“Givers need to set limits because takers rarely do.” ~Rachel Wolchin
The month of June we’ve summed up with the phrase, “the shit show.” There were a lot personal things that happened to us as a family. Things that I’m not at liberty to discuss because I would never out someone for personal satisfaction. I will, however, talk about us during the shit show.
Dom and I have always felt we had much to give. At times we give until it hurts, and then we give some more. But we don’t give blindly. We give to others based on patterns we see in their lives. If we feel they are doing all they can but just can’t seem to get it all together, we’ll come alongside and help in whatever way it might be. It could be a construction project, helping to pay a bill or two, a listening ear, a meal, or even just some coffee to let them know they’re thought of fondly. We give as we see the needs open up. It’s in our nature.
It led us to Maine and on that crazy odyssey I’ve written about on our website. Helping others. Yes. Being taken advantage…yes, that happened too.
But this isn’t a sob story about how others have wronged us. This is a song of victory about how we find out who our people are and who is just using us. Sob stories always involve someone who was “trying” to help someone and got burned. They got bilked out of their money or life savings or some other story like that. It’s the little old lady who’s pills were taken by the unsuspecting drug addict posing as a kind neighbor. Or the lovely but lonely person who had their things stolen by someone who claimed to be a friend.
Crimes happen most often by people the victims knew.
This is similar to what we’ve been through. However, the difference is that as we came to understand we were being taken for a “ride,” we put our foot down and said no…no more.
But does that work? Nope.
We blame ourselves only and take full responsibility for our actions that led to others taking too much from us. No one else is to blame. As soon as we saw that our time and money have been siphoned away from us, we put a stop to it.
There are patterns that we’ve learned over this last year that I feel have helped us reach the end chapter of our four-year odyssey. These patterns are important to understand especially if we want to move forward in our lives.
These patterns don’t look like patterns because it takes time for them to form. When friends and family are involved, the lines to those patterns become fuzzy, blurred, or missing altogether.
How do we really know who needs our help? How do we help without becoming jaded and losing all faith in humanity when we get burned?
The answer, we discovered, has more to do with their conduct and less to do with how we want to help. We used to help others because we didn’t want to see them suffer. It seems noble right? Well, I’m here to tell you that in our case it was nothing more than not wanting to feel BAD or guilty…especially if it was in our power to help. Did you get what I just said? It would seem that our desire to help certain people was really done out of an alterior motive of not wanting to feel bad. It really had nothing to do with the other person.
Now, add to the mix, someone who has done something terrible to your family. They lied, they stole from you, took all your time, and then cried and flipped it all on its head to make us the bad guys. What do we do in that situation? Do we cave in and just let it go? Or do we love ourselves enough not to do something because we feel “bad.” Emotions are powerful things. When people start using your emotions against you, that should be a red flag.
Let’s talk about red flags!
Red flags are those almost invisible things that warn you someone is trying to pull one over on you or isn’t who they keep claiming to be.
My list of red flags:
Someone who never quite gives you all the details, but claims they were wronged. They need help, but you can’t seem to get the truth out of them.
A person who at first seemed to hit it off with you, but over time they pull away and you are left as the only one who communicates with them, and instead of good communication you get a vague sentence or two about nothing at all. You might be willing to chalk it up to “hey we all get busy with our lives” but don’t go there. Just because YOU get busy, doesn’t mean that person who is always on their phone or computer, is busy.
The time suck. This is a HUGE red flag. If a good majority of your own personal free time is taken up with someone else’s problems, which they refuse to handle themselves, you are being taken for a long hard ride down victim ally. Don’t go there. Examples would include doing hard physical labor for someone who could do it themselves but want you to do it for them for free. Driving them places because they no longer have valid insurance due to nonpayment. Paying their bills because they spent their money on “wants” not needs and don’t even have a job or work schedule is sketchy.
Someone asking you to be responsible for their _________ fill in the blank, because they can’t do it. They don’t want to face the consequences for their actions, they want you to be responsible for their stuff or life in general, and will make you feel guilty if you don’t do it. This has a LOT to do with paying for someone else’s lifestyle choices. BLOOD SOAKED RED FLAG.
