“A home is a kingdom of its own in the midst of the world, a stronghold amid life’s storms and stresses, a refuge, even a sanctuary.” – Dietrich Bonhoeffer
Happy New Year! I hope everyone had a fantastic celebration, even if by celebration I mean that you couldn’t keep your eyes open past 10 and blissfully slept your way into the new year.
The day after Christmas we took a road trip to buy three Stout Overland 5000 Bell Tents. We purchased them from a man who owns a glamping business at the Grand Canyon. Brand new, these tents cost between $1,200- $1,700 each. They are four seasons and each tent has a stove jack for a woodburning stove.
On the right is a photo of what bell tents look like when they’re all decked out. Each of the tents is 16 feet in diameter and the center pole height is about 10 feet, which is great for Dom since he’s so tall.
Our original plan was to create a series of hybrid tent cabins to live in, but after we finally added the cost of each tent with canvas, lumber, and other materials we would need, the cost was around $850 per tent to create. That was WAYYYY out of budget for us.
As I was looking through craigslist for tents, I came across an ad for three bell tents. The price was hard to pass up, so Dom and I decided to purchase them. The look is very different than what I had drawn out on paper for our tent cabins since I wasn’t thinking of creating round tent structures, but it will work just fine.
The bell tents take only about 30 minutes for a person to put up, which is FAR less time than it would have been for us to build the foundation and frame and then sew the canvas for the top.
By choosing these tents, we have saved ourselves a lot of money as well as time. You can’t go wrong with that great combination.
The man we purchased the tents from also threw in two more tents for free to use as spare parts for our tents, but he said that if I’m creative enough and can mend the other two tents, we’d have five. I’ll be examining the two extra tents to see if they can be salvaged. If so, we will use them to create one of them as our kitchen, and the second as our living room/dining room. It will be a house of 5 tents.
Our coffee company will also have its own tent and it will be the only tent with full power for use of my computer, Agnus, and some of the electronics and lighting I use when I’m working. This tent will also have a work area for Simmi to create her jewelry, art, and school work.
Dom and I will have our own tent, and Simmi will have her own.
We’re pretty excited about how everything is coming along. Next week we will start the process of mending any small holes or tears in the tents, prepare the location for the tents, and start going through our things to see what we don’t want to take with us.
As we think of everything that needs to happen before we can move down there, we’re estimating that we won’t be living down there full time for at least two months. It all depends on how quickly we can get certain things accomplished.
We have electric and well water, but we still need to get a phone guy out there to put in our line.
I love how things are evolving. I also really love that we don’t have a mortgage or looming debt hanging over us! Dom and I had a discussion about forest fires which happens frequently in Gila where we are. We love that if we needed to evacuate the area, we could empty the tents, and take them in the car with us. It would only take an hour or so to get them all collapsed and put into the car. That is a HUGE weight off of our minds because when you live in an area that is prone to fires, losing a house can be devastating! If we lost our belongings we would still have tents to live in. How cool is that?!
The land is currently covered in snow, and we’re supposed to get more snow through next week. It’s the perfect time to go over each tent to make sure they don’t have any little holes, rips or tears. I do need to reinforce some areas, but until I get each tent out and all the areas marked that need repairs, I won’t know what I need to complete each repair. It might be a patch kit, or I might need to get a used duty sewing machine. The sewing machine I have has a hard time sewing the binding on a quilt, so I wouldn’t even attempt to make repairs using it.
I’ve never worked with a round space before, so it was a little difficult for me to conceptualize how everything would fit into each tent. I wanted to have everything to scale on paper so I knew what would fit, what would still need to be made, and what we need to get rid of or store away for when we build our house.
In a room that is square or rectangle, it’s easy to draw furniture and walkways into a room but when you’re dealing with a circle and the ceiling starts out very low and works its way up to a 10-foot height, things get a little tricky. So I created the size of the tent to scale on paper, and then each piece of furniture was cut out to scale as well. That way I could manipulate where each piece would go and it would show me just how much room we had to walk around.
When I worked on Simmi’s tent, she didn’t quite understand how her bed and shelves were to scale, so I found an ephemera cutout that I use in my art to be Simmi and placed her on the bed. That seemed to work for her and then she saw just how big her tent was.
In Simmi’s tent, she will have her bed, two small nightstands, and a series of 5 or 6 two-tier shelves. These will hold all her prized possessions and clothing. She wanted a larger table and two chairs for her and her friend to do activities like arts or crafts. We will most likely get a small portable propane heater for her tent, but we are still unsure. I am uneasy about having a woodstove in her tent. She is old enough to have one, but if we did allow it, it would need quite a bit of “mama reinforcement” otherwise I’ll be up all night wondering if a stuffed animal got too close to it, or she put her clothing a little too close to the stove.
I go through at least a hundred scenarios in my mind of what could possibly happen when an 11 year old has a woodstove in her room. A propane heater is more appropriate. Where we live right now there is a propane heater in her room, but she doesn’t go near it. We only used it a few times last winter, and since then got another heating source for her room.
