Dom and I have always believed in trying to reduce our use of plastic and things that end up in a landfill. But belief and actions aren’t mutually exclusive. After not really paying attention to how much waste we personally produce, I started looking for ideas of how to transition to a life with less plastic. I knew for sure what I was going to do for my coffee company which took a few weeks to figure out the steps I needed to take to transition. It happened towards the end of the holiday season when we had over 50 orders a day going out. Every time I opened a new tin tie coffee bag that is lined in plastic, or put a label on the front and back of the coffee bag, and then throwing out the label backing, I thought about it.
I thought about how I was missing out on building soil for our farm. None of those label backs can be used. They’re all plastic bound to paper.
I devised a plan for transitioning, and the shipments of new plastic free, compostable packaging have already arrived.
I’ve even started reorganizing and making changes in how I set up my workflow, the materials I’ll be using while working and how I’ll use any leftover materials.
That was fairly easy.
Then I discovered a lifestyle movement called Zero Waste.
I think it broke my brain. I agree with a lot that this lifestyle is hoping to achieve, but I’m unsure if we’ll ever be a zero waste farm and family.
Our biggest concern is Simmi. She has severe life-threatening food allergies to peanuts, most tree nuts, dairy (cow, sheep, and goat), eggs (duck and chicken), soy, and wheat. Simmi was diagnosed with life-threatening food allergies when she was only nine months old. We cannot shop for bulk items from a bin…ever. Everything we purchase for her must be sealed.
Here’s the scenario:
We’re at Sprouts or Whole Foods in the bulk food section. About an hour before we get to the store, someone who was casually walking around the store eating nuts (you’ll see them if you look) decides to get foods from the bulk section. Without first washing their hands which have nut oils and salts from eating, they get a bag and start putting basmati rice into the bag. Then the scooper slips out of their hands, and they pick it up NOT from the handle but from the scoop end and put it back into the bin. We use it next, and the tiny particles and oil residue still on the scooper contaminates rice we cook for her. We thought everything was okay until she goes into anaphylaxis and we need to administer epinephrine.
The bins are being refilled by the clerk who first decides to fill the soy flour, peanut bin, nuts, granola bins, and then without changing his/her gloves, opens the rice and pours it into the bin. With contaminated gloves, they put their hands into the rice to help it along into the bin. The air is still filled with particulates from the other products that went in, and he just contaminated the rice as well.
These are things that happen every day.
When we lived in Vermont, our favorite place to go was the co-op in the town we lived in. One day Simmi started sneezing and couldn’t stop. We were walking past the backroom where they happened to be filling smaller bags with something she was allergic to. It was in the air and she was breathing it in. We had to leave the store immediately. Then it happened in another store we went to. This time she broke out in hives, had a hard time breathing and we needed to leave. We were at an indoor farmer’s market and they were making fresh pies from scratch.
So we cannot under any circumstances use bulk bins for Simmi. I’m a Celiac, so bulk bins are out of the question for me too.
I’ve started to pick apart what we purchase each week. The first item up is Simmi’s pasta. Because her diet is already restricted, I’m not up for removing pasta just because it is packaged in plastic. However, I have found a recipe for making her pasta and a manual pasta machine to cut it into strips.
We can make her pasta and forego the cost of ready-made pasta. This would be a good solution for us, and it would be something she can learn to make for herself.
The cost of bulk flours for her is way cheaper than buying one or two pounds at a time. Bulk flour can be put into a large container and save on garbage.
We can do the same with bulk rice.
I don’t think there will ever be a time when we could consider ourselves a zero waste household, but we can greatly reduce how we purchase products and be mindful of the garbage being produced while making sensible choices.
I also see that people in zero waste are carting their glass jars and cotton bags to the stores in order to not use plastic bags or plastic containers. While this is admirable, I think it is a little bit too much with all the separate cotton bags for produce. Tomatoes won’t mind being intermingled with the other softer veggies, and I don’t think celery and carrots would have a problem being lumped together either. After all, they are often mates when put into a hardy stew.
These are just a few of the things that feel unnecessarily cumbersome. I understand putting bread into a cotton bag, but most things won’t mind being next to each other for a few hours between shopping and home.
The next thing I have a hard time wrapping my head around is all the justifications. We live in this weird world of absolute extremes. I’ve seen it with homesteaders, where one will bicker with another if they choose to work outside the home. Everyone seems to have rules about the proper way of living a lifestyle.
Zero Waste seems to have the same issues. One person will tell someone else they’re doing it wrong. If you’re into eating a keto diet, one will tell you that you can’t eat this or that and be truly keto.
I’ve seen it with those who live off-off grid too. That’s where you choose to live without generating any electricity or regular propane and fuels and basically live in a pre-industrial lifestyle. Then someone will come along and point a finger at the off-off grid person and claim they can’t use a computer.
