Full Steam Ahead!

Full Steam Ahead!

“The way you do anything is the way you do everything” Martha N. Beck

Getting back into the swing of farm life is more challenging this time around than when we had our organic CSA in Los Lunas, NM. Back 8 years ago, we spent the first six months rehabbing the house (it was a real shit hole!) and then started doing earthworks and planting trees. A little garden in front, fruit trees to anchor the different growing spaces and that was about it until the following year when we laid the work for our farm. I didn’t have work outside the home so I could concentrate on planning and getting seeds and trees. All our time from morning till night was spent advancing our goals. We learned about life and death on the farm. We also learned about loss. About who we could trust and who we needed to avoid, it happens with families. But no matter who we slice it, we have always done things the same way.

The saying, “The way you do anything is the way you do everything” applies so fittingly to me in my daily life. I don’t wait for things to manifest before I’m willing to make something happen. I keep moving, keep striving, keep motivated. It’s in my nature. I still wake up amazed by all the life growing up around me. Berries ripening, invasive plants I try to become friends with, small critters who live among us curious about who we are. It’s how I do life…every day.

Back when we operated Luna Hill Heritage Farm, I ran around all day trying to get everything done. Animals to feed and care for, plants to harvest, seeds to sew, weed pressure, bug pressure, making meals, homeschooling, spending time with my family, trying to maintain friendships.

Can it all be done?

Yes. But there needs to be balance. Daily. If our lives are consumed with putting out fires all day long, that is how our lives will be. One big knot of worry and chaos. I know I always bite off more than I can chew, but this year I’m learning to pace myself.

The list of things that needs to be done in this place grows by the day like a hungry monster. I need to constantly re-prioritize everything according to what’s going on, especially since this time around we are also building our coffee business. With our coffee company in its first full swing of commercial coffee orders coming in (we put our business in a time out while we got settled), weaving in chicken feedings and watering my little seedlings get shifted a bit.

Here’s a list of all the things that need to be accomplished before we can even start our market garden. My hope is to have our first fall crops in the ground by mid-July:

  • Horse tape needs to be finished
  • Brush around tape needs to be cleared
  • Move horses onto pasture full time
  • Chicken coop/compost run needs to be completed
  • Set up feeding and water station near the coop for chickens and ducks
  • Move chickens to the new coop
  • Turn compost piles
  • Install a permanent tomato bed on the west side of the compost chicken run and plant tomatoes (by mid-June)
  • Make new soil from compost for market garden
  • Finish adding old manure to market garden beds
  • Finish forming the market garden beds
  • Weed the market garden
  • Purchase 150- 1/2″x10′ PVC, 10- 1″x10′ PVC, and rebar to create low tunnels for market garden beds
  • Purchase 6ml greenhouse plastic for market garden
  • Purchase two bolts of tulle for market garden
  • Purchase 100′ hose and high-velocity sprinkler for market garden
  • Purchase 4-way splitter
  • Purchase pond liner for the duck pond
  • Put up new fencing around the duck run and pond

All that has to be completed by mid-July if we’re going to get crops in the ground for the fall. All the warm season fruits and veggies are in the teepee greenhouse waiting for when it will be safe enough to be planted outside. I would like to get them in the ground by mid-June the earliest. We’ve learned living in the high desert that warm season crop seedlings become desiccated by our dry winds, have to tolerate high fluctuations in temperature variations between daytime and nighttime, and can be hit with an unseasonable hard late frost. In my experience, it has always been more than one late frost. The high desert is not the easiest place to grow food, but once you learn how your area of the high desert functions, you can plan accordingly.

One of the biggest mistakes people make when planning a garden is believing that because it might have been unseasonably warm one year or for the last 10 years, that everything will be okay and you can start planting those tomatoes in mid-May. If those crops are covered at night and for freak weather events, then yes, by all means, get those babies into the soil. For me? I’m not so quick to do that. This is our first year growing things in the Gila Forest. The microclimate here is beautiful but just as unpredictable as a college kid on spring break!

Our ongoing holdup at the moment is the chickens. They’re everywhere and until they are contained fulltime in their new space, my hands are tied and I’m limited to what I can accomplish.