Someone who claims they have done so much for you, however, nothing was given freely. Instead, you paid fair and square. It would be like if someone sold you a car for $12,000. The car had great sentimental value to the seller. You purchased the car from them. You go on your merry way, and later on, the seller comes back to you wanting something, and when you refuse, they claimed they did something great for you. What did they do? They sold you a car, you purchased the car. It wasn’t given to you. You purchased it with your hard earned money. Don’t ever let anyone make you believe that they gave you so much when there was a price tag attached and you paid in full.
Someone who claims to be one way and talks all the time about being honest, ethical, moral (fill in the blank), and by their constant actions prove they are liars and the opposite of what they claim. Liars always tell the truth…remember that! They’ll tell you with their actions when their words betray them.
If you’re investing more time and money into a friendship and it doesn’t seem that it’s a reciprocal relationship, it might be time to reprioritize. What is happening is that you are allowing yourself to be used, and it isn’t a friendship at all.
Those are just a few red flags. There are many more that I could write, but this post isn’t about red flags. It’s about understanding ourselves and how we move forward despite having our asses handed to us because of the decisions we made.
I refuse to be a victim. One thing both Dom and I say to each other when we feel wronged is, “Victim is not a good look on you.” That is code for change your attitude, you did this to yourself.
It doesn’t mean that we sweep being wronged under the rug. No, on the contrary, it means that we hold those who have wronged us responsible. To not hold them accountable is to remain a victim. We hold them to account for what they have done to us. We do this because we love ourselves and each other. I would never allow anyone to take advantage of my husband’s generous nature. If I saw it happening, I’d nip it immediately. But when we have together made decisions to allow certain people into our lives or to give when we don’t know the full story, we invite uncertainty and become vulnerable. There’s strength in vulnerability and we’ve learned to embrace it. It says to the new person in our lives, “We have no reason not to trust you, but if you give us a reason we will have no choice but to let you go.”
Letting go of people or situations is difficult for some. In a way, it means giving up. But not to us. Letting go is how we say “I love you” to our own souls. It dares us to allow our souls to shine. It dares us to keep our hearts soft and malleable when all our emotions want us to recoil in bitterness and resentment. Letting go also means that those you’ve invested your time and love into are being released from your life. It’s like grieving the loss of a friend or family member while they are still alive.
For us, letting go of friendships have been difficult. We love deeply and fully, and when we need to say goodbye, we realize just how much we’ve invested. When we realize that we made the right choice in letting go of someone, we get to see what they are really made of.
This brings us to the chorus of our victory song, so to speak….
When a friendship or relationship ends, you get to see their true colors unless their true colors were there all along hiding in plain sight. No, the chorus of our victory song is about making the correct choice in ending a friendship and watching that person become destructive, vindictive, and violent as a consequence of our decision. These are all real actions. The person who says they love peace, truth, and love, but destroys your property and puts your child at risk…which would be more accurate? Their words or their actions? It doesn’t feel good while something violent is being done, but it becomes a solidification that you did the right thing in letting that person go.
I might strike a nerve with some in what I’ve expressed. Mostly because we all want to give. But you are responsible for your giving. You might believe that you are doing it out of good will because your heart hurts for this person in need. Just remember, regardless of the outcome of your giving, you are still responsible for your actions. Giving to others never absolves you from being accountable for your actions. Giving to others is very similar to making an investment in something. Would you invest in a company on the stock market that would lose all your money or would you invest wisely? What would happen if you invested and all your money was lost? Would you blame the company or your decision-making process? I know that I wouldn’t blame the company if they lost money, I’d hold myself accountable for not doing the do diligence it takes to make a wise investment.
Relationships are almost the same as investing in stocks except that with bad relationships if you’re not careful you could end up losing your integrity if you don’t stay true to your soul. And that is more costly than any dollar figure you could throw out there.
