Setting Up a Work Station

Setting Up a Work Station

The last couple of Saturdays we finally spent a lot more time down at our land. Dom cleared more weeds and put up our tent. This tent will serve as our bathroom and supply tent for things we want to keep out of the elements. Inside is a composting toilet, bathroom supplies, baby wipes, and other things we don’t want to lug down every week as we work.

Our friends lent us two more tents so that we have a place for Simmi to play and do her school work during the week when we’re down there working.

We brought down our propane camp stove, our on-demand water, and when we get hold of a small sink, we’ll add that as well. When you have a child with multiple life-threatening food allergies, it’s imperative that running hot water is always available. We can’t wash dishes in a little tub filled with water that gets nasty and filthy. We need a continuous stream of hot soapy water to wash dishes. Having a working camp kitchen is essential to us getting anything meaningful done while we are building.

Our workstation is set up near the well and spigot, so we’ll be able to not only cook food and wash dishes while we are here, but we’ll also be able to prepare the garden beds.

We also set up a fire pit and smoke wall. Bushcrafters call them fire reflectors, but ours isn’t to bring heat near the tent. It’s simply a way to attract the smoke away from the tent. I like how our smoke wall came out and Dom had a blast playing with the small branches to weave them all in. There weren’t any real straight branches to create the wall, so he just got creative.

I love the final product.

At a lot of hardware stores, they sell campfire grills so we’ll probably invest in one of those in the next week since we love cooking over an open fire.

I’ll also be creating a new page that will list either free, repurposed or purchased materials and the running totals of how much we are spending each week.

I will be calling the page Farmstead Milestones (or something like that). I know that others will be curious about the expenses. I’ll say right off the bat we are not interested in getting huge loans, and so this whole process of building the infrastructure and outbuildings comes with the very slow and tiny steps towards our goals. It could take YEARS for us to finally get to build our actual house, but since we decided to stay debt free, bootstrapping it is our only viable option.

Instead of always relying on purchasing materials, we have lots of wood, stones, clay, sand, grasses, and leaves to choose from. I like that nature has a hand in sculpting our experiences here.

I want to walk along (as I already have) and spy a massively curved branch that is both rugged and elegant, and say to myself, “THAT! would be beautiful in the living room holding up the ceiling!”

My heart isn’t in dimensional lumber. It is in the sexy curves of trees that grow gnarly and waiting for the chance to be noticed. It’s the relationship we have to the land. That’s where my heart is and I want everything we build to reflect that.

This is the area on the other side of the fence where our canvas tent structures and outdoor kitchen and bathroom will be located. The tents will be semi-permanent in the pasture, but when removed the only thing that will remain is covered area and permanent bathroom. It will be a great place to sit and observe (and enjoy) the larger animals.

Simmi helping with the process of stomping the area flat.

This is such a great shot of where the potager garden will go.

Dom was in a state of deep contentment as he dug the firepit AND listened to Simmi sing while banging rocks into the pit’s edge.

Dom is removing some posts where the market garden greenhouse will stand.

Putting up the second tent.

This second tent is for Simmi to play in when she brings her friend down on Saturdays. When we are here during the week to work, it’s for her to do her school work in.

If it were late spring or early summer we would be camping out every day! But these tents aren’t warm enough to sustain us in the bitter cold.

Simmi and her friend Angel are reading Diary of a Whimpy Kid.

He’s eye candy to my soul.

The first three grow beds have been strung. The footprint of this area is 15’x60′. Over the top of these beds will be a high wind and snow load greenhouse. Before we create the middle grow bed, we need to install 4’x4’s. The greenhouse won’t be installed until sometime in January. Our hope is to have the market garden strung and created while we’re waiting on fencing for the potager garden area. We can’t start that process because the four large adorable pit bulls that have full access to the area would get busy pulling out all our stakes and dig holes everywhere. Silly dogs!

This is one of the big slobbery babies that live here.

This is very close to the same type of greenhouse we’ll be installing. It will not be heated at all. It’s mainly a season extender for high-value crops like tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, basil, etc.

