Exhausted but Thrilled!

Exhausted but Thrilled!

It has been a challenging detail orientated six weeks! All of the little tasks that needed to be done were accomplished and it wouldn’t be fun without some hiccups thrown in for good measure.

On February 1, Sara and the horses were supposed to be moved down to our land, but her trailer tire had dry rot, so we needed to wait until she got a new one. After the tire was put on, then came the fun stuff like being bogged down in the deep mud! Both her trailer and the truck pulling it got sucked down into the mud and wouldn’t let go. Luckily there was a neighbor down the street with a truck powerful enough to pull the truck AND the trailer out of the mud.

After that, the move itself went very smoothly.

You can’t tell from the photo, but this mud depression was about 7 inches deep and held onto the tires for dear life.

One of Sara’s friends, Robert, invested his day taking the trailer down, then going back home to hook up his horse trailer. He brought his dogs and they were there to make sure everything was done properly. Good job guys!

Two of the boys went into the trailer willingly. Josey, however, needed a little reassurance before entering the trailer.

Josey was NOT amused! But he went with the program and walked in.

The boys are not super thrilled with their new temporary paddock. They’re bored and trying their best to stay occupied.

They’ve been busy bending fencing to get at the grasses on the other side, pushing fences near tree lines to strip bark, and being, well, horses.

He tried to eat the camera in this photo. His nose kind of looks like a badass alien bunny face, right?!

 

Saint got Sara’s electric and water hooked up for her, and then he and Dom trenched the waterlines. Now she just needs the phone company to hook up her line! We’ll be utilizing a different type of septic for her trailer…actually for all of us. I’m pretty excited about it. Because we’re in a riparian area with the river on the north side of the property and another stream on the south side, I wanted something that I knew wouldn’t leach into the groundwater or put a big septic system in. She could tap into the existing septic, but we’re going to go with an alternative method, utilizing a Solviva design that uses a flush toilet and lots of worms. I’ll write a blog post about it as we get closer to installing the system.

For now, Sara has a composting toilet.

Simmi and her friend Angel headed for an adventure filled with fantastical games, stories of creatures that are hybrids, and getting wet. They pushed through the cold and wandered about a 1/4 mile from our place. They lost track of all time and space in their adventure. They gave us a bit of a scare, but then it became a good teaching moment for Simmi. She needs to understand that we live in a wild place where coyotes, wolves, and bears often come. She needs to become aware of her surroundings and always be within an earshot (and visual field) or she’s gone too far.

We got the old pasture posts and electric tape taken down. Dom has a pretty big workload this week, and the horses will need to wait at least another week until we can get the posts put up in the pasture. We’ll get there though!

In the backyard where we are currently living, is a little greenhouse. It is no longer being used so we’ll be starting our seeds in there! Toulousse and I will be rummaging through our seed vaults. Is that exciting, or what?!

For the next month we’ll be:

  • Finishing getting the horses settled and moving them to their pasture.
  • Cutting down some smaller sucker trees that popped up where we’ll be putting our post-harvest washing station, outdoor kitchen and dining room, and free standing bathroom.
  • Cutting some of the limbs off of an old willow tree that could end up falling just like the cottonwood tree. We’ll save a good portion of the trunk and we’re going to build a treehouse for Simmi later in the year. For now, the limbs have to be cleared to make way for our camp.
  • Finish making the raised garden beds in the market garden.
  • Clear our camp area
  • Get veggies started in the greenhouse
  • Design the chicken coop and chicken compost run

So many great things to accomplish this month. We’re also organizing and getting rid of things we don’t need or want. This will be such an exciting few months. We wish we could be there now, but it’s just not possible to make that transition without planning and doing everything the right way. Sure, we could quickly get our tents up and try to work around all the huge headaches attached to not planning properly, but who wants that kind of drama in their life? Not us! We have the ability to do things in a methodical way and I need to be super conscious that Dom doesn’t get burned out in the process. I care far too much about his emotional and physical wellbeing to try to push our move. It’s not necessary.

