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.
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.
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.
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.
“A home is a kingdom of its own in the midst of the world, a stronghold amid life’s storms and stresses, a refuge, even a sanctuary.” – Dietrich Bonhoeffer
Happy New Year! I hope everyone had a fantastic celebration, even if by celebration I mean that you couldn’t keep your eyes open past 10 and blissfully slept your way into the new year.
The day after Christmas we took a road trip to buy three Stout Overland 5000 Bell Tents. We purchased them from a man who owns a glamping business at the Grand Canyon. Brand new, these tents cost between $1,200- $1,700 each. They are four seasons and each tent has a stove jack for a woodburning stove.
On the right is a photo of what bell tents look like when they’re all decked out. Each of the tents is 16 feet in diameter and the center pole height is about 10 feet, which is great for Dom since he’s so tall.
Our original plan was to create a series of hybrid tent cabins to live in, but after we finally added the cost of each tent with canvas, lumber, and other materials we would need, the cost was around $850 per tent to create. That was WAYYYY out of budget for us.
As I was looking through craigslist for tents, I came across an ad for three bell tents. The price was hard to pass up, so Dom and I decided to purchase them. The look is very different than what I had drawn out on paper for our tent cabins since I wasn’t thinking of creating round tent structures, but it will work just fine.
The bell tents take only about 30 minutes for a person to put up, which is FAR less time than it would have been for us to build the foundation and frame and then sew the canvas for the top.
By choosing these tents, we have saved ourselves a lot of money as well as time. You can’t go wrong with that great combination.
The man we purchased the tents from also threw in two more tents for free to use as spare parts for our tents, but he said that if I’m creative enough and can mend the other two tents, we’d have five. I’ll be examining the two extra tents to see if they can be salvaged. If so, we will use them to create one of them as our kitchen, and the second as our living room/dining room. It will be a house of 5 tents.
Our coffee company will also have its own tent and it will be the only tent with full power for use of my computer, Agnus, and some of the electronics and lighting I use when I’m working. This tent will also have a work area for Simmi to create her jewelry, art, and school work.
Dom and I will have our own tent, and Simmi will have her own.
We’re pretty excited about how everything is coming along. Next week we will start the process of mending any small holes or tears in the tents, prepare the location for the tents, and start going through our things to see what we don’t want to take with us.
As we think of everything that needs to happen before we can move down there, we’re estimating that we won’t be living down there full time for at least two months. It all depends on how quickly we can get certain things accomplished.
We have electric and well water, but we still need to get a phone guy out there to put in our line.
I love how things are evolving. I also really love that we don’t have a mortgage or looming debt hanging over us! Dom and I had a discussion about forest fires which happens frequently in Gila where we are. We love that if we needed to evacuate the area, we could empty the tents, and take them in the car with us. It would only take an hour or so to get them all collapsed and put into the car. That is a HUGE weight off of our minds because when you live in an area that is prone to fires, losing a house can be devastating! If we lost our belongings we would still have tents to live in. How cool is that?!
The land is currently covered in snow, and we’re supposed to get more snow through next week. It’s the perfect time to go over each tent to make sure they don’t have any little holes, rips or tears. I do need to reinforce some areas, but until I get each tent out and all the areas marked that need repairs, I won’t know what I need to complete each repair. It might be a patch kit, or I might need to get a used duty sewing machine. The sewing machine I have has a hard time sewing the binding on a quilt, so I wouldn’t even attempt to make repairs using it.
I’ve never worked with a round space before, so it was a little difficult for me to conceptualize how everything would fit into each tent. I wanted to have everything to scale on paper so I knew what would fit, what would still need to be made, and what we need to get rid of or store away for when we build our house.
In a room that is square or rectangle, it’s easy to draw furniture and walkways into a room but when you’re dealing with a circle and the ceiling starts out very low and works its way up to a 10-foot height, things get a little tricky. So I created the size of the tent to scale on paper, and then each piece of furniture was cut out to scale as well. That way I could manipulate where each piece would go and it would show me just how much room we had to walk around.
When I worked on Simmi’s tent, she didn’t quite understand how her bed and shelves were to scale, so I found an ephemera cutout that I use in my art to be Simmi and placed her on the bed. That seemed to work for her and then she saw just how big her tent was.
In Simmi’s tent, she will have her bed, two small nightstands, and a series of 5 or 6 two-tier shelves. These will hold all her prized possessions and clothing. She wanted a larger table and two chairs for her and her friend to do activities like arts or crafts. We will most likely get a small portable propane heater for her tent, but we are still unsure. I am uneasy about having a woodstove in her tent. She is old enough to have one, but if we did allow it, it would need quite a bit of “mama reinforcement” otherwise I’ll be up all night wondering if a stuffed animal got too close to it, or she put her clothing a little too close to the stove.
I go through at least a hundred scenarios in my mind of what could possibly happen when an 11 year old has a woodstove in her room. A propane heater is more appropriate. Where we live right now there is a propane heater in her room, but she doesn’t go near it. We only used it a few times last winter, and since then got another heating source for her room.