All the way at the end of the rows there is a shadowy area. It will shade less than a 1/4 of the greenhouse. That area will be used to start seed in the spring.

We brought down our heavy duty propane camp stove, propane hot water on demand, and turkey fryer. We have never used the turkey fryer to cook a turkey. Instead, we use it boil hot water to process poultry.

I love how everything is coming together. Over the next few weeks, we’ll have more materials to work with. We need some T-posts and poultry fencing to start a composting chicken run, and this week I’ll be designing the chicken coop. Currently, there are about 10-15 chickens roaming around with the four dogs, so we want to get them into their own space and working for their food. A composting run will allow them to eat lots of yummy scraps and weed seeds, keep them safe from predation, and begin the process of moving them from regular dry feed to lacto-fermented feed. The chicken composting run divides the two gardens right down the center. On the left of the chicken run is the market garden, and on the right side of the run is the potager garden.

As we work the land, previous plans and ideas give way to more practical plans. If we don’t spend time down there, we can see where the winds come from, when the trees cast shadows throughout the day, which areas contain more moisture than others, and what is the prime garden real estate. HA! It wasn’t until we put up the second tent that we realized that the rich sandy loam that is beneath the second tent is prime real estate and shouldn’t be used to house animals. Instead it should be used to feed people AND animals.

Stay tuned! Great things are still to come.

 

 

 

 

 

Relocation Countdown: Six Days to Go

Relocation Countdown: Six Days to Go

Our countdown has officially started. We are picking up the Uhaul on Friday, and Saturday morning we will be leaving West Virginia for our new home in Reserve, New Mexico. I’ll miss West Virginia. It’s the birthplace of my coffee company, Buffalo Mountain Coffee Roasting Company. It’s also a place of unimaginable natural beauty. The air so clean and fragrant, the wildflowers-beyond compare.

I would have loved to stay and continue our love affair with West Virginia, but there are no suitable homes for us and our mold allergies. The only option would have been a tent in the woods, but we looked at that option and there wasn’t anyone willing to sell land at a reasonable price. That was the saddest part of it all.

New Mexico is our home. Dom and I joke around about our odyssey as a very long extended vacation from hell where most of the two and a half years were spent ill. Hey, we can rewrite our own narrative, right?

As I continue to deteriorate, Dom is becoming more worried about my health by the day (often moment by moment) and he continues to show great strength and resolve. He’s like a machine!

Most of our things are packed up and now we’re just finishing up the last of the packing. Well, Dom is finishing the last of the packing. His last day of work is tomorrow, and then he has one other building project to finish up in town. After that, it’s getting all the boxes and furniture organized and ready to go on the truck. We’ve moved so many times that I think we’ve become experts in how to NOT do things. Ha!

There are so many factors that go into moving across the country with a child who has severe multiple food allergies, a sick wife, and sick husband with a weak stomach because of the mold. Think about that for a minute. We’ll all be in a Uhaul truck, unable to eat what we want because of Simmi’s food allergies, hacking up a lung on my part, and well, a very smelly cabin because my poor husband has suffered terribly with some sort of bacteria overgrowth in his gut. Not fun. Kind of the perfect storm.

Oh, and then Dom has to listen to me endlessly worried about my orchids. Will they make it? Will it be too cold for them in the car without any heat? Will they hate me and end up giving up the ghost before we can even get to New Mexico? I’ve only killed one orchid in my life and that was before I knew anything about how to care for them. It still haunts me that I could have avoided such a horrible death.

I don’t own any fancy orchids. Just six that have my heart because they were given to me by Dom at different occasions in Vermont and Virginia. One was gifted to me by a dear friend. I will, however, get some orchids when we move to NM. I really love them. They have this elegant presence about them, even when they don’t have flower spikes.

I’ve ordered some supplies to make the move to NM easier in a few ways. I’ve purchased orchid supplies (see! there I go again talking about those damn orchids) to re-pot and give them a good dose of probiotics and fertilizer. We purchased a cheap little pink handheld game device so we won’t listen to her say how bored she is on the road for four days. And finally, a small hot plate to cook on and a toaster oven to bake in since we don’t use a microwave.