In the meantime, we’re exhausted but thrilled at how everything is coming together.

Great Expectations for 2019

Great Expectations for 2019

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!

 

 

 

Living Two Lives

Living Two Lives

Living two lives isn’t easy. We live in a house with four walls, but our lives, our souls, our very beings scream to be on our land. Managing two lives isn’t easy when our time is divided between our work and commitments, and the commitments we made to ourselves more than 10 years ago when we decided that we wanted to live an agrarian life.

The excitement grows each day, and sometimes I feel that I can’t contain myself. Dom and I go back and forth about how to approach moving onto the land. Do we build our camp first? What about establishing the farm infrastructure? There are so many important decisions to make, that we barely know how to rate them on a list of things most important. They are all important!

For now, we have decided to move forward establishing the gardens. Our main garden which will be a semi-formal very structured French Potager garden will be the focus over the next few weeks while still gathering resources to build our camp.

I’ve always wanted to have a French Potager garden, and I’ve had a lot of fun designing ours. They feel otherworldly and completely magical. There is something poetic about how everything is arranged for beauty and function. The picture on the right is an example of a potager garden.

We’ve estimated that our garden area is about 50’x50′ but until Dom gets in there and gets an accurate measurement, I can’t get too specific with my plans. I estimate that the garden will ultimately be a 40’x40′ area. This area is the true focal point on the farm. It will marry two other areas together. On the west side of the garden will be an outdoor kitchen and covered gathering place. On the east side of the garden is where we plan to set up camp and build a chicken coop, rabbitry, duck pond, and a tropical greenhouse. To the east of that section will be a large market garden and high tunnel for high-value crops like tomatoes, peppers, basil, etc.

To the east of the market garden is pastured area for the horses, meat birds like chicken and turkey, and eventually sheep and goats.

Where was I? Oh yes, the French potager…I just have a general idea of what the overall design will be. In this area, there are a few challenges. One is the side of the mountain that blocks some light on the south side until about mid-morning.  The second challenge is how cold air descends into the garden area.

In the photo on the left is Dom clearing the weeds in the area we’ll be building our camp, the animal structures, and the tropical greenhouse. See the mountainside in the distance? That is at the edge of where potager garden will be going.

To address these two issues, we’ll set up espaliered apple trees that require more chill hours and plant more cold hardy perennials in the area that will get hit with the coldest temperatures.

I’m also setting up our garden with far more cold hardy annuals and perennials. We are in growing zone 6 to 6A, however, our perennials will all have a hardiness to growing zone 3-4. The reason I’ve chosen this approach is that we are at the beginning of a Grand Solar Minimum. Agriculture will suffer greatly because of this natural cycle of cold coming to us. It will mean erratic fluctuations in temperature, excessive rain and snow, and much longer cold seasons. Fall will continue to grow shorter, with snowfall and bone-chilling cold becoming the norm. Growing seasons will be shortened. Farmers will find it difficult to plant in spring because of snow or frozen ground. Once they can plant, they will then deal with compression events that bring excessive rain. Rain in areas of wheat production will bring fungus and molds.

Thriving during the grand solar minimum is of the utmost importance for us. Food prices are steadily rising, and it may become difficult to get the foods we are all accustomed to. Also, have you tasted what is being passed off as fresh fruits and vegetables? They are tasteless, and, even organic food is becoming lackluster.

Our farm is not being cultivated to feed the world, but we will have a farm store for the products we choose to sell.

All these things weigh heavily on my mind and heart.

We can’t wait to be on the land full time. Right now it feels like we’re going at a snail’s pace, but planning is the most important part of this adventure we’re on.

Wait until you see the rest of the land! I’ve only shared the side where our farm will be. Then there are the other 10 acres to the west of the farm. It is where we will eventually build our home. We’re not in a rush to build because the farm infrastructure is far more important. We will be living in canvas tents for the next year and we may make the tropical greenhouse our temporary home if we get tired of tent living. In the meantime, we will continue to live these two lives.