I’ve had a few plants sitting outside and so far the chickens haven’t bothered with them. Honeysuckle, trumpet vine, Spanish lavender, and rhubarb. It would be a different story, however, if I were to put them into the ground! The first thing those chickens would do would be to scratch and dig at the base of the plants. They can’t do that when the plants are still in pots. So I wait and work on the endless list of other things that also need my attention. Like property cleanup, cutting down dead trees and branches, painting and rehabbing the business hub, chicken proofing my coffee roasting area. That one was big! I thought I was going to go on a chicken killing spree when they got into the area where I roast coffee and crapped all over the floor. Something about the new set up made them say, “Hey! This is the PERFECT place to throw a party and crap all over the clean stainless steel table and floor! Woohooo!” Yeah, it took me an hour just to clean it all up and sanitize the work table. Then I chicken proofed it. My insane need for cleanliness when it comes to my coffee roasting area almost sent me to the loony bin. We also learned that you can’t leave the door open to the business hub because the chickens will walk right in and make themselves at home. Oh, and forget trying to work with any kind of tools. One of the chickens decided to make Dom’s tool area the perfect place to sit and learn how to build something. I think she’s was mostly entertained by Dom’s work habits. I find him highly entertaining and watch him often. Maybe the chickens got that from me?

Yeah, they need to go into the coop!

“The way you do anything is the way you do everything.”

What are the things you do on a daily basis and end up being the way you do everything in life? What is the reoccurring theme? Are there things you wish could be different? I know I’m always working to improve daily habits. I’m my own worst enemy at times. But still, here I go…full steam ahead!

Six Weeks of Being Betrayed

Six Weeks of Being Betrayed

It has been six weeks since we moved here, and it has been six weeks of being betrayed. Betrayal is a nasty word and one that is only fitting for our situation. Our lives have been filled with joy, happiness, inspiration, and wonder. Simmi is acclimating to life in our semi-wild location. Dom has been busy with work. Sara has been working around the land and taking care of the horses.

And me? Betrayed by my own body. My autoimmune problems have gone away, but in its place comes my clumsy ways where I bang into walls, trip over small sticks, bang my head on corners of cabinets, lose my balance standing on the first step of a ladder, and cramp my hands up so bad that I can barely pick up an ax or hammer without it slipping through my fingers.

It all started when Simmi destroyed the zippers (both sets!) on her tent. The first set is on the outside of the tent, and the second set is on the screen. You see, she LOVES to make a small opening in the tent, and then dive in. There is no time to unzip the tent properly because what’s the fun in that?! No, this child wants to dive through the smallest opening possible. I kept telling her not to do that because she’ll damage the tent, but she didn’t believe me.

And then it happened. Both zippers broke. It’s not like we can take the tent down and just run it through my sewing machine to repair it. I have to sew it all by hand. The key word is hand. I had zippers from the extra tent we have, so I removed them and started sewing. It took four hours to get the first set of zippers properly attached. My hands were so cramped it was difficult to type or do any work. It took nearly a week for my hands to start working properly. Once they were somewhat recovered, I had to get the second set of zippers put on because a storm was coming.

Six more hours of sewing the outer zipper. This zipper was more of a challenge because of the thickness of the canvas. After I finished the second set, I could barely move my hands. I was betrayed by my own body. But I did it to myself. I pushed through and destroyed myself.

Six weeks of being betrayed.

My hands are finally getting back to normal. I still have problems with fine motor skills and typing is somewhat of a problem, but I can use my ax again without fear of it slipping out of my hand and cutting open my head or leg, or anyone standing in close proximity. Being accident prone is something I’ve always had to contend with, but when hands are so cramped they can’t do what they’re told, it makes my issues with banging into things and falling even worse.

It’s kind of like when you bang your toe on something and then all the sudden you keep banging it in that same area. When I fall because I tripped over a small twig or leaves (yes, I’ve tripped over a leaf last week) and my hands aren’t working properly, my fall is even worse because I can’t catch myself.

Betrayal sucks!

Beyond my quirky accident-prone ways, things are going great here. Here are some photos of the goings on around here…

Dom built a temporary teepee greenhouse. The poles were taken from trees the horses stripped.

We originally wanted to use our leftover plastic furniture wrap. It kept snagging and ripping so we ended up using some plastic we had laying around.

I sewed fabric straps to anchor onto the outside. Dom will need to attach them where I can’t reach. The straps keep the plastic from moving and provides a way for me to string up the outside and inside of the teepee to prevent the plastic from moving too much in the wind.

We added a door lined with chicken wire to prevent the chickens from getting in. They have been conspiring all week to get in and eat my little sprouts. We’ll be adding bricks to the front since it gets pretty muddy at the entrance.

The door was made from branches and attached with some old cabinet hinges we had. Making this little greenhouse was fun and it didn’t cost any money to make.

The seedlings have been enjoying their new home. We currently have artichokes coming up in the aquaponic system and next week they’ll be moved to the greenhouse.

I’ve had this cutie pie with the most adorable little freckles helping to move the seedlings into the greenhouse.