Beyond that, I’m beginning to put together the list of perennial native species, riparian vascular species (we’ll be near a few large spring fed ponds), pioneer tree seeds, fruit-bearing ground cover, and geeking out over the fact that we will once again have a place to start our gardens, orchards, animal systems, earthworks and water harvesting.

Here are some of my favorite perennials native to the southwest:

Yellow Bird of Paradise

Fernbush

Desert Willow

Western Sandcherry

Silver Buffaloberry

I’ll stop there for now. More musings of a future perennial high desert garden to come!

The Mulching Continues

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Today was another productive day. Noah has been on spring break and he helped move the rest of the mulch that was in the greenhouse to the north east quadrant. On Sunday I got quite a bit accomplished laying mulch around some of the fruit trees. Well, today, before I could lay mulch, I needed to rework each basin around the fruit trees.

Last year the chickens scratched up and flattened all the basins. The way our earthworks are laid out, there are two swales dug about four feet IMG_1480deep and four feet wide on contour. Both swales are filled with dead trees, branches, sticks, twigs and anything else we could fill the swale with. Then each swale was filled with dirt, and then on the west side of each swale, Dom installed a berm. It’s on this berm that the fruit trees are planted.

On the berm, we had basins dug so that each tree could be watered individually. Without a basin, the water would just run off.

Although there’s a lot of water stored in each swale, I still decided to build new basins and deeply water. As I dug the basins, the soil was already very moist. Swales help cut down on our need to water, although we do have weeper hoses on the berms.

The weepers were installed to help establish new fruit trees planted on the berm. We’ll leave them in place until we’re done planting the berms.

This year I plan on installing more fruit trees and berry bushes on the berms, but once they are all established, the weeper hoses will be removed and used in other areas.

Tomorrow the work continues. I have weed seeds to burn, and more areas to clean up. I’m about 75% finished with the north east quadrant, and I hope to be finished with this particular quadrant tomorrow. Then it’s on to the next section.

Today Dom got in touch with a local tree company, and it looks like we’ll be getting regular deliveries of wood chips. This company was taking their wood chips to the dump! GAH! As Dom was talking to the owner on the phone he was actually delivering the wood chips to dump. Dom told him he’ll never have to pay the dump again. Woot! He’ll just bring all the chips here and save himself a ton of money.

Here’s more photos of the day:

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Adventures at the Zoo

I know I already posted today, but since I’m going to be putting down what I plant each day, I thought I’d add some photos of last weekend when Dom’s parents came to visit. We went to the zoo and saw some really beautiful animals.
Simmi did well at the zoo in Albuquerque, and even though we didn’t get to go through the whole zoo, we were happy to see Simmi enjoying all the animals.

The following photos were taken last Monday:

365 days of Plantings… Day Four:

I’ll show the earthworks that were done this past weekend on our Passover/Easter Brunch tomorrow.

Pear fruit has already set, but I’ll be snipping them off tomorrow to encourage root growth for both the pear and the peach tree we planted today.

Is this the strangest bug you’ve ever seen? I have no idea what kind it is but it was about three inches long and loved to dig in the sand using its head. It was also a very fast little bugger, so if anyone has a clue what kind of little creature this is, please leave a comment and let me know!

We’ve seen insects similar to these little guys, but they were actually crickets.

Are You Ready for Economic and Social Collapse?

Normally, economic and social unrest sit in the back of my brain throbbing and pulsating like a deep migraine ready to explode.
These days however, the throbbing has moved to the forefront of my brain, creating the perfect storm within me for a rant.

I guess this is a rant of sorts, even though I feel fairly contained and at peace right now.

I have questions, because I guess I want to know if others feel this economic and social unrest?

Do you think our country is in for a major economic collapse? Beyond an economic collapse always follows a social collapse…are you concerned with this as well? Maybe its just a small percentage of us in the U.S. and around the world that are concerned, but I truly want to know what you all think.