 

Aren’t potager gardens beautiful? I love the whimsical aspect to them, as well as how they mix flowers and herbs and fruit trees.

The wattle edging is swoon worthy!

Pure magic!

There are so many beautiful versatile ways to set up a potager.

I want to build something like this for where we gather. It would be wider, but this bliss to me. Where this would go is at the edge of the badass grapevines that need new vertical space to thrive on.

At the entrance to different areas, I would love to have inviting entryways that beg you to come and stay for a while.

 

 

 

Collecting Repurposed Materials

Collecting Repurposed Materials

We have a mini-collection of repurposed materials, and this coming week we’ll be adding to that collection if everything goes as planned. I always need to hold onto plans loosely since free or inexpensive materials tend to go very quickly. I’m a member of Freecycle and at any given time a product being given away might be claimed by someone who lives closer than I do, or can go and swoop it up quicker than I can even get in my car!

Freecycle, the free section on Craigslist, and even Facebook Marketplace has been instrumental in collecting needed materials.

Back when we first moved to New Mexico in 2008, we came with only the clothes on our backs. We needed beds, furniture, cooking supplies, clothing, rugs and more. Everything we needed was found on Freecycle or Craigslist. We rebuilt our lives utilizing those two resources. I still have some of the things acquired on Freecycle or from Thrift Shops because their sentimental value far outweighs their real value.

Part of the structure we’re building contains a lean-to greenhouse that will go the full length of the structure on the south side. Our original plan was to frame it out and use greenhouse plastic, but we might actually be acquiring large windows for it! This was such an exciting find. If my plans fall through for picking up these windows, we’ll just use greenhouse plastic.

The reason for the lean-to greenhouse is to house our kitchen and bathroom. Because of my mold allergies, it never fails that a leak of some sort can develop when there’s indoor plumbing. Building a kitchen and bathroom outside the actual structure, yet still a part of it will help keep the structure free of all water damage unless that damage comes from a roof leak.

We have three heavy duty metal and glass doors we brought with us from West Virginia. Dom collected them from an old job site. Two will be used on the east and western sides of the greenhouse, and the third one will be located where the coffee roastery will be built on the eastern side of the structure.

We also have an old short water heater, which we’re thinking will be used to create a rocket stove mass water heater. Geoff Lawton has a video on how it works if you’d like to watch!

A Dream Realized and a Hope Fulfilled

A Dream Realized and a Hope Fulfilled

“We are starving for spiritual nourishment. We are starving for a life that is personal, connected, and meaningful. By choice, that is where we will direct our energy. When we do so, community will arise anew because this spiritual nourishment can only come to us as a gift, as part of a web of gifts in which we participate as giver and receiver. Whether or not it rides the vehicle of something bought, it is irreducibly personal and unique.” ~Charles Eisenstein

I have this deep calling that gnaws at my soul regularly. Each day that I am not moving towards my calling brings pain to my spirit. I have a dream that will be realized. I am called to the agrarian life. I am also called to bless others with my gifts freely and abundantly, and to lavish on those within my inner circle of friends and family, my unconditional love.

Who are those in my inner circle? It is those people who are aligned with my values and have a heart like mine. That doesn’t mean they are exactly like me in any way. They have a heart song that I recognize and embrace because we are spiritual kin. It is like deep calling to deep.

There are those who sing a song that sounds similar to my heart song, but by the end of the song it’s evident that the melody might sound similar, but the words are all wrong. They think they’re singing the same song, but you see, the song takes months to sing and they just haven’t invested the time to sing it the way their hearts needed to. Sounds cryptic, right?

It’s not.

