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!
The months of July, August and now September have been a flurry of activity. With our lives in a constant state of flux (the story of my life) sometimes I feel I don’t have a second to breathe. Our attention and time forever pulled away from us towards something pressing that needs to be done. Property clean up, well and septic inspections, getting rid of things on the property that isn’t needed, and it keeps us in a holding pattern with what we want to do just out of reach!
It’s frustrating but necessary. The one thing that Dom and I learned in walking through this life together is to remove those things that stand like a roadblock in front of us before trying to blaze a new path forward. In the past we would push and push passed something difficult and end up feeling frustrated. Now, we get frustrated as we remove those things that hinder us from moving forward FIRST so we can have a clear vision of how we will proceed.
The weeds are high, the fruits and veggies I planted are still ripening, and little by little the landscape is changing. One trailer is now gone, and in a few weeks, the next trailer will also be gone. Dom had to take down the porch that was connected to the second trailer, and then he has to jackhammer the foundation and remove all the concrete and stones before the trailer can be taken out.
It took most of the day to remove the roof and most of the lumber, which is being reused to build a new area for our washer and dryer and for my coffee roaster.
Some areas of the stone foundation are about a foot thick and the stone and concrete stairs that lead to the door are over three feet thick.
Dom is currently working on three different building projects so his time is extremely limited. We reserve Saturdays for him to rest and take Simmi for some daddy and daughter time down in Silver City where they can play at the park. Most of the time I stay at home with the much needed quiet and catch up on work that might have slipped through my fingers during the week.
We’re under a time crunch with the people coming to take the trailer by the weekend of the 27th. Dom is also going out of town for a few days. I’m often left scratching my head wondering how it will all come together! It’s overwhelming at times.
Not much has happened with the roastery because when we got rid of the first trailer, some of our furniture was being stored in it. We had to move our stuff into the roastery. See, constant flux! We’ll be moving one of our bell tents near the back of the roastery and using it as a storage tent. Once the roastery is completely cleaned out, we can start stuffing the walls with straw light clay.
On the back of the roastery, some of the lumber and roofing from the trailer were used to build an overhang for Ruby my coffee roaster.
This coming weekend Dom will shoot to have another overhang and platform built for the washer and dryer. They were located in the porch that Dom took down. We’ll be moving them to the back where our bathroom is and the washing machine will be plumbed into the hot and cold water. The gray water from the washer will run through a series of brown filters before it empties into the new garden near the roastery.
These are all the little roadblocks that were in the way before we could get down to business!
We were supposed to close on our property the end of August, but the title company was pretty busy, so our new closing is October 1st. We’ve had inspections done. The well inspection passed, and then the septic fun started. Gus Faust was our septic inspector. He did an amazing job, worked with us trying to figure out exactly where the septic even was, and finally unearthing it so it could be inspected. It’s a great system that was installed in the 90’s in perfect condition. The one thing about the system is that there was an addition built onto the front of the rig, and we need to remove it. The septic needs a clearance of 5′ all around it.
That’s another roadblock that needs to be cleared.
Gus removing soil on top of the septic tank to inspect it.
Our shitter isn’t full! Haha Yeah, I had fun putting Cousin Ed on our tank.
Next steps are to remove the front addition. We’ll be reusing all the lumber for a small addition on the side of the roastery. Below is a photo of what would work on the side. To the right of the roastery was where the first trailer was. Now that it’s gone, we can build a patio and the addition for coffee tastings and events.
There have been so many roadblocks but I’m very glad for them. It has caused us to slow down a bit and rethink how we want to move forward. In the process, we have gained new experience as well as insight into what is really important to us. If it wasn’t for the addition needing to be taken apart, I would have never even considered putting an addition on the side of the roastery. Sure, it will take a bit longer, but man, is it going to be fantastic.
I was gonna try and go at breakneck speed to get our market garden completed but then decided that breaking my neck for a few veggies is low on my list of priorities. With the two dogs no longer around, the deer have come and decided that they aren’t afraid of us so they have been hanging out in the garden eating up all my cucumbers. They can’t resist all the acorns that are falling from the oaks. They haven’t touched our peppers…yet! But I feel that one of these days I’ll go out and see all my plants topped.