How will the economic collapse of the dollar affect you personally? Have you invested in silver and gold as your “backup plan” or is it just a way to diversify your portfolios? What would happen if that gold and silver was confiscated by the government, as can be done in a TIME OF WAR?

What would you do then? My point is that paper money can not feed or care for you and neither can gold and silver. Huh? What was that you say? Well, haven’t you ever heard the expression “money doesn’t grow on trees”?

I’m sure all of you have. What good is gold and silver if there is no food to eat? If you can’t go out and buy it? You’d have to hoard food now for any impending crisis, and for how long do you believe that will last you? It won’t last. It will spoil or rot, unless its canned foods.

Gold and silver can definitely pay to keep the electric on, pay for gas, and other utilities, but for how long? What happens in the event of social collapse and the major infrastructure of your town or city is no longer functioning correctly?

How will silver and gold help that little predicament? It can’t. My point is that silver and gold, while important and valuable is not the end all-be-all for making it through an economic and social breakdown. Anyone that does have a portfolio knows that you never put all your “eggs” in one basket, and the same is true with gold and silver.

So what else can you invest in? Invest in purchasing and planting fruit trees and learn how to grow food in a sustainable way. The investment in all kinds of fruit trees, vegetables, grains, nuts, and livestock will create real food not only for you and your family, but for your community.

It is an actual commodity that others can not live without. Investing in your own fruit trees, nut trees, veggies, grains and livestock also creates an increasing yield each year if managed properly.

I know that when these kinds of questions about surviving come up, the first thing we think of is Y2K. Everyone who believed that our world was going to hell in a hand basket started building bunkers and hoarding food for when the collapse happened…it never did happen. Hoarding food and gold and silver is not the answer.

It just perpetuates the same problems over and over. Why? Because people have not learned how to actually grow good food…to get down upon your knees and plant some seeds. Growing food is not a method of survival…it is a way to thrive regardless of the economy.

It creates a firm foundation in which you can assist others in learning how to thrive as well. Our economy is consumer based and not product based, and in order to begin to reverse this trend, we will need to start getting on our knees and actually produce things of real value.

One seed can produce and produce, year after year, and without getting into the politics of big pharma genetically engineering and patenting seeds NOT to produce, buy organic seeds and watch those seeds perform endlessly.

A $2.50 package of organic seed will provide a yield where you will no longer ever have to buy that kind of seed or fruit or veggie again. $2.50 investment and never have to pay for another zucchini, tomato, watermelon, wheat product, rice, and anything else that can be grown in the ground.

Purchase an organic fruit tree for $25.00 and that tree will bear you fruit each year for that one time investment. $25.00 and never have to pay for another apple, pear, plum, peach or what ever else will grow in your region.

It seems such a small investment, but few do it. How about owning chickens and never having to pay for another egg or poultry product? Some may say “I don’t have enough land” but to that I say, do a little homework and research and you will find out that you can in fact grow a huge amount of food on a very small plot of land.

It also gives you the opportunity to create community gardens. We have just forgotten or haven’t been taught in the first place to grow things. Its either a novelty, or a “lower occupation”, which has been taken advantage of by big corporations.

If it takes a good three years for fruit trees to produce from the time you plant them, why not start now?

Even if there is no economic collapse or social unrest? The least you will be doing is utilizing your hard earned (almost worthless) dollar on something else you may want after planting some real products.

I have a dream which is becoming a reality for me and my family, the dream of thriving and producing something of real value that not only helps to create stability to us, but to our community that surrounds us as well.

One of the things I find repugnant are actions of well meaning people here and abroad that believe that they are the saviors of others by providing goods to developing and/or impoverished nations.

What will happen to them in the event of our own economic and social collapse? Will we actually be traveling to those distant exotic lands to put store bought goods into their bellies, and claim we are helping them?

We can’t help them unless we teach them to grow their own food, show them how to get access to clean water, and when we stop making them think that they should be thankful to us for the handouts. Because you know what?? they won’t be thankful when you don’t come anymore.