Each of us has a heart song. Those who do not betray their own hearts or reject their own souls will find comfort in others who do the same. That is the heart song. We recognize it instantly. It is a song that you sing to others with your actions, your time, your intentions. Those who betray their own hearts and compromise their integrity recoil at the sound of a true heart song. Those who have denied their own beautiful song will be suspicious, cruel, withholding, cold, distant, all while still claiming to have a song just like mine. Their words and actions betray them. My love is anathema to them as they choke on their own betrayal and inability to break free from their overabundant pride. I have been witness to this throughout my whole life. It’s a part of the human condition.

Yet…

My heart is soft, so it doesn’t break easily. I keep it soft because others are too hard on themselves. My softness is a part of my song. But being soft doesn’t mean being weak. Weakness is a habit developed by those who have lost their way and compromised their integrity. Being soft allows me to fully recognize my desire to love radically. To give abundantly. To forgive freely. To follow my wild heart and search for home.

I’ve searched for home my whole life. No matter where I have lived, I’ve always made a home for myself. My husband is my home. My children are my home. Seeking deep connections with others who have a heart like mine brings me home. But my desire to set roots and be home has brought me to a new place. A place where I hear other heart songs sung unabashedly wild and free.

We started a new chapter in our lives recently. We currently live in a very small place and out of necessity we started searching for a new place to live. Even though there are only three of us currently living in this small space we call home, we also have grown children who, when they come to visit have no place to sleep when they stay over. Add to that the fact that I operate our coffee roasting business from this same space AND having the little storefront here cuts into personal space even more. Along with running a business comes balancing my time during the day homeschooling Simone. Some days she’s on the computer working with an online program, and the rest of the time she’s sprawled out at my work table completing the lessons of the day while I’m working on a customer’s order. Our space is very limited for what we need.

I’m also a hardcore introvert with a great need to recharge myself away from the presence of other people. That includes my own family. Introverts draw their energy from solitude and time alone.

Our current living space is not honoring my needs. I keep trying to make it better, and Dom will take Simmi out of the house so I can be alone and recover, but it doesn’t always work out the way we want.

In the process of looking for a larger place to live, we found a gorgeous piece of land we decided to invest in.

It is sacred to us.

There is great peace there.

It is a place where my wild and innocent young daughter can run free. A place where her feral heart can grow strong and soft.

With the investment we’ve made in the land comes the investment we’ve made with friends who have become our family in that very place. They are home to us. Our friendship was forged in our ability to be vulnerable to one another. We strengthened our friendship by hearing one another’s heart songs, and then we became family.

We’re home at last.

Over the next few months, we’ll be building our first home on almost fifteen beautiful acres. Located about 30 minutes south of where we currently live, this place of beauty stuns me everywhere I look.

There are unforgiving steep slopes, pastures, rocky paths and river beds. Rising up from the deep earth are sycamores and cottonwoods, willows and oak trees, evergreens and shrubs. Grasses and weeds reveal the splendor of a fertile and untouched land.

There are quiet places to recharge the soul, and gathering places to engage our hearts.

Time stands still here.

I’ve started planning our gardens, ordering seed, and designing our first house. It will not be our final house, but instead, it will be the business hub that we move into.

In past posts, I’ve mentioned that we want to build a house that doesn’t have any electricity and that includes conventional or alternative. The space we’re designing and living in first will have electricity in it. It’s the place where our businesses will thrive. My non-electric house will not be built until we have observed the land and find the best place suited for it. We do have an area that we adore, however, we need to live there full time and go through the seasons to know for sure where to build.

The business hub will be located in an area that is near the pasture. It will have our offices, art studio, fabric studio, a roastery, outdoor kitchen, as well as a become a Farm to Table venue. It all starts with that space.

It will (hopefully) be a bit larger than the space we’re currently in, but ultimately it will allow me to cultivate the land and get animals established prior to building our final home.

We’ll be living in our current house until we’re able to move into the new space. Unfortunately, we don’t have a good timetable for when that would be. We want to do it efficiently and inexpensively, utilizing the timber nearby as well as other free or almost free repurposed materials. I will be blogging about everything we’re doing on the land, but it won’t just be me blogging!