As we close the last chapter of Our Nightmare Four Year Odyssey, I can say with all certainty that investing in the right relationships will help heal the wounds from bad investments. Forgive yourselves for making the wrong choices, and love yourself enough to make new friends. Invest in yourself by being a true friend to your soul. You won’t be disappointed and it will help you recover from the emotional pain of being personally accountable.
“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!
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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:
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
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
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.
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.
“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.
It’s amazing to me that at this time last year I could barely breathe walking from part of a room to another, I had to shave my head because my hair was falling out so much that it was everywhere. It’s disturbing to see hair all over the place! Moving back to our home state of New Mexico was an act of desperation much like when we first arrived in New Mexico ten years earlier. We learned our lesson that this is our home forever. My mold allergies are so bad that our home state is the only one with the ability to help me recover.
And I am recovering, slowly but surely.
It has been nearly four years since we were raising animals and farming. Now that we have our land, we are moving full speed ahead, biting off more than we can chew, and I’m sure we’ll make plenty of mistakes along the way. I don’t fear making mistakes at all. I never have. It’s how I grow and it keeps me flexible when I want to stay rigid.
Jumping back into farming is something I am so very excited about. Proper planning, however, is key to being successful and profitable. We started the tradition of writing out our goals when we started homesteading in Los Lunas. It feels good to get back into the practice of writing our goals again. In every place that we were at from Vermont to West Virginia, we had grand plans for establishing a garden and keeping small animals, but I would get so sick from each house we lived in that we would need to move.
We moved a total of 10 times since leaving New Mexico four years ago. In 2019 we will make another move onto our land.
2018 was a great year. Our coffee roasting company, Buffalo Mountain, has thrived and made 10 times the amount made in 2017. We can’t yet take an income from it, but I believe by the end of 2019 we will be profitable enough to start paying ourselves. Buffalo Mountain pays for all its own supplies, operating expenses, internet and phone, and electric bill. We will be building the new roastery on the land and it will have an art studio, commercial kitchen, and a farm store attached.
We moved here to Reserve in February, and with the amazing support of our friend Jennifer, who allowed us to rent her little adobe this year, it helped us to get established in Catron County.
Simmi made a new friend named Angel and they have become great friends. It’s the first time she has had a real friend to play with…ever. it’s a pretty big deal!
Simmi has made great progress in her school work. She was evaluated by a dyslexia specialist when we lived in Vermont and we were told that she has profound dyslexia. This is not a bad thing, it just means that she processes information when reading or doing math differently than other children. Children with dyslexia have many strengths. I am also dyslexic, but mine is not as advanced as her’s is. So I work at her pace which is very slow, with lots of days in between for her to process what she has learned. If I do school work with her every day, she goes into overload and won’t stop rubbing her eyes because it’s like there are letters or numbers missing from what she’s reading. She believed that she was dumb and not smart because she couldn’t read like her friend Angel. It was very frustrating for her, but recently she has come to accept that she learns differently than other kids and that it’s okay to do things at a slower pace. I think she’s doing fantastic!
Dom has been working hard this year as a cook at the restaurant next door to us and also taking on side projects and maintenance work. He’s still emotionally recovering from this last move. The emotional stress of my illness over the last three years has really taken a toll on him. While I no longer have to worry about toxic mold exposure, I am still suffering with electro-hypersensitivity. My inability to deal with wifi and electricity, in general, has gotten worse since September of this year. My only solace is being down on our land where there are no frequencies at all, and if neighbors do have wifi in their houses, they are far enough away from our property to not affect me.
We made many new dear friends this year, and some of those friends became family to us.
We have our own land to call home and an emerging farm that is co-owned by Dom, me, Toulousse & Saint, and Sara. Sara will be moving to the property sometime in 2019. Toulousse and Saint are already there. I’ll be adding them to this website in the new year.
We gained a new son-in-law, Kyle, when our daughter Shoshannah was married in June of this year. Kyle is one of those rare, gentle and beautiful souls that captured my daughter’s heart and wouldn’t let go. I feel so blessed that they found such a great love in one another.