They will think they have been abandoned. We will never truly help others until we learn how to put the tools in their hands (and our own!) that will fight poverty.

Learning to grow food and share the surplus. Honestly, in an economic crisis, are you really going to be concerned with the well being of starving people thousands of miles away? I AM! I’m concerned that we have made them dependent on our way of life which, if we open our eyes, is in danger of extinction.

In the end, I believe that those in poverty has been defrauded of what they really need. They need to know how to care for themselves, and instead they have been enslaved by many well meaning people who think candy, bread, pasta and other commodities (even medicines) will help them out of their plight.

How many have gone oversees and taken pictures with these poor people, holding and cuddling their babies? And how many took a picture with these people while working along side them in a field, teaching them how to be self sufficient…not just to survive, but to THRIVE?

They hang around the cities, pour loads and loads of food, clothes and other products into their laps and then leave at the end of the week. Yes I’m ranting about this…well I’m railing on this topic, because when we can NO LONGER provide these kinds of services what will happen? What? Out of sight out of mind?

Will we really even care? Or will we say “I did the best I could, now I have to take care of my family. I can’t afford the trip to that distant land to bring candy and toys to these “poor” children I need to find a way to provide candy and toys for my own.”

I know that some (or a majority) of people will take offense to what I’ve said, but that is the truth, hard and cold. I’m sorry to burst the “good will” bubble and self congratulating attitude of those who think they are doing good, but unfortunately all you have done is create an even longer slow death of these indigenous cultures, who for thousands of years were able to create their own medicines, clothing, goods and services.

We have globalization to thank for that one. It is a slow and painful death which we bring to these people, and in the end, bring upon ourselves if we do not begin to make a change.

Why is the American Dream to own a home, have a couple cars, a couple of kids that go to college, and to keep buying stuff?

Why is that the American Dream? Its more like the American Nightmare, from which we will not be waking up anytime soon.

The American Dream should be about freedom and independence, but we are neither free nor independent. We think we are because we have money in the bank and we have a job.

But as we can see over the last few years, more people are losing their homes, their jobs, even their families. We think “this can’t happen to me”, but it can.

I have had this throbbing ache in the back of my head since the year 2001, and I remember thinking back then how much better it would be if we knew how to grow things, live off the land and live in a new way.

Ten years later, we are on road to making our dream an actual reality. Back then the only talk in circulation happened before the year 2000 with the Y2K event, and I was not worried about that in the least.

My American Dream is to be able to grow fresh fruits and veggies, livestock, honey, grains and to be able to pass this knowledge on to my children and my children’s children.

There is so much information out there on how to grow fruits and veggies naturally without the use of fertilizers and pesticides.

Ways of caring for animals that’s simple. How far we have strayed from real knowledge. We go to college to get a degree, but what will that piece of paper do for you if you can’t get a decent job?

Worse yet, what if you already have a great job that pays quite well, but all your bills and mortgage keep you tied to that job and POOF! your job is gone because you are expendable?

What then? How do you feed your family? How do you care for your community? What true worth is there in money? Even gold and silver?

We all need to eat, yet the knowledge to actually produce our own food is quite limited or non existent for the average person. Utilize the internet to learn how to produce real products that will help your family and community.

To summarize my long winded rant, don’t hold on to tightly to that money, gold or silver that you believe will save you or at least get you through.

Unless you own your home outright, it is not an asset, but a liability. If you pay a mortgage, it is a liability until you own it outright. An asset pays you! What are your real assets right now? If the housing market continues to decline as it has, you won’t be able to even sell it and break even.

We are just getting started on our road to freedom and independence, and this spring will begin our investment into an agrarian life.

For those who have a mortgage, start investing fruit trees and other real products onto your land, so that your liability will start to become an asset for you.

Let your land pay you back! It could in the end guard your greatest investment (your house) from foreclosure. If we are not headed for an economic collapse, then you can go into your yard and smile as you pick fresh fruits and vegetables for your family to enjoy before going on that long awaited vacation you’ve been saving a year to go on.