See what I mean? As I was stripping the bark off the poles, the chickens were plotting the great seedling heist. A few of them managed to get in there and I had to chase them out.

My girl has the best laugh.

She loves playing cards with her dad. She likes to trash talk while playing. It’s hilarious. When I hear Dom and Simmi playing, and she’ll say to Dom as she wins, “Eat it old man!”

I love him.

We started building the chicken compost run. It’s made from wood that was laying on the property, screwed together and lashed with jute. The side walls will have welded wire attached, and chicken wire will line the top. We have a nice stinky pile of compost under that tarp. On the right side is where the horses are (they’ll be moved soon to the pasture full time), when they are out of the area I’ll be putting tomatoes on that side. Tomatoes can handle compost so it will be a good set up and it will shade the compost pile and the chickens towards the end of the day. We’ll also be adding honeysuckle and trumpet vine to the chicken run to shade the girls all summer. They’ll also attract many pollinators for the garden.

At the close of Sunday evening a few weeks ago, Dom was frustrated, hot, bothered, and ready to be done. We pushed through the dehydration and cramping hands during mid-day in the hot sun because we needed to get the chicken run covered with chicken wire to protect the posts from the horses. Yet, even with a torn meniscus and working on the uneven ground all dehydrated and weather-worn, the end of the day scowl was the only thing showing his pain. I feel fortunate to have such an amazing person to walk through this life with. When he came home from work he apologized to me for the way he handled the day. I was unsure why he needed to apologize. He said, “I love that we get to work together, but I know I could have made the whole day more fun for both of us. Instead, I barreled through and made everything a chore.” What he doesn’t understand is that every moment I spend with him is heaven, and the fact that he would apologize and want to make it even better rocks my world.

We have wild grape vines setting their fruit. We’ll be cutting back most of the vines in this area and grafting different types of table grapes to them. We’ll be putting up a pergola for Farm to Table events and the new grapes will grace the pergola.

I got my hands on the last pot of Spanish lavender. I’ll be taking cuttings to make a lot of lavender that will grow down the driveway and in the potager garden and well, everywhere else. I love lavender!

Scored some rhubarb and I’ll be planting it next week.

When the Benadryl hits hard, goofy faces happen.

Sara is loading horse manure onto each of the market garden beds. Soon we’ll dig the pathways and form the beds.

Hopefully, in the next few weeks, my hands will be fully recovered. In the meantime, I’ll be busy creating new plants from cuttings, planting more seeds, continuing to work on the market garden, and working on the business hub. Now that I can type again, I can also start writing more blog posts!

Oh, and in two months we’ll be welcoming some ducklings! I’m so excited about that. We’ll be driving to Arizona to pick up Dutch Hookbill Ducklings. I haven’t decided how many we’ll purchase, yet. This month I’ll be ordering the pond liner and getting the duck area ready. It’ll take a month to get all the rocks moved into their pond.

Pictured above is a Dutch Hookbill Duck. We’ll be getting our ducklings from someone who is preserving this breed in Arizona. She’s an excellent photographer as well!

Here’s what the Livestock Conservancy says about the Dutch Hookbill:

This unique and very old Dutch breed of duck is thought to have originated in the Netherlands between the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries in the province of Noord-Holland. As the name implies, the breed is characterized by its downward curving beak, setting it apart from other duck breeds. It is believed that this trait was particularly useful to duck breeders in making it easier for hunters to distinguish Hookbills from wild ducks that inhabited the same areas as the domesticated birds. In Holland these ducks were managed in the waterways and canals of the countryside and they were expected to forage for most of their own food. Today they are still among the best foragers of domestic ducks.
According to the Dutch Association of Breeders of Domesticated Waterfowl (Nederlandse Vereniging van fokkers van gedomesticeerd watervogels) the Hookbill duck and the Noord-Holland White Breasted duck (also known as the Witborst duck) had similar genealogies. Their exact origin has never been determined but it is speculated that the breeds developed from early importations of Indian Runners. This idea is supported by J. Bonenkamp in the magazine Avicultura (8/1990) where he accounts of finding pure Hookbill ducks among groups of ducks in East India.

The unique appearance of the Hookbill made them desirable as ornamental birds but early on the Hookbill was known for being excellent layers of eggs. That combined with their remarkable foraging capability made the breed widely popular on Dutch farms. In Holland, in the 18th century ducks were provided a place to nest and feed while they were brooding, then ducks and ducklings were all sent out to the surrounding wetlands to forage for their own food and received no further supplemental food. The wings of the ducklings were clipped to make them easier to catch later. By mid-August the birds were gathered and sent to market in Purmerend, where they were purchased by duck keepers who would use them for egg production. The birds kept for breeding were selected to be sturdy and disease resistant, self-sufficient, adaptable to new circumstances, and efficient layers needing less food than other breeds in order to be productive.