As we bring 2018 to a close, it’s time to look forward to the goals for 2019. While our list is extensive and so grand that we may not be able to fit it all into a year, it doesn’t have to fit neatly into a one year span. Let’s look at these goals as part of a Five Year Plan.
Firelight Farm’s Goals for 2019
Establish the market garden: Build the greenhouse, stake and build the grow beds, add row covers, install irrigation
Build a chicken coop and compost run
Line the duck pond and put up fence for the duck run
Build topbar beehives
Build a freestanding full bathroom: This will have a worm composting flush toilet (Solviva design), sink, shower and bathtub, and a washing machine. The bathroom will be located between the market garden and the French potager garden.
Build the produce washing and workstation, and animal evisceration (for meat processing) area next to the bathroom: This is the heart of any market garden or garden in general. It’s where fruits and vegetables are processed for the market either on farm or at the farmer’s market.
Build a tool shed between both gardens
Build our hybrid canvas tents: We will be building four 12’x12′ tent cabins. One is for Dom and I, the second tent is for Simone, the third one is for guests who come to visit us, and the fourth is for furniture and boxes as well as storing our kitchen supplies and food in. There will be a large covered area where we will have our kitchen and dining room table. The free standing bathroom will not be located too far from our camp.
Build a canvas tent cabin 12’x12′ for our coffee company, which will be located near where we will be building the roastery.
Establish the French potager garden
Plant fruit trees
Build a tropical greenhouse: This is for our personal use because we want fresh avocados, citrus, figs, and other tropical fruits that won’t grow in our hardiness zone.
Build the coffee roastery: This roastery will be built from logs that our neighbors have sitting up at their property. It was as if it has been there for the last ten years waiting for us to arrive. Haha, at least that’s the way I’d like to think of it! There’s enough lumber for our business complex which will be the roastery, a commercial kitchen for making cold brew and lactofermented vegetables, and the farm store.
Begin improving the pasture for the horses
Clear and remove rocks from the front of the property along the river for the future flower farm: This area is about 30’x200′ feet by my best guesstimation. 😉
Build a horse barn for Sara’s three gorgeous horses that will be coming to their new home
Build Sara a house. Sara is like a mama to Toulousse and I. We adore her and feel so blessed that she’s a part of our family.
Purchase ducklings and goslings
Build a rabbitry and worm beds underneath
Purchase meat rabbits
Build a quail aviary
Build a scaled up black soldier fly shed: Black soldier flies are one of my all time favorite creatures. The larva are highly nutritious for poultry and the adult black soldier fly is an elegant creature, living for only about a week. Adults do not have a working mouth and do not carry vector-borne diseases. I could gush on and on about these little creatures.
Build the farm’s outdoor kitchen and covered dining area: This will be for Farm to Table events
Purchase EZ Up Tents and things needed for the Silver City Farmer’s Market
Purchase or acquire a donated a Suburban or farm truck: We desperately need a large working vehicle that can haul a trailer and for Dom to continue working. Right now we only have one vehicle.
Establish a few commercial accounts for our organic fruits and vegetables and animal products
Build chicken tractors for meat birds. (See photo of chicken tractors below)
Purchase meat chickens and turkeys
Is your head spinning yet? Mine popped off just writing it all down! There’s more, but I think I’ll stop there. When I build the page for our Farmstead Milestones, I’ll add the above list with the rest of our goals, because the list keeps growing. It’ll never stop growing as long as I have breath in me.
I hope you all have an amazing New Year!
2019 is the year of great expectations and will be filled with strength, courage, wisdom, laughter, friendship, financial abundance, and lots of love!
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.
Living two lives isn’t easy. We live in a house with four walls, but our lives, our souls, our very beings scream to be on our land. Managing two lives isn’t easy when our time is divided between our work and commitments, and the commitments we made to ourselves more than 10 years ago when we decided that we wanted to live an agrarian life.
The excitement grows each day, and sometimes I feel that I can’t contain myself. Dom and I go back and forth about how to approach moving onto the land. Do we build our camp first? What about establishing the farm infrastructure? There are so many important decisions to make, that we barely know how to rate them on a list of things most important. They are all important!