I could be completely overreacting to the heating situation. I just know she’s fascinated by fire, and when we have the woodstove going (which is nearly 24/7) in the main part of the house, she’s always hovering around it, sitting by it, and enamored with the glow of the flames. She can’t help herself. What kid can, right?!
There will be no electric in her tent, just a few battery operated lanterns for light. We’ve played with the idea of putting an electric heater in her tent, but I really don’t want any electric in either of the tents where we sleep.
The tent in the photo to the left I’m still messing around with. This tent is more of an idea since we don’t know what shape the extra tent given to us is like. We would need to build a new dining table (ours is way too wide) but our chairs can all be used.
I have other drawings, but I’ll post them at a later time.
There have been family concerns as we’ve started to discuss our master plan. Dom and I seem to be the family pioneers, doing things that aren’t typically done by our extended families. We don’t know anyone in either of our families that has ever lived in tents while building a house. It seems so….primitive.
But there aren’t many families that set out with the goal of not having a mortgage either. Or a non-electric house. Or limited types of technology because of my sensitivity to different types of motors in both sound and electric magnetic sensitivity.
But here we are! On quite the adventure. On Facebook, youtube, and Instagram I have found many families who have lived in tents during the years of building their farm and home, and those who have chosen to live in RVs. Anything to avoid paying rent and utilities in one place, while trying to build a home or infrastructure in another.
I often think those who are carrying more than one mortgage or paying rent AND a mortgage must be so stressed out. Or maybe they found a better way.
For us, this is the best way. It’s healthy and freeing to reconnect to the natural world. I believe we as a people are far too disconnected from the “real world.” Nature is the real world. The changing seasons with its ebb and flow of fleeting light in winter and extended shine in summer all play into the health and well being of us as humans. We are so disconnected from the sun, spending most of our days inside at work or in our homes. If we go out, it’s only briefly. We have come to fear the elements.
Living in fear is a poor use of our time and energy. We have this gift of life, and yet we hide away in dark homes or in closed up buildings all day at work. We are no better than animals in the zoo who have lost our true habitat.
We must not fear the unknown. We don’t have all the answers, but it’s okay not to know. We do not walk into this life natively, believing that nothing will ever harm us, or that we will never be inconvenienced. It’s going to happen.
Will there be bears and mountain lions? Yes. Are we aware that they browse our property? Yes, and I’ve found bear scat on one of our walks. It happens to be exactly where we’ll be putting our tents. But wildlife has always been a part of the real world. The world we are entering. Learning to live with them and keep ourselves protected is important. I can tell you this much though, it isn’t like braving the wild real world of Alaska where grizzlies roam.
Being afraid of the real world should be a personal indication that you are disconnected. Reconnection is the cure.
Anyway, I digress!
Here are some photos from Christmas 2018- New Year 2019:
Christmas eve was filled with excitement and wonder. We think Simmi is secretly an elf (Like Buddy the Elf) because as soon as the weather turns cold in early fall, she starts singing Christmas songs and it doesn’t stop until after we put the decorations away. This is also a struggle since she would keep Christmas decor up all year if she could.
Even though the electricity from the lights bothers me, I deal with it because I’ve always loved white lights at Christmas. Simmi would have been upset if we didn’t have lights around the window too.
Christmas night Sara joined us for dinner. She always has something stylish to wear, from well-appointed unique hats to the lavishly gorgeous embellished suede and lamb fur coat. And lets not forget the badass boots that go above the knee. I know you can’t see those in the photo, but she’s sporting them! Sara will be moving onto the land sometime in 2019 with her three gorgeous horses.
This is Josey (Joseph) and Leaf.
This is Galeno the great. I gave him the last part of his name because he’s a fatty and likes to keep eating. Haha.
My girl in her silliness wanted me to take a photo of her new hair style. She was pretty pleased with herself!
A very sweet friend of ours, Wendy, gave Simmi water colors, paint brushes and lots of creative things for Simmi to do. Simmi was plotting for at least three days which one of Wendy’s gifts she would open first. Wendy did not disappoint! Thank you Wendy for all the love you put into make Simmi’s Christmas magical.
The first thing she painted was a horse. Of course!
Christmas night was filled with great conversation, awesome food, and lots of laughter.
By the end of the evening, I think we completely wore Sara out. Haha
New Year’s Eve was fabulous. We definitely drank a little too much wine that night! We also hydrated too with plenty of water. What? You don’t drink ice water out of a large wine glass? 😉
New Year’s day we woke up to a foot of snow!
Not a soul to be found on the roads!
From the weight of the snow, Sara’s hayport collapsed. After we had some coffee and breakfast, we headed down to her place to get everything dug out.
We had some help from a neighbor getting the tarps out.
Sara one of the best humans I’ve ever had the privilege of getting to know. She’s a horsewoman and an extremely gifted writer. I’m creating a space on our blog for her to write.