The Dutch Hookbill breed declined in the 20th century due to a diminished market for duck eggs and the effect of increasingly polluted waterways that served as their home. By 1980 the Hookbill was nearly extinct, but through a Dutch effort led by Hans van de Zaan, the last 15 birds were collected and used to start a conservation breeding program in the Netherlands.

Dave Holderread was among the first to import the Dutch Hookbill into the United States in 2000. He found that there were three bill types in the population: extreme curve, moderate curve, and straight. In his book Storey’s Guide to Raising Ducks (2011), Holderread outlines that the most effective breeding strategy was to cross birds with moderately curved beaks to each other or an extremely curved beaked bird with a straight beaked bird as the best breeding options. He found that crosses between birds with extreme curved beaks had poor egg fertility. There are still very few primary breeding flocks of Dutch Hookbills in the United States.

Dutch Hookbill ducks have excellent flight capability, especially younger individuals. The birds reach sexual maturity very quickly by around 16 weeks of age. Healthy ducks can be expected to lay anywhere from 100 – 225+ eggs per year. They come in three primary color variations: dusky, white, and white-bibbed dusky. Other colors exist but not in great numbers here in the US. The Hookbill is a remarkable breed that deserves a second look as a viable and efficient egg producer for small scale farming.

 

 

 

 

Answering Questions About Tent Living

Answering Questions About Tent Living

There have been a lot of questions about our decision to live in tents, and I thought I would take some time to answer them. Some answers are easy, others are a little more involved and deserve a more detailed explanation.

Before I start, I thought I would share a video from one of our TV shows, Parks and Recreation. This episode scene was about camping. Not as a lifestyle choice like we’ve decided, but I think it gives a funny representation of what different people think of when they get a chance to go camping:

Camping conjures many images to the mind. Some are fascinated by our decision to live in tents, while others say, “Yeah, but why?” As they smirk unsupportively.

I’ve compiled a list of questions that were asked of us over the last six months from family and friends.

1. What’s the point in living in a tent? Did I miss something? 

This question is the most obvious but deserves the most attention. There are a few reasons we chose to live this way. Our number one reason…it’s the most economical. It seems like that should be the first thing that people think of when they ask the question, but for whatever reason, it’s not the solution they would come up with. Economically it makes financial sense to not be tied to a massive mortgage! We didn’t want to make a commitment to a bank to spend 30+ years of our lives paying for an overpriced house and land AND that doesn’t even include the interest we would be paying. No. That wasn’t for us. We made the decision to live in a remote rural area where it takes an hour or more to get to a supermarket. There is no major industry in our local area, and to try and get a mortgage requires one of us to have steady 40 hour per week work that is consistent day after day and year after year.

That wasn’t for us. We already went the route of owning a house and land with a big mortgage and it required Dom to work two jobs. His commute time was 40 minutes each way, and when he was done with his main job, he went right to his second job. On the weekends, if he wasn’t on the schedule to be at work, he was digging ditches, doing earthworks, digging garden beds, and laying our farm infrastructure. This is NOT sustainable. He was burning out and exhausted. We live on one income. Our daughter is disabled and very early in her life we made the decision that I would be the primary caretaker during the day. I know that sounds strange since most families with disabled children still work multiple jobs, but due to her food allergies and her neurological disorder, she was most safe at home with us.

Living on land we own in tents while we build our farm infrastructure AND emerging coffee company makes good financial sense. It is a sacrifice of sorts, but not much. We still have a building on the property that contains electricity, running water, and a bathroom, but even if we didn’t have that we were planning on building one from scratch. Having access to the current structure affords us the ability to jump in quickly and be fluid with our coffee company. That was important to us. If we didn’t have the building to work from, we just would have made it happen from a tent. Not a big deal at all.

The second reason for living in a tent is that is completely free of all electricity, the tent can breathe, and it is by far the healthiest environment that we’ve ever slept in. Conventional housing contains some pretty nasty environmental toxins. If there was a leaky roof or water damage and the owner did not address the issue, I suffer. Most (almost ALL) landlords are quick to claim that they have never had a water damaged building. Oh no, they would say, our building is clean! Until I start losing my hair, my breathing becomes labored, and I have an autoimmune flareup. Mold always triggers an autoimmune flare up. Hair dye also triggers an autoimmune flareup, but I haven’t dyed my hair in years. I know my triggers.

Our tents are not moldy, they breathe and provide the best living experience for us to date.