For now, we have decided to move forward establishing the gardens. Our main garden which will be a semi-formal very structured French Potager garden will be the focus over the next few weeks while still gathering resources to build our camp.
I’ve always wanted to have a French Potager garden, and I’ve had a lot of fun designing ours. They feel otherworldly and completely magical. There is something poetic about how everything is arranged for beauty and function. The picture on the right is an example of a potager garden.
We’ve estimated that our garden area is about 50’x50′ but until Dom gets in there and gets an accurate measurement, I can’t get too specific with my plans. I estimate that the garden will ultimately be a 40’x40′ area. This area is the true focal point on the farm. It will marry two other areas together. On the west side of the garden will be an outdoor kitchen and covered gathering place. On the east side of the garden is where we plan to set up camp and build a chicken coop, rabbitry, duck pond, and a tropical greenhouse. To the east of that section will be a large market garden and high tunnel for high-value crops like tomatoes, peppers, basil, etc.
To the east of the market garden is pastured area for the horses, meat birds like chicken and turkey, and eventually sheep and goats.
Where was I? Oh yes, the French potager…I just have a general idea of what the overall design will be. In this area, there are a few challenges. One is the side of the mountain that blocks some light on the south side until about mid-morning. The second challenge is how cold air descends into the garden area.
In the photo on the left is Dom clearing the weeds in the area we’ll be building our camp, the animal structures, and the tropical greenhouse. See the mountainside in the distance? That is at the edge of where potager garden will be going.
To address these two issues, we’ll set up espaliered apple trees that require more chill hours and plant more cold hardy perennials in the area that will get hit with the coldest temperatures.
I’m also setting up our garden with far more cold hardy annuals and perennials. We are in growing zone 6 to 6A, however, our perennials will all have a hardiness to growing zone 3-4. The reason I’ve chosen this approach is that we are at the beginning of a Grand Solar Minimum. Agriculture will suffer greatly because of this natural cycle of cold coming to us. It will mean erratic fluctuations in temperature, excessive rain and snow, and much longer cold seasons. Fall will continue to grow shorter, with snowfall and bone-chilling cold becoming the norm. Growing seasons will be shortened. Farmers will find it difficult to plant in spring because of snow or frozen ground. Once they can plant, they will then deal with compression events that bring excessive rain. Rain in areas of wheat production will bring fungus and molds.
Thriving during the grand solar minimum is of the utmost importance for us. Food prices are steadily rising, and it may become difficult to get the foods we are all accustomed to. Also, have you tasted what is being passed off as fresh fruits and vegetables? They are tasteless, and, even organic food is becoming lackluster.
Our farm is not being cultivated to feed the world, but we will have a farm store for the products we choose to sell.
All these things weigh heavily on my mind and heart.
We can’t wait to be on the land full time. Right now it feels like we’re going at a snail’s pace, but planning is the most important part of this adventure we’re on.
Wait until you see the rest of the land! I’ve only shared the side where our farm will be. Then there are the other 10 acres to the west of the farm. It is where we will eventually build our home. We’re not in a rush to build because the farm infrastructure is far more important. We will be living in canvas tents for the next year and we may make the tropical greenhouse our temporary home if we get tired of tent living. In the meantime, we will continue to live these two lives.
Aren’t potager gardens beautiful? I love the whimsical aspect to them, as well as how they mix flowers and herbs and fruit trees.
The wattle edging is swoon worthy!
There are so many beautiful versatile ways to set up a potager.
I want to build something like this for where we gather. It would be wider, but this bliss to me. Where this would go is at the edge of the badass grapevines that need new vertical space to thrive on.
At the entrance to different areas, I would love to have inviting entryways that beg you to come and stay for a while.