New Year’s day breakfast. Ya can’t beat homemade flatbread, brie, grapes, and meat.
Josey was sporting some icicles.
It’s been an amazing start to the new year.
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!
Another year has passed, and I’m thankful yet again that God has sustained me and kept me alive. I’m in very poor health and slipping further into illness as the days pass. We knew this would happen, I just wish it didn’t have to be this way. I’m becoming weaker, and continue to deal with extreme inflammation and edema. Dom shaved my head last week because my hair was so thin you could see my scalp. Ironic that shaving my head would help with seeing my scalp, right? Well, when my hair gets super thin I don’t look healthy at all. I mean, let’s face it, I’m not healthy going through allergic reactions to mold, but why look the part too. It really comes down to how comfortable I am and how much Dom can take. Seriously! Losing hair is a very itchy experience. It feels like there are bugs crawling all over my head and body. That happens because as my hair falls out in clumps, it touches my arms and legs and feels like bugs crawling. Beyond that is dealing with hair everywhere. On the floor, in the tub, in places hair shouldn’t be. I also can’t have hair falling into coffee when roasting or packing up orders. That’s just gross. Being bald works for me on so many levels, and Dom likes it too. So he shaved it off. 😉
I have my prescription for clearing my body of mold, however, I can’t take it until we are out of this house and in a mold-free environment. I hate that I have the one thing that will make me better, but I can’t take it. In the meantime, I am taking Oreganol, Oregamax, and fermented cod liver oil. They are helping somewhat with the inflammation and allergy, but they are no match for my immune response to mold. It’s only a matter of time before it stops working.
Our timeline for the move back to New Mexico is set for between January 15 through February 1. I hope it doesn’t go that far, but as it stands right now, we don’t have the money needed to rent a truck and travel cross country. We’ve factored the cost of our move and it’s $5,000 for the Uhaul, car trailer, gas, lodging, boxes, and food. We need to be careful of where we stay as we travel also because of moldy motels. Finding an affordable hotel isn’t easy, and if the air quality in the heating system for the room isn’t clean, I risk having my airways begin to constrict. Fun, right?
We need a miracle. Dom wanted me to put together a Go Fund Me page to help raise the money, but I’ve tried that for other things in the past and it didn’t work out for us…at all. We’ve sold some things that we don’t use anymore, and there are many household things we’ll leave behind here at the house, but it still doesn’t get us anywhere near what we need.
We’re in between a rock and a hard place. We know where we’re going in New Mexico. We can see it and almost touch it…but it’s out of reach to us. In a panic because of the state of my health, Dom is ready to just abandon everything we have own, jump into the car and go. Yeah, we can do that, but then we have a repeat of what we went through when we first moved to New Mexico in 2008. I’m tired and feel defeated. I don’t want to start from scratch again! I don’t want to leave behind all the beautiful things we’ve acquired over the last several years. We will though if it comes down to me being hospitalized. It’s almost too late at that point.
We have managed to keep me pneumonia free for seven years now. The last time I had pneumonia was in 2011 when I contracted RSV, a viral respiratory infection. I contracted pneumonia when we first moved to New Mexico in January 2009 because of mold in the house due to a swamp cooler. That was the last time I had bacterial pneumonia. They say that after seven years, you have a brand new set of lungs. I hope so! I need new lungs, or at least lungs strong enough to continue to handle the onslaught of allergic reactions I’m enduring here.
Dom is also ill, as is Simmi. We all go through cycles of illness where it gets bad and we’re knocked on our butts, and then we start to get better, but never fully recover before getting ill again. This has been happening since August 2017.
It has to stop. I’m tired. I just want us to be well again.
Every December for as long as we have been married, we have discussed what we want to see happen in the coming new year. We don’t do resolutions. Instead, we set our course, create goals, and set out to accomplish them. We’re not “New Year New Me” people. We set the tone for what that new year will hold for us. In December 2016 we said that we wanted 2017 to be the year of abundance. Dom laughs every time he thinks of that word abundance. He says, right, abundance… an abundance of trouble, abundance of MOLD, abundance of heartache, the abundance of physical harm, an abundance of betrayal, an abundance of insanity.
Were there good abundant things that happened in 2017? Yes, for sure! Buffalo Mountain Coffee Roasting Company was birthed in 2017 (technically 12/16), my computer Agnus was born in 2017 and NOTHING good would have happened professionally or personally if it wasn’t for our dear friend gifting us with Agnus. We received rich blessings financially and maintained deep connections with friends and family despite not having a phone to communicate for a full year.
In looking ahead to this new year of 2018, Dom wanted to be clear in setting the tone; abundant good health for he and I and our family, financial prosperity for us as a couple, fulfilling my calling as a steward of the earth in caring for animals and growing food for my community, and setting down roots in a town we can call home and serve faithfully.
It has been a very long and trying year. We are weary but optimistic that better days are on our horizon.
Happy New Year! May 2018 be a spectacular year filled with rich opportunities for growth and prosperity, and abundant in exciting new experiences and joy.