2. Aren’t you cold at night? 

It’s chilly right now. We all have different thoughts about what we can handle when it comes to the cold. Living in a regular home with heat, we became accustomed to having the heat set at night to about 70 degrees. However, when we lived in our little place in Reserve, Dom and I didn’t have the heat on at night. We did have a little electric heater for Simmi in her room, but that was set low. Usually, the nightly temperature in our house was about 30 degrees in the winter after the fire died down in the wood stove. We did have propane heaters as well, but we didn’t use them because the odor from the propane bothered us. That sort of prepared us for the cold nights. Until we moved into our tents, that is…

The first night we slept in our tent, the temperature got down to 22 degrees. We were snuggled under the covers (we have a heavy down comforter) and Simmi sleeps under six blankets all year long. Yes, even in the summer. It’s weird, I know. Anyway, while 22 degrees is pretty cold, we were very warm, and sleeping in the crisp cutting cold air was actually refreshing. I never would have thought that especially since most of my life my body temperature has always been low. I freeze even in the summer. I can wear a sweater all year and still be chilly.

The thing that happens when you live outside most of the day, is that you become acclimated to the cold. We as a society are used to being in 70-72 degrees year round. During the winter thermostats are set to 65-70 and during the summer, air conditioning is set to 70-75 degrees. That’s a lot of money wasted via electricity or gas to keep you warm or cool.

We have wood stoves for our tents but we haven’t set them up. It’s spring and it won’t drop below 20 degrees. We can handle that. This year in the fall, we will set up our wood stoves but we don’t intend to feed the fire through the night. It’s not necessary.

The biggest takeaway living in tents during the cold seasons is to make sure you’re properly dressed and that you have warm bedding. That’s about it. If you’re comfortable (not shivering) there’s no need to worry about the cold. I worried a bit about Simmi being able to handle the cold, but she’s proven herself to be far more robust than I gave her credit for. We were prepared to set up a special propane heater (doesn’t give off the propane smell) in her tent at night if she got upset about the cold…but she didn’t. She falls right to sleep in the crisp air and wakes up refreshed and ready for the day. No complaints. Wanna know when the complaints start? When we’re in the business hub starting a fire in the wood stove in the morning. We fire it up while we’re making breakfast, and she sits there like she’s freezing to death while the stove is generating heat. Why does she do that? Well, that’s exactly what she did when we lived in the little adobe in Reserve. Every morning she would sit in front of the wood stove complaining about how cold she was. This was why I worried about her not having heat in the tent in the first place. It turns out, it’s just a habit of hers. She likes to complain about being cold while she’s getting warm. Go figure!

3. Don’t you miss modern technology?

We have all the creature comforts of electricity, internet, phone, heat, bathroom facilities, and running water. We lack for nothing. We live in two worlds currently. Our business hub which is being rehabbed contains all the creature comforts we have been accustomed to. We aren’t interested in living without those amenities, we just want them to be separate from our living space, aka, our camp.

I LOVE technology. Never forget that for a moment. If I could still have an active cell phone in my possession, I would! I am a technology whore. I would do anything for it. It also lead to me becoming electro-hypersensitive (EHS). No more blue tooth devices, streaming wirelessly, cell phones, or wifi. I used to LOVE wifi! No wires or cords anywhere. That was my favorite. But do you want to know what I love more than wireless capability? The fact that our daughter’s learning disabilities are dissolving. Since being in this place without any wifi signals and no cell coverage, Simmi is now reading and comprehending. She used to HATE to try and read, and now she can’t wait to read us a story. That is a huge win, and it wasn’t a coincidence.

4. How do you light your tent up without electricity?

This was a big question. I guess when we’re all used to having technology we never think of alternatives. We currently use taper candles which give off the greatest light and when you combine it with the beauty of the off-white canvas tents, the glow of the candles becomes magical in the tent and from the outside. I love how our tents seem to glow at night. We’ve found that two taper candles light our tent well, three taper candles make it quite bright. We do also have oil lamps, but Simmi and I can’t handle the odor they give off, especially in a confined space. If we’re outside at night, oil lamps work great, but while in our tents or if we’re in the hub after dark, we use candles. Yes, even in the hub we use alternative light source at night if we’re not at camp.

However, one thing that has changed in our habits is that we try to head down to camp at sunset or before. There have been times during these two weeks that we were in the hub after dark, but we’ve made a point to change.

Here’s why…

We know all too well what happens with farm life. Before you know it, it takes over. There are so many projects, too many things on the list that still need to be done, that our personal lives start to disappear. It happened to us when we previously had a CSA. We would be up till all hours of the night trying to get personal things done because all our time during the day until night was spent on outdoor projects.