I’ll be adding new features to this blog, including new writers and artisans in our community. In future posts, I’ll share who they are and how amazing they are because there is just too much to say in one blog post. 😉

In the meantime, here are some photos of our new land…

This area we’re considering as the location for the business hub/temporary home. It is located near an open pasture to the left and two paddocks on the right. One of the paddocks will be used for small and medium sized animals, and the other for our garden. Each paddock is about 50’x50′.

The view from the first paddock looking north.

Simmi running past the second paddock.

A view north-west.

The western side of the property.

Beauty surrounds us.

Simmi’s favorite tree.

An opposing gigantic cottonwood tree stands guard at the entrance to the pasture.

The grapevines have decided to be hardcore and skip cultivation. They’re total badasses.

The pasture awaits larger animals and meat birds in chicken tractors.

This is one of the paddocks that will be turned into an intensive French potager garden.

There is so much to love about this place. It is a dream realized and a hope fulfilled.

Getting My Garden Fix

Getting My Garden Fix

Back in August, I purchased a bunch of dying and very sorry looking vegetable starts to get my garden fix. I didn’t know which plants would make it, and I wasn’t willing to plot out whole garden areas for plants that quite frankly, might not survive. After observing for about a week and a half which plants I felt would make it, I decided to only plant the tomatoes, a few pepper plants, the parsley, rosemary, and a few eggplants.

We have a water softener at the house, and since I didn’t have an outside spigot hooked up with a bypass valve, I was sending Simmi outside to water the plants each day with treated water. That’s a big no-no. Essentially the salts in the water softener will interfere with the uptake of water by the plant. The salts can trick the plant into believing that it doesn’t need water, and basically the plants die over time. Since Simmi loves to water plants, she was going out watering the little starts still in their containers sometimes twice a day.

Even though all the plants were watered exactly the same, I decided that any plant with new growth despite being irrigated with treated water would be transplanted and that I would hope for the best.

Being that we’re in plant hardiness zone 5, I also chose to use slate slabs around the my little tomato plants to create a microclimate of warmth around each plant. The end result is that the plants did start putting on lots of new growth, and are now flowering and setting fruit. Since it’s getting more chilly at night we’ll be adding a few more layers of stone around the tomato plants for additional warmth.

I love coming out everyday to observe the new growth and to see the new blossoms. Planting so late in the season really had more to do with my own selfish need to grow things. My heart aches for animals, but I know in time we will acquire them as well.

I’m not sure if the fruit will ripen properly since we’re coming into fall, but I’m less interested in harvesting and more interested in seeing how such delicate heat loving plants do in the cold Northeast.

It helps me to plan for next year if I’ve had some sort of experience working with the weather conditions, the layout of the land, and the fact that the property sits on a HUGE slope. Its more of a very steep incline than a slope.

 

Even though the land has a steep slope, this whole neighborhood is filled with homes on very steep slopes. If we were conventional farmers this would feel like a nightmare, but luckily for me I’m not conventional. I enjoy a great challenge, and as I form thoughts for what could occupy this 5 acre plot of paradise, I’m immediately whisked away to thinking about Sepp Holzer’s permaculture. Terraced ponds, perennial species, and animals all working together within a closed loop system.

Here is an example of Sepp Holzer’s property.

Another part of the thought process is what kind of animals, how they would fit into the system, how they affect neighbors, and tailoring a plan that not only satisfies the physical beauty of a well thought out garden, but would be a gift that gives in season and out of season to all who possess the land. To me, that is the ultimate goal.

Our home in New Mexico was well on the way to becoming an oasis for the new homeowners. We didn’t do anything complicated, burdensome, or unusual to the naked eye. Everything we did was in the infrastructure well before the first fruit tree was planted. Having a passive water harvesting system in place allowed us luxury of only watering our perennials in the high desert once during the winter. That’s it. Of course we made sure our trees were all well established in the first few years, using a series of weeper hoses, but once we felt they were established and well rooted, we removed the weepers.