“Trees are poems that the earth writes upon the sky. ”Kahlil Gibran
Today was a sad day for us. A towering cottonwood tree that is on our property crashed to the ground. My heart broke a little. Okay, a lot. I cried. When we were deciding where to put the greenhouse, one concern of ours was building too close to the cottonwood tree. We knew that it would need to be trimmed, but we had no idea that with all the rain we’ve had over the last few days caused the tree branches to become too heavy. All the large branches came down.
I was supposed to go down there today to clear the area where we’ll be building the first structure, but with all the rain we’ve been having, I canceled. It was a good thing too, because Simmi would have been playing in that area and who knows what might have happened if it never rained today.
I’ll be heading down tomorrow to take as many cuttings of the tree as I can, and I’ll try to root them to plant next spring. It might be too late to try and root them now, but it’s worth a shot. I know that in the spring the tree will send out new suckers and new growth from where it broke, and if my cuttings don’t root this year, I’ll use next year’s growth to start new trees.
It was such a beautiful tree. It’s commanding presence will be deeply missed.
It was such a beautiful tree.
For perspective, this is Saint standing next to part of the tree. He’s over 6 feet tall.
Cutting and clearing the tree is going to be a huge undertaking!
In January 2018 I had these beautiful thriving orchids that we needed to transport from West Virginia to New Mexico. It was cold, and we knew that there was a good possibility that I might lose one or all of them. Our road trip was long and it was freezing in the car where they were packed up. I worried about them the whole trip.
After a few weeks of watching them slowly wither, the leaves becoming the color of asparagus when it’s cooked too much, I thought I would lose them all. The only thing left was their root system. No leaves, the crown on each orchid…dead.
Yet, I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t throw them in the garbage. There were two small orchids that died, crown and roots, but three of my others still had juicy roots. I put them in a water culture and would fertilize them once a week. After a few months, the first one got it’s first leaf back. Then the second one, and finally the third.
Never give up hope on you orchids! They can survive.
I’m hoping next year to put them in a good orchid growing medium again. For now, I’m just going to continue to baby them.
They’re still in their leafing phase, but I’m hopeful they will send up their first flower spikes after rising from the dead.
I need good names for these three little flower warriors! They’re underdogs and badass orchids.
Maybe a good Viking name for each of them would be appropriate.
I prune off a little more dead material each month. As you can see in the photos the original dead crown is still present, but I just pick at it ever so delicately.
We have a mini-collection of repurposed materials, and this coming week we’ll be adding to that collection if everything goes as planned. I always need to hold onto plans loosely since free or inexpensive materials tend to go very quickly. I’m a member of Freecycle and at any given time a product being given away might be claimed by someone who lives closer than I do, or can go and swoop it up quicker than I can even get in my car!
Freecycle, the free section on Craigslist, and even Facebook Marketplace has been instrumental in collecting needed materials.
Back when we first moved to New Mexico in 2008, we came with only the clothes on our backs. We needed beds, furniture, cooking supplies, clothing, rugs and more. Everything we needed was found on Freecycle or Craigslist. We rebuilt our lives utilizing those two resources. I still have some of the things acquired on Freecycle or from Thrift Shops because their sentimental value far outweighs their real value.
Part of the structure we’re building contains a lean-to greenhouse that will go the full length of the structure on the south side. Our original plan was to frame it out and use greenhouse plastic, but we might actually be acquiring large windows for it! This was such an exciting find. If my plans fall through for picking up these windows, we’ll just use greenhouse plastic.
The reason for the lean-to greenhouse is to house our kitchen and bathroom. Because of my mold allergies, it never fails that a leak of some sort can develop when there’s indoor plumbing. Building a kitchen and bathroom outside the actual structure, yet still a part of it will help keep the structure free of all water damage unless that damage comes from a roof leak.
We have three heavy duty metal and glass doors we brought with us from West Virginia. Dom collected them from an old job site. Two will be used on the east and western sides of the greenhouse, and the third one will be located where the coffee roastery will be built on the eastern side of the structure.
We also have an old short water heater, which we’re thinking will be used to create a rocket stove mass water heater. Geoff Lawton has a video on how it works if you’d like to watch!