We’ll finish up the market garden sometime this fall, and start marking the new kitchen garden as well. With our coffee business ramping up and getting ready for homeschooling Simmi in mid-September, I’m still learning how to balance it all. We go at a snail’s pace, but I enjoy every frustrating moment of it all.
We cherish firelight evenings in our tent as Simmi reads to us. The soft glow causes us to calm our brains down and enjoy our time together. After the addition is put onto the roastery, we will be turning our attention to building a winter two room shelter. Most of what will be used will be gathered from our property. Dom has been designing it over the last several weeks. We could go through the winter in our tents, but we’d like to pack them away until late spring and then put them back up for guests in a new location.
I love cabins with living roofs, so that is what we are going to work towards. I can’t wait until we can break ground to start this project.
Our lives have been a flurry of activity…and I love it!
“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!
It’s amazing to me that at this time last year I could barely breathe walking from part of a room to another, I had to shave my head because my hair was falling out so much that it was everywhere. It’s disturbing to see hair all over the place! Moving back to our home state of New Mexico was an act of desperation much like when we first arrived in New Mexico ten years earlier. We learned our lesson that this is our home forever. My mold allergies are so bad that our home state is the only one with the ability to help me recover.
And I am recovering, slowly but surely.
It has been nearly four years since we were raising animals and farming. Now that we have our land, we are moving full speed ahead, biting off more than we can chew, and I’m sure we’ll make plenty of mistakes along the way. I don’t fear making mistakes at all. I never have. It’s how I grow and it keeps me flexible when I want to stay rigid.
Jumping back into farming is something I am so very excited about. Proper planning, however, is key to being successful and profitable. We started the tradition of writing out our goals when we started homesteading in Los Lunas. It feels good to get back into the practice of writing our goals again. In every place that we were at from Vermont to West Virginia, we had grand plans for establishing a garden and keeping small animals, but I would get so sick from each house we lived in that we would need to move.
We moved a total of 10 times since leaving New Mexico four years ago. In 2019 we will make another move onto our land.
2018 was a great year. Our coffee roasting company, Buffalo Mountain, has thrived and made 10 times the amount made in 2017. We can’t yet take an income from it, but I believe by the end of 2019 we will be profitable enough to start paying ourselves. Buffalo Mountain pays for all its own supplies, operating expenses, internet and phone, and electric bill. We will be building the new roastery on the land and it will have an art studio, commercial kitchen, and a farm store attached.
We moved here to Reserve in February, and with the amazing support of our friend Jennifer, who allowed us to rent her little adobe this year, it helped us to get established in Catron County.
Simmi made a new friend named Angel and they have become great friends. It’s the first time she has had a real friend to play with…ever. it’s a pretty big deal!
Simmi has made great progress in her school work. She was evaluated by a dyslexia specialist when we lived in Vermont and we were told that she has profound dyslexia. This is not a bad thing, it just means that she processes information when reading or doing math differently than other children. Children with dyslexia have many strengths. I am also dyslexic, but mine is not as advanced as her’s is. So I work at her pace which is very slow, with lots of days in between for her to process what she has learned. If I do school work with her every day, she goes into overload and won’t stop rubbing her eyes because it’s like there are letters or numbers missing from what she’s reading. She believed that she was dumb and not smart because she couldn’t read like her friend Angel. It was very frustrating for her, but recently she has come to accept that she learns differently than other kids and that it’s okay to do things at a slower pace. I think she’s doing fantastic!
Dom has been working hard this year as a cook at the restaurant next door to us and also taking on side projects and maintenance work. He’s still emotionally recovering from this last move. The emotional stress of my illness over the last three years has really taken a toll on him. While I no longer have to worry about toxic mold exposure, I am still suffering with electro-hypersensitivity. My inability to deal with wifi and electricity, in general, has gotten worse since September of this year. My only solace is being down on our land where there are no frequencies at all, and if neighbors do have wifi in their houses, they are far enough away from our property to not affect me.
We made many new dear friends this year, and some of those friends became family to us.