I’m more interested in balance these days.

The funny thing about candles is that nowadays candles are used for “romance.” No one thinks of using them instead of light bulbs. But that’s why we’re called Firelight Farm. We do have a flashlight, but we need to get a red filter on it. Artificial light after dark is really bad for our circadian rhythm. Artificial light at night turns off the body’s ability to use melatonin which helps us go to sleep at night. Also, melatonin is very important in the regulation of female hormones. I wouldn’t be surprised if women who have problems regulating their hormones or go into early menopause do so because of the habitual use of technology and artificial lights after dark. If you’re up all night and can’t sleep, shut off all your devices (unplug and power them down), turn off all lights and use candles instead. Shut down the electric where you sleep and above all shut off the wifi! It raises blood pressure, blood sugar, cortisol levels, and causes all kinds of physical problems.

We are only awake for a little while after we get to camp. So far we have used a total of 4 taper candles in two weeks.

5. You’ve mentioned that you were going to have an outdoor kitchen and full bathroom, but I haven’t seen that yet and I’m so curious? Please post pics! 

We are planning on building two outdoor kitchens. The first one is our personal camp kitchen not open to the public. The second is our farm to table outdoor kitchen for events we are planning. We are hoping to start our personal camp kitchen by mid-May after we finish rehabbing the business hub. We currently have composting toilets down at camp, but when we build our full freestanding bathroom at camp, it will be complete with flush toilet. We don’t have a date for when the bathroom will be started.

6. Will you plan on living in tents for the rest of your life?

That would be a resounding no, although, we are well on our way to becoming feral. Our plan is to continue building our coffee business, our farm infrastructure, then build a coffee roastery and commercial kitchen. After that, we will turn our attention to building our house and Sara’s house. Our intent is to build all our structures from the materials on our land or obtained locally and/or repurposed.

7. Are you afraid of wild animals and bugs?

Yes and no. Wild animals are here in the Gila Wilderness. We live in an area that has snakes, bears, mountain lions, skunks, wolves, coyotes, eagles, hawks, scorpions, poisonous spiders, fire ants, and more. Our plans are to build a perimeter around our tents to guard against any dangerous animals, but it has been a low priority. If we start to hear coyotes, foxes, and wolves at night, we’ll step up our game and add fencing.

One of the more pleasant things about camping in fall, winter, and early spring is the lack of bugs…other than flies. When there are farm animals there always seems to be flies. We’re in growing zone 7B which means the winter months don’t get too cold and during the day it warms up nicely here. No need for more than a light jacket during the day in winter. This will be our first summer here, so I’m not sure what kinds of bugs will be active and desperately trying to get into our tents. Haha, We will us diatomaceous earth in the nooks and crannies of our tents as well outside around the base of the tent, but other than that, we don’t use bug spray or other types of chemicals.

Those are the majority of the reoccurring questions we get about our current lifestyle. And make no mistake, this is a lifestyle choice.

Many who have been camping might wonder how we could ever do this. We have our very comfortable beds and bed frames, area rug, and our special chairs, and clothes in our tent. All the comforts we would have had in our past bedroom are in our tent. Simmi has her very comfy mattress, dresser, all her favorite blankets, clothes. What more does one keep in their bedroom? How much room do you need? We spend 7-9 hours per night in our bedrooms. That is a long time each day. That is the same every day of the year, and it’s the same in a tent. I don’t think I would be happy sleeping in a sleeping bag on the hard floor or even on a cot. I wouldn’t be happy waking up and putting my feet down on shifty tarp that’s hard to clean or keep clean. I know that I wouldn’t be happy in a thin vinyl tent that feels like a hobo motel!

That is not my idea of camping full time for the next few years. We live very well here. Anyone that will come to stay with us for the week (family or friends) will stay in a tent like ours, with a comfortable bed, warm blankets, and clean sheets. They won’t be sleeping in a vinyl tent and sleeping bag on the ground. If they visit in the winter, they’ll have heat from a wood stove that they will have the option of using through the night.

Any other questions? Leave a comment, I would be happy to answer them…if I have the answer.

Our First Full Week on Our Land

Our First Full Week on Our Land

We did it. Finally, at long last, we are getting settled on our land. There were a few things that changed prior to moving onto the land and it worked out really well, but we needed to shift our plans. Originally we were planning on building our coffee company’s business hub along with our bathroom and outdoor kitchen. However, our friends who would have lived right next door to us decided to move and made their three RVs and workshop available to us. This was a godsend. I was under the gun (Dom was too!) to get Buffalo Mountain up and running as soon as possible which would have meant that our coffee company would operate from inside one of our bell tents until the building was finished. But now we will be rehabbing the main RV, it will become the business hub until we build our roastery and commercial kitchen.