It’s really sad.
I don’t want that for our family. We don’t fit the mold of an environmental family. I don’t do things to “save the planet.” I do things because I care about the planet, especially how it impacts my family and my community. My desire to be plastic free has to do with the love I have for my community as well as my land. I’m not trying to change other people or how they choose to live.
My desire to farm organically doesn’t lead me to condemn or shame those who don’t.
My need to have compostable coffee packaging is very selfish. It is if we want to call a spade a spade! I want to be able to create soil for our farm. I can’t do it with what I’m using now. If it doesn’t have a past life purpose, I don’t want it, nor do I want others to be burdened with not knowing what to do with the packaging either. I want to put empowering tools into my consumer’s hands that allow them to recycle the packaging or even compost it. If they don’t, it’s okay, but at least I empowered them to make a new choice.
Some people will try and reuse plastic in order to save it from a landfill. I can’t do that either. I HATE seeing plastic containers around. I even despise plastic 5-gallon buckets, but I’ll use them until something better comes along for storing things. I don’t find it attractive to use old Folgers plastic containers to store things either.
But that’s me. Not you. And just because I feel that way about plastic doesn’t mean I would condemn or shame you for using it the way you want.
We’re going to do our best moving forward to be accountable for the waste we produce. That’s about where it ends. I’m not planning on making others accountable for their waste products. We all need to follow our own convictions.
Guess what is going into the landfill that we can’t avoid? The rig we are living in right now. At some point, we will be taking it apart, and it will be put into a dumpster and hauled off along with all the things that couldn’t be recycled.
However, by 2022, our hope is that we no longer will need to bring anything to the dump. At least, that’s the plan.
Are you living a zero waste lifestyle or looking to move in that direction? What are some of the changes you made to keep yourself accountable?
Plastic has become the foundation of our modern life. From simple things like straws and food containers to life-saving devices and commercial packaging, it is here to stay. You would be hardpressed today to find real clothing. Most clothes today are made from plastic or a combination of a poly-cotton blend. People cook with it, store things in it, and find it difficult to live without.
We are no different from everyone else. Sometimes I think we’re worse because we know better! By ‘we’ I mean Dom and me. Back in 2011, we started the process of getting rid of plastic products from our home. Toys, storage and food containers, even clothes. We purchased glass jars and bowls for storing food and made the effort to shop for only cotton, wool, silk and natural fibers for our clothes.
Then we sold our house and moved 10 times over the course of 4 years. When our lives were constantly in flux, it made it difficult to make being plastic-free a priority.
Always in the back of my mind is that gnawing feeling of guilt that we have not kept our commitment to being plastic-free.
Dom and I recommitted to phasing out plastic as much as possible starting in 2020. I was very grieved by the lack of reusable materials I was creating for our coffee company, especially during the holiday rush. Everything from packing peanuts from companies shipping me supplies to my own use of lots of plastic products that are cheap and readily available has made me pause and decide to be accountable for my part in our plastic problem.
This year we’ll be transitioning our coffee company to more sustainable and compostable materials used in the creation and distribution of our products. From coffee bags with tin ties to glassine inner bags and paper bag outer packaging that is still tied with twine. I was embossing every bag I put coffee in which created a very unique packaging with texture and layers. I will be keeping the texture, just not with my own embossing. You see, the embossing powders I use are plastic, which gets melted onto each bag I emboss. I’ve embossed a few thousand bags in the last year and not a single one of them could be taken from the kitchen and put into a compost pile and turned into soil.
I know that not everyone composts. But we do. I don’t want to burden the garbage dump with our garbage because I couldn’t figure out a more clever way to have sustainable packaging. While not everyone composts and farms or gardens, many use recycling. Unfortunately in our rural county, we don’t have a recycling program. Garbage is either sent to the dump or it’s burned. We’ve done both. We’ve also separated plastic, glass, metal and brought it to Silver City where it could be recycled, however, Silver City no longer recycles glass (from what I was told) and we would need to drive our glass recyclables all the way to Las Cruces to dispose of them. I’m sorry, but there is nothing sustainable about spending over $50 in gas to take our glass containers to a place three hours away from us just to get rid of glass.
Sometimes things feel insane to my brain.
I’ve been looking at alternatives for our coffee company, as well as future farm products and things for our personal use. We don’t see how we can be 100% plastic free and maybe its because I’ve been in plastic for so long that I see no way out completely.
As an example, write now as I write this sentence, I’m sitting on a chair that has a plastic foam cushion. My old raggedy gray sweater is acrylic (plastic) and not wool, the keyboard I tap my fingers on…plastic. The modem, plastic. The paint that coats my desk holding my computer? Plastic. The little area rug under me? Plastic. My printers, mostly plastic.
There are so many things that we have that are made from this ubiquitous material. Cutting down and replacing where possible is the only solution we see as being responsible.