I’m not against buying things, raising the standard of living and enjoying the finer things in life, but just as you “don’t put all your eggs in one basket” when it comes to saving and investing, you have literally put them all in one basket because one crucial element has been neglected…sowing and harvesting of real products.

Here are a few videos that I feel should alarm everyone:

Wine Cooler Chick Incubator

We’re gathering our materials for building an egg incubator. I saw an awesome homemade incubator that was made from an old wine cooler and I knew that was what I wanted to do. I started searching online for a broken wine cooler and I struck gold on craigslist! The compressor was busted on this particular one and they were selling it for $50.00 . Since they were located in Santa Fe (which is over an 1 1/2 hour drive) I asked if they would take $30.00 for it…and we had a deal.
The whole thing weighs about 100 pounds and can hold 24 wine bottles. It also has a lock on it which will come in handy when  Simmi is present. We’re planning on creating an insert at the end of our kitchen island so the incubator will slide right in.

We’ve been looking at a few different DIY projects for the wine cooler incubator, and some of them are quite elaborate. Right now we’re trying to decide how technical we want this incubator to be. After we decide whether we want to include an egg turner, we’ll finish collecting everything and get started on the project! I’m really excited about it.

The weather here has been absolutely gorgeous with the temperature in the 60’s during the day. I’ve been taking Simmi out into the back courtyard so she can go on her favorite swing and I can start planning out her side of the courtyard. We’ll be planting 30 fruit trees in her area, as well as 15 berry bushes, edible flowers and herbs. It’s amazing just how many fruit trees you can squeeze into a small area if they are espaliered. We’ll be planting three varieties of the following trees in her area:

  • 3 apples
  • 3 pear
  • 3 plum
  • 3 peach
  • 3 apricot
  • 3 persimmon
  • 3 cherry
  • 3 orange
  • 3 grapefruit
  • 3 lemon

Of course the orange, grapefruit and lemon trees will be more experimental, but I believe that with the right preparation they will be successful. We’ll be painting the wall where the citrus will be planted a dark color (on both sides) as well as hooking up some plastic to keep them safe in the winter months. We’ll also be adding six inches wood mulch where her swing set is.

We’ve also been drawing up the rabbit hutches and second chicken coop that will be located in Simmi’s play area. We will probably only have about three or four chickens that live in the courtyard, and we are unsure just how many angora rabbits we’ll be keeping. The area for the chickens and rabbits is a large area that does not impede upon Simmi’s play space. Both the coop and rabbit hutches will have a living roof above and worm bins below. Dom is really excited about the living roof since he used to install them when we lived on the east coast. It gets a little more complicated having a living roof in the southwest, but we do have a few ideas for making a living roof possible out here in our dry climate. I always end up chuckling to myself when I watch Dom’s eyes light up as he draws up plans that include a living roof. LOL

On the other end of the courtyard, as I’ve said in other blog entries, we’re planning on creating an outdoor fireplace, bread ovens and grill station. In the concrete right now are five poles that we’ll be connecting a wire grid to over head, and we’ll be busting some of the concrete open in order to plant three or four varieties of grapes. The whole area to be covered is about 27′ x 22′ . I originally thought I’d plant squash there, but we just wouldn’t be able to consume that much squash!

While I was mapping out the courtyard yesterday it occurred to me that some of the homes we had been looking at before we purchased this house, actually had backyards smaller than our courtyard. Back then, we were trying to decide whether we wanted to have a newer home right near the Mesa in Albuquerque, or a house with some land. At that time we did seriously consider this one new home that needed no interior work done. I turned out many drawings of how I’d espalier fruit trees, still have a little aquaponics on the patio and do some vertical gardening. I think my time spent back then didn’t go to waste since the plans that I have now for our courtyard include many of the design possibilities I created for the new house we were considering at that time.

I really love where we live, and as we map out and plan each section of our land, I fall even more in love with our life and direction we are moving in.