The RV was a large Winnabego and four rooms were added onto the RV to give them a bit more space. This was their landing pad for when they build their dream home…but their plans changed. I can relate for sure. I can’t tell you how many times our plans have changed within just a week or two. Anyway, we are super thrilled to have the opportunity to transition our coffee company fairly quickly. One room will be used for my art studio, the second room will be used as our office, the third room was created to make the bathroom much bigger, and the fourth room which is located in the front of the RV will be used for handling coffee, bagging up products.

The way we were operating Buffalo Mountain before was extremely tight. We had only one room to use for EVERYTHING. If I needed to put together coffee wedding favors for 100 guests, the room needed to be cleared out so that I could work on the art for the front of the favors. The largest wedding I’ve done had 200 guests and I needed to get everything done in a room that only fit a 3×6′ table.

I’m also a hardcore introvert, so having two extroverts bopping around (one who is with me 24/7) and only having a small space to work was challenging to say the least.

But we made it work.

And now I have a room for each important part of our coffee company. I no longer need to have my office in our bedroom or trying to teach Simmi a new lesson since I homeschool her at the table that I need to work at. She now has her very own special nook for her art projects, beads, and her little tv.

The front of the hub, pictured above, will be painted and finished. They were in the process of building the rooms which were ingeniously created from pallets. The inside is still unfinished, so we’ll be finishing the rooms and painting everything in the next few weeks.

We have been sleeping in our tent but didn’t get much set up down in camp. We turned our attention to getting the hub ready for all the equipment, supplies, and inventory.

Today we brought down our chairs and rug for our tent. We’ve been living like hobos for the last week. We let Simmi sleep with us while she got used to living in tents. It’s a big change for her…for all of us. Tonight she’ll sleep in her own bed in our tent and tomorrow she’ll be moved to her own tent. All her things were moved into her new space. We need to build low profile shelves for her clothes.

Even though our tents are four-season tents, we decided that because it is already spring, not to bother hooking up the woodstoves. The nights have been chilly, but our blankets and comforters are super warm. Simmi has a habit of sleeping with 6 blankets, even in the summertime. There is no way that this child of ours could be cold! The first night we were here the temperature got down to 22 degrees. Since that first night, it’s gotten much warmer at night.

We have our kitchen tent set up, but we haven’t moved our kitchen supplies in yet. We need to purchase a hose to run to our camp so we can create our kitchen sink. We have an on-demand camp water heater that hooks up to propane. Once we have our sink set up, we’ll be ready to live down there most of the day. For now, we’re cooking in the RV, and catching up with laundry.

Simmi did well going back and forth every few days with more of our boxes of things. She wasn’t happy about being crammed into one seat (she likes to sprawl) but she was a trooper.

The horses are doing well. They’re antsy to get out on pasture. Dom made some strides getting more posts up for them and now they are spending a few hours each day out there. Hopefully, in the next few weeks, we can get the rest of the posts up and the tape going for them.

I love seeing them every morning and throughout the day. They have such a beautiful presence about them.

Our kitchen tent. It’s more for eating and hanging out. We’ll be setting up a separate smaller area for our camp stove and sink.

The photo above was from our time living in Maine. It was the first time we had an outdoor kitchen and it helped to prepare us for living outside again.

Mineral Creek has been flowing. We usually cross the creek to get to our camp, but now we have to take a back road from Mogollon.

We live in such a beautiful part of Catron County.

We’ve been watching a few of our friend’s dogs and Simmi is obsessed with feeding them. They’re fatties, but for some reason, she is always concerned with their nutrition.

Our special guests until May. Puna and Bohdi. These fatties are always ready to attack with lots of love and slobbery kisses.

The round pen is up in the pasture.

There’s a swing in front of the hub and Simmi is on it at least 3 times a day.

One of the things I love so much about the land are all the sprawling scrub oak trees.

In the back of the hub is a shade garden with cactus, scrub oak and juniper.

This photo was taken at midday. The shade is a welcome addition in the heat of the day.

Dom’s workshop.

Another structure built with pallets. We’ll work on finishing this building too.

Inside the workshop.

This week we’ll also be working on creating a new coop for the chickens.

This past week my new bible arrived. I’m not kidding you! This book is a treasure trove of amazing ideas. Author Anna Edey created many different systems for managing graywater and blackwater from toilets. The one system I was most interested in was a composting flush toilet where worms are at the heart of the system. I’ve known about her composting flush toilet for a long time, but just ordered her book two weeks ago.