Anyway, being in Vermont is a whole new experience. We don’t currently own the house we’re living in, but that could change in the future. The land here is stunning, the view of the mountain ranges is amazing, and it feels like home to us. We’ve gotten the green light to plant a garden and even to raise some animals, but having a plan that would work for us and for the landowners is important. It would be a thrill to create something they would enjoy and it gives me the opportunity to keep nurturing the soil. I’m not a plant gardener, I’m a soil farmer.

There are areas in the wooded portion of the land that I haven’t even discovered yet. Forest gardening and animal husbandry fits well into a sloped wooded area. There are future plans for this property and the house, so any gardening I do will most likely be further away from the house and garage so as not to hinder any new construction that may take place as well as keeping animals as stress free as possible.

I’ll talk more about this at length as we get our first set of plans nailed down for the spring. I also like to keep things flexible in case plans change. I’m excited to go through our first winter here to observe the land, the snow accumulations, the different microclimates, and enjoy the beauty of raw nature at its best.

We won’t be setting up a CSA again, and we have no plans on scaling up our agriculture. I might think differently if we were moving to a turnkey organic farm, but I would never start from scratch at this time in my life. Maybe if I were 25 or 30, but I’ll be 47 in November, and it really isn’t in our best interest to try and reinvent the wheel.

All animals and the gardens I create will be for the benefit of our family and friends. Simple right? The most important thing for us at this time is deciding what kind of animals we want, because that will help us decide what kind of land we need. There are five acres here, and animals can be relocated to a new spot, but something tells me that yaks in our neighborhood might look a little out of place. Haha

Here’s the roundup of animals I dream of:

Between 5-10 Icelandic sheep. Icelandic sheep are a triple purpose breed, small and compact. They are great for dairy, meat and fiber.

15-30 Silver Appleyard ducks: A double purpose breed providing both meat and eggs.

Sebastopol geese for beauty and weed control. No we wouldn’t eat this variety. Although I do believe that every animal a person might have on a farm should be a double purpose breed with more than one function, I choose for the two purposes to be looking beautiful all day and night and weed control. That’s good enough in my book to supply as much organic feed as they need.

The Saddleback Pomeranian goose for weed control, eggs and meat.

A trio of Narragansett turkeys for grasshopper and bug control as well as meat. If ever there was an animal my soul aches for, its the turkey. These majestic and comical creatures are always a pure delight to have on the farm. They provide hours of entertainment, affection, and they have captured my heart forever. If you’ve never raised turkeys before, I highly recommend it. You won’t be disappointed!

50 or more black, blue or white Langshan chickens for eggs and meat. We have gone back and forth over whether to get meat birds such as a Cornish Cross or Dark Cornish, or to go with a large heritage breed. In the end I’m favoring the Langshan as a fine table bird. The fact that they also lay beautiful eggs is also a factor, and I’ve heard they make great mothers.

Three or four Nubian goats for milk, weed and bramble control. They also eat poison ivy which seems to be abundant in these parts.

Four yaks, for meat, milk and fiber.

A trio of Mangalitsa pigs for meat and charcuterie

I’ll stop there because I can talk for years about animals.

Because I wouldn’t be seeking to scale up any agriculture or to have a CSA, I can create the gardens I’ve always loved and longed for. The French Potager (kitchen garden). A potager is really a work of art in season and out of season. My French heritage comes screaming from deep in my DNA and demands that I create something beautiful. I love how my ancestors have decided to take hold of my imagination.

There could be nothing finer than growing all the fruits and vegetables needed for a classic french rustic meal. So in honor of my French heritage, here are a few lofty potager gardens that I dream of. Some are too fancy for my taste, but they are beautiful, enchanting and fully functioning vegetable gardens: