our canvas tent structures and outdoor kitchen and bathroom will be located. The tents will be semi-permanent in the pasture, but when removed the only thing that will remain is covered area and permanent bathroom. It will be a great place to sit and observe (and enjoy) the larger animals.

Simmi helping with the process of stomping the area flat.

This is such a great shot of where the potager garden will go.

Dom was in a state of deep contentment as he dug the firepit AND listened to Simmi sing while banging rocks into the pit’s edge.

Dom is removing some posts where the market garden greenhouse will stand.

Putting up the second tent.

This second tent is for Simmi to play in when she brings her friend down on Saturdays. When we are here during the week to work, it’s for her to do her school work in.

If it were late spring or early summer we would be camping out every day! But these tents aren’t warm enough to sustain us in the bitter cold.

Simmi and her friend Angel are reading Diary of a Whimpy Kid.

He’s eye candy to my soul.

The first three grow beds have been strung. The footprint of this area is 15’x60′. Over the top of these beds will be a high wind and snow load greenhouse. Before we create the middle grow bed, we need to install 4’x4’s. The greenhouse won’t be installed until sometime in January. Our hope is to have the market garden strung and created while we’re waiting on fencing for the potager garden area. We can’t start that process because the four large adorable pit bulls that have full access to the area would get busy pulling out all our stakes and dig holes everywhere. Silly dogs!

This is one of the big slobbery babies that live here.

This is very close to the same type of greenhouse we’ll be installing. It will not be heated at all. It’s mainly a season extender for high-value crops like tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, basil, etc.

All the way at the end of the rows there is a shadowy area. It will shade less than a 1/4 of the greenhouse. That area will be used to start seed in the spring.

We brought down our heavy duty propane camp stove, propane hot water on demand, and turkey fryer. We have never used the turkey fryer to cook a turkey. Instead, we use it boil hot water to process poultry.

I love how everything is coming together. Over the next few weeks, we’ll have more materials to work with. We need some T-posts and poultry fencing to start a composting chicken run, and this week I’ll be designing the chicken coop. Currently, there are about 10-15 chickens roaming around with the four dogs, so we want to get them into their own space and working for their food. A composting run will allow them to eat lots of yummy scraps and weed seeds, keep them safe from predation, and begin the process of moving them from regular dry feed to lacto-fermented feed. The chicken composting run divides the two gardens right down the center. On the left of the chicken run is the market garden, and on the right side of the run is the potager garden.

As we work the land, previous plans and ideas give way to more practical plans. If we don’t spend time down there, we can see where the winds come from, when the trees cast shadows throughout the day, which areas contain more moisture than others, and what is the prime garden real estate. HA! It wasn’t until we put up the second tent that we realized that the rich sandy loam that is beneath the second tent is prime real estate and shouldn’t be used to house animals. Instead it should be used to feed people AND animals.

Stay tuned! Great things are still to come.

 

 

 

 

 

Home at Last!

Home at Last!

We’re home! We arrived in Reserve, NM on January 25. Altogether the trip took 5 days and 4 nights. Most of our hotel stays were moldy in the bathrooms and just added more insult to injury with regards to my health. One of the hotel stays was so bad that we had to flee at 6:00 am because my breathing was so labored that I couldn’t stop coughing and sneezing.

We are located about 12 miles south of the main town of Reserve. Our house is a tiny little adobe building with two bedrooms and open area where there is a kitchen, dining area, and living room. We were amazed that we could fit all our stuff into this little structure. We had to get creative with the space in order to make it work, but it’s coming along nicely.

I thought I would give a picture tour of the property and at a later date, when our house is fully set up, I’ll give a little tour of the interior. We still have pictures to hang, more clothes to unpack, and shelves to hang.

Sometime in the future we’ll probably paint as well, but for now, because I’m still recovering it wouldn’t be wise for us to paint. The chemicals would affect my lungs too much. This little adobe place is a landing of sorts. It’s a mold free environment for me to heal, and as we get to know the area, locate a place where we can build our house. Our hope is that we can build very close to where we are at right now.

The house we want to build would be completely non-electric. That means no solar or alternative power either. It’s fine for in the buildings we’re using for our coffee business and other exciting plans we have, but our home will be built with no electricity. I’ll touch upon that subject at a later time.