Our bathroom at our camp, along with our graywater will be created using the Solviva method. Eventually we want to convert the business hub over to this system as well.

Things are going well and we’re making great strides.

 

Four Weeks Until We Move Onto Our Land!

Four Weeks Until We Move Onto Our Land!

Dom and I have have talked about living in tents for about 10 years. In the beginning, the topic would arise after I would get out of three week hospital stay because of pneumonia brought on by mold. Our whole marriage (we’ll be married for 15 years this month) I’ve been ill. All our moves from one house to another had to do with mold until we left the east coast and moved to New Mexico 10 years ago.

The conversations would go something like this:

Dom: That’s IT! I’ve had enough of this crap…water damaged buildings, unbelievable slumlords who don’t take care of their rentals! We’re getting rid of everything and moving into a tent if we can’t find suitable housing.

Me: Okay, I’ll research where we can move to.

Then time would go by, I would recover from pneumonia and we would resume our life as usual.

Over the years, it became more apparent that tent living was something that would help our lives. I don’t think anyone really thought we were serious about it.

When the opportunity to purchase three bell tents came along, we knew it was really going to happen.

I’m giddy.

I’m scared.

I’m so excited!

We have been busy over this past month deciding what will come with us, what we’re going to sell, and what we’re going to give away. Bell tents don’t exactly offer the side walls to accommodate dressers or taller furniture.

This coming week we’ll be putting our third bell tent up and bringing down more of the things we’ll be keeping. Dom is feeling a little overwhelmed since we finally made the decision on a moving date. Okay, overwhelmed might be an understatement…it’s more of a freakout.

I wanted to put the tents in place so we could start spending our weekends there and then we can accomplish more this coming month. Right now, we’re going at a snail’s pace with only one day a week to get stuff done.

This week we’ll be:

  • Putting the remaining bell tent up
  • Installing more t-posts in the horse pasture (they’re still in a small holding area and not happy about it)
  • Repairing small holes and tears in two of the tents
  • Repairing a major rip in the third tent

What we need to purchase either new or used or donated:

  • kitchen sink
  • bathtub
  • more welded wire fencing for our camp area
  • building material for our outdoor kitchen
  • Lots of 2×4’s
  • PVC for the market garden covered beds
  • Lumber for the market garden greenhouse and post harvest washing station

Dom cleared and graded the area of the first bell tent. There was only a slight slope. The second area needed a LOT of grading. He nailed it!

The tents only take about 30 minutes to put up, and he was able to do it alone.

They’re roomy and provide enough space for our bed and some furniture.

We haven’t cleaned the interior of the tents yet. After I repair some of the little slits and holes in different areas, we’ll clean it. On the walls in the above photo, you can see what looks like stains. They aren’t. Those are areas that have dirt, dust and HAIR. Yes, it’s gross to see other people’s hair in my bedroom. Haha

That crazy look on Dom’s face was captured as he was looking at the nasty hair and dirt on the interior of the tent and mud on the floor pan. He stands at 6’2 and the peak of the tent goes to 10 feet.

We’re excited and enjoying the process. Usually moving to a new place is extremely difficult due to my health, but this time around my health is recovering and I can actually help with the move, clearing land, digging (not my favorite), chop down trees with an ax…I do enjoy wielding an ax. It must be my distant viking DNA being activated.

I also started a Patreon channel for anyone that would like to learn more about what we’re doing. I will only be posting free content on our website, and then there will also be paid content available on Patreon.

The types of things we’ll be sharing on Patreon are:

  • Recipes and meals (we are predominately raw primal, eating raw cheese, raw meat and organs (yes, you read that correctly), fresh fruits and vegetables, lacto-fermented veggies, cured meats, etc. We do still eat some cooked food, but it’s mostly raw at this point.
  • Tutorials on how we market garden and farm
  • Animal care
  • Natural building techniques
  • Making our own mattresses from organic material and local sheep wool flake. It’s coming to us from a local farm unprocessed, so I’ll be going through the process of cleaning the wool, sewing the mattresses, and creating our non-toxic beds. (I’m so excited about that!)
  • Maybe some personal rants. 😉
  • Doing laundry by hand because we are choosing not to use a washing machine
  • And anything else that seems interesting and fun.

Here’s a link to our Patreon channel: Click Here!

So what do you receive if you become a patron? COFFEE! Become a patron and get coffee delivered right to your door. If you are already purchasing coffee, how about getting some fantastic fresh roasted coffee from us instead? Think about it…it’s killing two birds with one stone. You are helping us to get to our goals and as a thank you, you’ll get fresh roasted coffee delivered to your door.

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.