We have our own land to call home and an emerging farm that is co-owned by Dom, me, Toulousse & Saint, and Sara. Sara will be moving to the property sometime in 2019. Toulousse and Saint are already there. I’ll be adding them to this website in the new year.
We gained a new son-in-law, Kyle, when our daughter Shoshannah was married in June of this year. Kyle is one of those rare, gentle and beautiful souls that captured my daughter’s heart and wouldn’t let go. I feel so blessed that they found such a great love in one another.
As we bring 2018 to a close, it’s time to look forward to the goals for 2019. While our list is extensive and so grand that we may not be able to fit it all into a year, it doesn’t have to fit neatly into a one year span. Let’s look at these goals as part of a Five Year Plan.
Firelight Farm’s Goals for 2019
- Establish the market garden: Build the greenhouse, stake and build the grow beds, add row covers, install irrigation
- Build a chicken coop and compost run
- Line the duck pond and put up fence for the duck run
- Build topbar beehives
- Build a freestanding full bathroom: This will have a worm composting flush toilet (Solviva design), sink, shower and bathtub, and a washing machine. The bathroom will be located between the market garden and the French potager garden.
- Build the produce washing and workstation, and animal evisceration (for meat processing) area next to the bathroom: This is the heart of any market garden or garden in general. It’s where fruits and vegetables are processed for the market either on farm or at the farmer’s market.
- Build a tool shed between both gardens
- Build our hybrid canvas tents: We will be building four 12’x12′ tent cabins. One is for Dom and I, the second tent is for Simone, the third one is for guests who come to visit us, and the fourth is for furniture and boxes as well as storing our kitchen supplies and food in. There will be a large covered area where we will have our kitchen and dining room table. The free standing bathroom will not be located too far from our camp.
- Build a canvas tent cabin 12’x12′ for our coffee company, which will be located near where we will be building the roastery.
- Establish the French potager garden
- Plant fruit trees
- Build a tropical greenhouse: This is for our personal use because we want fresh avocados, citrus, figs, and other tropical fruits that won’t grow in our hardiness zone.
- Build the coffee roastery: This roastery will be built from logs that our neighbors have sitting up at their property. It was as if it has been there for the last ten years waiting for us to arrive. Haha, at least that’s the way I’d like to think of it! There’s enough lumber for our business complex which will be the roastery, a commercial kitchen for making cold brew and lactofermented vegetables, and the farm store.
- Begin improving the pasture for the horses
- Clear and remove rocks from the front of the property along the river for the future flower farm: This area is about 30’x200′ feet by my best guesstimation. 😉
- Build a horse barn for Sara’s three gorgeous horses that will be coming to their new home
- Build Sara a house. Sara is like a mama to Toulousse and I. We adore her and feel so blessed that she’s a part of our family.
- Purchase ducklings and goslings
- Purchase worms
- Build a rabbitry and worm beds underneath
- Purchase meat rabbits
- Build a quail aviary
- Purchase quail
- Build a scaled up black soldier fly shed: Black soldier flies are one of my all time favorite creatures. The larva are highly nutritious for poultry and the adult black soldier fly is an elegant creature, living for only about a week. Adults do not have a working mouth and do not carry vector-borne diseases. I could gush on and on about these little creatures.
- Build the farm’s outdoor kitchen and covered dining area: This will be for Farm to Table events
- Purchase EZ Up Tents and things needed for the Silver City Farmer’s Market
- Purchase or acquire a donated a Suburban or farm truck: We desperately need a large working vehicle that can haul a trailer and for Dom to continue working. Right now we only have one vehicle.
- Establish a few commercial accounts for our organic fruits and vegetables and animal products
- Build chicken tractors for meat birds. (See photo of chicken tractors below)
- Purchase meat chickens and turkeys
Is your head spinning yet? Mine popped off just writing it all down! There’s more, but I think I’ll stop there. When I build the page for our Farmstead Milestones, I’ll add the above list with the rest of our goals, because the list keeps growing. It’ll never stop growing as long as I have breath in me.
I hope you all have an amazing New Year!
2019 is the year of great expectations and will be filled with strength, courage, wisdom, laughter, friendship, financial abundance, and lots of love!
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.