I could be completely overreacting to the heating situation. I just know she’s fascinated by fire, and when we have the woodstove going (which is nearly 24/7) in the main part of the house, she’s always hovering around it, sitting by it, and enamored with the glow of the flames. She can’t help herself. What kid can, right?!
There will be no electric in her tent, just a few battery operated lanterns for light. We’ve played with the idea of putting an electric heater in her tent, but I really don’t want any electric in either of the tents where we sleep.
The tent in the photo to the left I’m still messing around with. This tent is more of an idea since we don’t know what shape the extra tent given to us is like. We would need to build a new dining table (ours is way too wide) but our chairs can all be used.
I have other drawings, but I’ll post them at a later time.
There have been family concerns as we’ve started to discuss our master plan. Dom and I seem to be the family pioneers, doing things that aren’t typically done by our extended families. We don’t know anyone in either of our families that has ever lived in tents while building a house. It seems so….primitive.
But there aren’t many families that set out with the goal of not having a mortgage either. Or a non-electric house. Or limited types of technology because of my sensitivity to different types of motors in both sound and electric magnetic sensitivity.
But here we are! On quite the adventure. On Facebook, youtube, and Instagram I have found many families who have lived in tents during the years of building their farm and home, and those who have chosen to live in RVs. Anything to avoid paying rent and utilities in one place, while trying to build a home or infrastructure in another.
I often think those who are carrying more than one mortgage or paying rent AND a mortgage must be so stressed out. Or maybe they found a better way.
For us, this is the best way. It’s healthy and freeing to reconnect to the natural world. I believe we as a people are far too disconnected from the “real world.” Nature is the real world. The changing seasons with its ebb and flow of fleeting light in winter and extended shine in summer all play into the health and well being of us as humans. We are so disconnected from the sun, spending most of our days inside at work or in our homes. If we go out, it’s only briefly. We have come to fear the elements.
Living in fear is a poor use of our time and energy. We have this gift of life, and yet we hide away in dark homes or in closed up buildings all day at work. We are no better than animals in the zoo who have lost our true habitat.
We must not fear the unknown. We don’t have all the answers, but it’s okay not to know. We do not walk into this life natively, believing that nothing will ever harm us, or that we will never be inconvenienced. It’s going to happen.
Will there be bears and mountain lions? Yes. Are we aware that they browse our property? Yes, and I’ve found bear scat on one of our walks. It happens to be exactly where we’ll be putting our tents. But wildlife has always been a part of the real world. The world we are entering. Learning to live with them and keep ourselves protected is important. I can tell you this much though, it isn’t like braving the wild real world of Alaska where grizzlies roam.
Being afraid of the real world should be a personal indication that you are disconnected. Reconnection is the cure.
Anyway, I digress!
Here are some photos from Christmas 2018- New Year 2019:
Christmas eve was filled with excitement and wonder. We think Simmi is secretly an elf (Like Buddy the Elf) because as soon as the weather turns cold in early fall, she starts singing Christmas songs and it doesn’t stop until after we put the decorations away. This is also a struggle since she would keep Christmas decor up all year if she could.
Even though the electricity from the lights bothers me, I deal with it because I’ve always loved white lights at Christmas. Simmi would have been upset if we didn’t have lights around the window too.
Christmas night Sara joined us for dinner. She always has something stylish to wear, from well-appointed unique hats to the lavishly gorgeous embellished suede and lamb fur coat. And lets not forget the badass boots that go above the knee. I know you can’t see those in the photo, but she’s sporting them! Sara will be moving onto the land sometime in 2019 with her three gorgeous horses.
This is Josey (Joseph) and Leaf.
This is Galeno the great. I gave him the last part of his name because he’s a fatty and likes to keep eating. Haha.
My girl in her silliness wanted me to take a photo of her new hair style. She was pretty pleased with herself!
A very sweet friend of ours, Wendy, gave Simmi water colors, paint brushes and lots of creative things for Simmi to do. Simmi was plotting for at least three days which one of Wendy’s gifts she would open first. Wendy did not disappoint! Thank you Wendy for all the love you put into make Simmi’s Christmas magical.
The first thing she painted was a horse. Of course!
Christmas night was filled with great conversation, awesome food, and lots of laughter.
By the end of the evening, I think we completely wore Sara out. Haha
New Year’s Eve was fabulous. We definitely drank a little too much wine that night! We also hydrated too with plenty of water. What? You don’t drink ice water out of a large wine glass? 😉
New Year’s day we woke up to a foot of snow!
Not a soul to be found on the roads!
From the weight of the snow, Sara’s hayport collapsed. After we had some coffee and breakfast, we headed down to her place to get everything dug out.
We had some help from a neighbor getting the tarps out.
Sara one of the best humans I’ve ever had the privilege of getting to know. She’s a horsewoman and an extremely gifted writer. I’m creating a space on our blog for her to write.
New Year’s day breakfast. Ya can’t beat homemade flatbread, brie, grapes, and meat.
Josey was sporting some icicles.
It’s been an amazing start to the new year.