So what do we do with the things we are phasing out? If it’s a product that still has years of use, we’ll give it to those who need/want it. If its something that can no longer be used, we’ll recycle it. And that’s where it ends. I don’t want to a part of this problem any longer.
Animals are dying, people are dying. They don’t realize how many chemicals are in the plastic and they’re cooking or warming up food in it. And let’s not get started with the fact that all these products are petroleum-based and polluting our planet while they are being manufactured. Polluting the earth while the petroleum is being extracted.
Here are some of the things we’re looking to incorporate into our lives from now on. We’re not buying everything all at once, but instead, budget it in over the course of a few years. Slow and simple works best for us.
We regularly use Ball jars for storing foods, and we also have flip-top jars for storage, but we’ll be migrating over to jars with a wood top. Mostly because I love the way they look. We would put gluten-free pasta, rice, dried and other non-perishables in them.
We’ll be transitioning away from Ball jars for canning to Weck jars. One of the problems with regular mason or ball jars is that you need new jar lids each time you can something and the lining of the jar has a plastic coating on it. While I’m not condemning those who can using Ball, Kerr, or Mason jars, I’m just saying that we don’t want to use them for our family, or for future farm products that we will be offering. The lids on Weck jars are glass and do not contain any type of poly coating. This summer I canned up peach preserves and thought of giving them as gifts this Christmas to our family, but I changed my mind and decided to wait until after we own Weck jars to give food as gifts for the holiday season.
Plus, I love the way they look. 🙂
Another step we’ll be making to reduce waste is to purchase in bulk or to take our containers to the co-op to fill our jars with what we need. I wouldn’t be bringing jars, but instead cotton or linen sacks so that the clerk can tare the sack before weighing. This can be done with most dried goods. We can also utilize the store’s meat department to have our meat wrapped with paper instead of plastic-lined butcher paper.
For clothing and shoes, I think this is the most difficult for us. Real clothing is expensive. And that’s the rub for us. Organic cotton, 100% wool, real silk, flax linen…all very costly. Especially when you have a man that can wear out a pair of pants in a matter of just a few weeks. He uses everything to its bitter end! Holes in the knees in just under a month, worn thin because he works harder than any man I know.
A daughter who is growing faster than I care to admit! She’s on the fast track to being as tall as Dom in the next few years. She’s tall with these supermodel legs that just won’t stop growing! Her feet? She’s already wearing my size shoes and she hasn’t turned 13 yet. It’s difficult finding clothes that she will wear because she only likes POLYESTER clothing. Yes, that wasn’t a typo. This kid loves all the fuzzy poly clothes. I’ve purchased her merino wool sweaters in the past, and she even thinks those are itchy. I gulp on the thought of buying her leather $75 shoes that she will outgrow in a matter of two months. And that’s just shoes! Boots and play shoes she’s pretty rough on as well.
Simmi sleeps with about 10 blankets. That is not an exaggeration. From greatest to least, every time she gets a new blanket, she adds it to her collection. She even sleeps with all of them in the summer. There is only one fully cotton blanket in the bunch, and that is the quilt I made for her back in 2013.
She’s also not fond of my quilt, although she’s begging for me to make her a new one. When I do, it will be of organic cotton with a real wool batting. I have enough raw wool to last a few years. A friend of ours calls us to pick up the wool when she has her sheep sheared each year. So far I’ve collected about 5 large bags full of wool, just waiting to be processed.
I’m not sure how to get Simmi onboard with our transition. I’ll be purchasing new merino wool blankets next month, and my hope is that she’ll see how much better it is than the acrylic blankets she’s hoarding right now. My goal is to have her (and us) outfitted for the fall and winter of 2020 with organic cotton sheets, merino wool blanket, and a goose down blanket. I’ll also be making pillows for us to sleep on with the wool we have.
I’m taking it slow with Simmi. She’s been through a lot in the last four years and only now has started to understand that we are finally home. No more moving! No more needing to worry about if I am going to get sick again, or watching me suffer losing my hair and not being able to breathe. It’s a lot for a little kid to go through. My older children went through it too.
Personal products such as toothbrushes can easily be replaced with a bamboo toothbrush with natural bristles.
There are so many personal care products we can get relatively inexpensive instead of using plastic products. We’ll get there, and my hope is that by this time next year our family will be a little more plastic-free. It’s a great goal for our lives.
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.
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
Build a rabbitry and worm beds underneath
Purchase meat rabbits
Build a quail aviary
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 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!
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.
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!
Thank you for visiting my blog. I just turned 50 years old, and as I enter the next chapter of my life, I’m so pleased to be able to share it with all of you. I am a lifelong artist, writer, vocalist, crazy organic farmer, and own and operate Buffalo Mountain Coffee Roasting Company.