So, where do we live? We live on a 40-acre plot of land that has three spring fed ponds (stocked with fish) in the Gila National Forest. We are at an elevation of 5,700 and we are surrounded by astonishing beauty, amazing rock outcroppings, canyons, evergreens, grasses, and wild game. The water here is crystal clear and tastes like heaven.

Just a week ago, I couldn’t walk more than a few minutes without sitting down, and I needed a nap at mid-day or lay down for a short period of time because I would become too dizzy to stand, and now one week later not only can I walk without running out of breath, but I can walk a whole block, as well as walk to the ponds. The first pond is directly behind our house up a little hill. Because of that hill, you don’t even know the pond is there. The first pond spills over and travels to the second pond, and then to the third pond. I have not made it as far as the second pond, but in the next week I know I’ll be able to accomplish that as well. I’m trying not to push myself too hard.

I’m so excited about these ponds. They are pure poetry.

In looking at it from an aerial view, it’s easier to see the vast beauty of the 40 acres. Over the next year, I’ll be planning out the different zones surrounding the riparian areas. Then observing the best way to utilize the land for orchards, gardens, and market gardens. It’s such a big project that it will take years to complete. I feel beyond blessed to have this land to cultivate.

Our county has a very large population of elk. The elk outnumber people and can be a nuisance or downright destructive in agricultural systems. I was so excited to see the first 10 acres being prepped for elk fencing. We don’t have a date yet on when the fencing will be installed…and I was so thrilled to see the tractor out there today!

There is a cute little greenhouse and a few garden plots that looked like there were tyme and other herbs growing maybe last year.

Here is another exciting area. Behind the cottonwood tree is the wood structure that will become our coffee roastery.

Here is a close-up shot. It’s just a stick built shed. The whole building, including any additions we put onto it will be done in salvaged very old doors and windows, and the walls will be infilled with straw-light-clay. The coffee roaster will be a cob/stone hearth, and the coffee will be wood fire roasted. I will be talking with the people who made my coffee drum about making a 20-30 pound drum custom for our new roasting hearth. Our inspiration for roasting coffee this way comes from Summermoon wood fired coffee. Below is a photo of their roaster. Ours will be similar in many ways.

The building will have very little power coming to it, and off the side of the building will be the art studio I need for creating the different products we sell for Buffalo Mountain Coffee Roasting Company.

I roasted our first few batches of coffee on February 1, and after a few roasts, I was able to get a feel for what it will be like to roast in the high desert. Altitude can affect how coffee is roasted, so I wanted to make sure I could get it consistent with how I roasted when we lived in West Virginia.

Our Etsy shop for our coffee company is now open for business if anyone is interested in buying coffee. Click here to visit our Etsy shop. 

I will be working on Buffalo Mountain’s website to offer coffee for sale there as well, it was just a low priority last year while we were building our business.

Okay, back to our little tour…

Here’s a cool little building that is right next to the roastery. At first, we thought it might be something we would want to restore and make our home, but after seeing that it is so close to the access road for the pond, we felt it would be better served as a bait and vermiculture area. Worms baby! I think it would be a great area to sell worms since people love to come fishing at the pond.

It’s in rough shape, but it’s dry inside. It just needs a little TLC and a torch. Haha, no, just the TLC and a roof.

And no, it’s not haunted.

You might be tempted to think that it’s just termites holding hands, but under that weathered wood is plastered walls. 😉

Our house is heated by a tiny little woodstove. It does a pretty good job of keeping us warm at night. We also have two propane heaters, but we don’t use them often.

This gorgeous creature showed up and is such a great outside companion for Simmi. We’re allergic to cats, so it was nice to see him show up and hang out with us. There are three other cats as well, but they don’t stick around like he does. Simmi named him Fluffy Lucky.

There is also a gorgeous beautifully natured dog that comes around. Her name is Whisper and her person is a contractor who works in town a lot. She tags along with him, and comes to hang out with me when I’m roasting coffee. She got her name because she doesn’t make a sound. No barking. She’s like the perfect dog.

Life is good here! We are settling in, making a life for ourselves here, and enjoying the beauty of New Mexico once again. It’s good to be home.

The Mulching Continues

IMG_1488

Today was another productive day. Noah has been on spring break and he helped move the rest of the mulch that was in the greenhouse to the north east quadrant. On Sunday I got quite a bit accomplished laying mulch around some of the fruit trees. Well, today, before I could lay mulch, I needed to rework each basin around the fruit trees.

Last year the chickens scratched up and flattened all the basins. The way our earthworks are laid out, there are two swales dug about four feet IMG_1480deep and four feet wide on contour. Both swales are filled with dead trees, branches, sticks, twigs and anything else we could fill the swale with. Then each swale was filled with dirt, and then on the west side of each swale, Dom installed a berm. It’s on this berm that the fruit trees are planted.

On the berm, we had basins dug so that each tree could be watered individually. Without a basin, the water would just run off.

Although there’s a lot of water stored in each swale, I still decided to build new basins and deeply water. As I dug the basins, the soil was already very moist. Swales help cut down on our need to water, although we do have weeper hoses on the berms.

The weepers were installed to help establish new fruit trees planted on the berm. We’ll leave them in place until we’re done planting the berms.

This year I plan on installing more fruit trees and berry bushes on the berms, but once they are all established, the weeper hoses will be removed and used in other areas.

Tomorrow the work continues. I have weed seeds to burn, and more areas to clean up. I’m about 75% finished with the north east quadrant, and I hope to be finished with this particular quadrant tomorrow. Then it’s on to the next section.

Today Dom got in touch with a local tree company, and it looks like we’ll be getting regular deliveries of wood chips. This company was taking their wood chips to the dump! GAH! As Dom was talking to the owner on the phone he was actually delivering the wood chips to dump. Dom told him he’ll never have to pay the dump again. Woot! He’ll just bring all the chips here and save himself a ton of money.

Here’s more photos of the day:

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New Growth, Revived Hope

Can you see it?! It’s so exciting to watch something planted spring up.
In the photo to the left are a whole mess of things growing.

  • Delicata Squash
  • Corn
  • Bolita beans
  • Amaranth
  • A French variety of scalloped squash

Yesterday it looked like it was going to rain. The winds kicked up and it misted only slightly and then BAM! we got hit with a major wind storm.

Dom scrambled outside to stake one of the pear trees since it was swaying a little too much.

I was checking on the new seedlings, wondering if they would make it through the desiccating wind.

I took these photos this morning, so…YES! so far they did make it.

Some of the straw blew away yesterday, but as you can see, in this section, no straw was lost.

Another interesting observation is that we never prepared any of the soil these seedlings are growing in. It’s straight up sand and duck poop water. That’s it. Oh, and of course water. 😉

Here are a few more photos from this morning:

Here are some peaches that stayed on the tree through the storm. We lost a lot of fruit early in the season due to wind storms:

A few different shots of squash fruiting. By the way, we will have way too much squash this year. Last year we only has a few zucchini and summer squash plants and we still had way too many…hopefully we’ll be able to sell them this year:

And finally one more photo of our artichokes…I’m going to let them flower:

See all the lush green tumbleweeds in the background?! There isn’t enough time in the day to get all the weeds. 😉

At this time last year:

Actually it was on June 7th, 2011 but what’s a few days right?


Awww! A long lost photo of Pinkie named for her pink toe. She died last year bravely trying to swim like a duckling. She so wanted to be like them. Rest in Peace Pinkie…we love you.

Sheet Mulching is Energy Intensive


Today was an extremely long day. The sun has been intense, the labor intense, the weeding intense…geez! I’m exhausted.

While Noah watched Simone for us, Dom, Gina and I went to work sheet mulching. Okay, well, mostly it was Gina and Dom, since I was circulating from watering trees and seedlings, to weeding and also helping them with the garden beds.

As of today, eight long garden beds have been laid.

Tomorrow we have a lot to plant:

  • 8 new crab apple trees for the chicken pasture
  • 2 Sea Buckthorn
  • 2 Elderberry
  • 2 Lilac
  • Lots and lots of huckleberries

We’ll also be setting out a bunch of tomato plants to harden off on the front porch. The nice thing about the front porch is that the sun is blazing on it for a few hours before the sun sets, which warms the bricks and then gently radiates heat through the night.

Below is what’s left of our compost:

The compost heap originally extended all the way out beyond the tarps onto the gravel. We’re trying to be sparing with the compost since we still have a lot more to plant. 🙁