“We are starving for spiritual nourishment. We are starving for a life that is personal, connected, and meaningful. By choice, that is where we will direct our energy. When we do so,community will arise anew because this spiritual nourishment can only come to us as a gift, as part of a web of gifts in which we participate as giver and receiver. Whether or not it rides the vehicle of something bought, it is irreducibly personal and unique.” ~Charles Eisenstein
I have this deep calling that gnaws at my soul regularly. Each day that I am not moving towards my calling brings pain to my spirit. I have a dream that will be realized. I am called to the agrarian life. I am also called to bless others with my gifts freely and abundantly, and to lavish on those within my inner circle of friends and family, my unconditional love.
Who are those in my inner circle? It is those people who are aligned with my values and have a heart like mine. That doesn’t mean they are exactly like me in any way. They have a heart song that I recognize and embrace because we are spiritual kin. It is like deep calling to deep.
There are those who sing a song that sounds similar to my heart song, but by the end of the song it’s evident that the melody might sound similar, but the words are all wrong. They think they’re singing the same song, but you see, the song takes months to sing and they just haven’t invested the time to sing it the way their hearts needed to. Sounds cryptic, right?
Each of us has a heart song. Those who do not betray their own hearts or reject their own souls will find comfort in others who do the same. That is the heart song. We recognize it instantly. It is a song that you sing to others with your actions, your time, your intentions. Those who betray their own hearts and compromise their integrity recoil at the sound of a true heart song. Those who have denied their own beautiful song will be suspicious, cruel, withholding, cold, distant, all while still claiming to have a song just like mine. Their words and actions betray them. My love is anathema to them as they choke on their own betrayal and inability to break free from their overabundant pride. I have been witness to this throughout my whole life. It’s a part of the human condition.
My heart is soft, so it doesn’t break easily. I keep it soft because others are too hard on themselves. My softness is a part of my song. But being soft doesn’t mean being weak. Weakness is a habit developed by those who have lost their way and compromised their integrity. Being soft allows me to fully recognize my desire to love radically. To give abundantly. To forgive freely. To follow my wild heart and search for home.
I’ve searched for home my whole life. No matter where I have lived, I’ve always made a home for myself. My husband is my home. My children are my home. Seeking deep connections with others who have a heart like mine brings me home. But my desire to set roots and be home has brought me to a new place. A place where I hear other heart songs sung unabashedly wild and free.
We started a new chapter in our lives recently. We currently live in a very small place and out of necessity we started searching for a new place to live. Even though there are only three of us currently living in this small space we call home, we also have grown children who, when they come to visit have no place to sleep when they stay over. Add to that the fact that I operate our coffee roasting business from this same space AND having the little storefront here cuts into personal space even more. Along with running a business comes balancing my time during the day homeschooling Simone. Some days she’s on the computer working with an online program, and the rest of the time she’s sprawled out at my work table completing the lessons of the day while I’m working on a customer’s order. Our space is very limited for what we need.
I’m also a hardcore introvert with a great need to recharge myself away from the presence of other people. That includes my own family. Introverts draw their energy from solitude and time alone.
Our current living space is not honoring my needs. I keep trying to make it better, and Dom will take Simmi out of the house so I can be alone and recover, but it doesn’t always work out the way we want.
In the process of looking for a larger place to live, we found a gorgeous piece of land we decided to invest in.
It is sacred to us.
There is great peace there.
It is a place where my wild and innocent young daughter can run free. A place where her feral heart can grow strong and soft.
With the investment we’ve made in the land comes the investment we’ve made with friends who have become our family in that very place. They are home to us. Our friendship was forged in our ability to be vulnerable to one another. We strengthened our friendship by hearing one another’s heart songs, and then we became family.
We’re home at last.
Over the next few months, we’ll be building our first home on almost fifteen beautiful acres. Located about 30 minutes south of where we currently live, this place of beauty stuns me everywhere I look.
There are unforgiving steep slopes, pastures, rocky paths and river beds. Rising up from the deep earth are sycamores and cottonwoods, willows and oak trees, evergreens and shrubs. Grasses and weeds reveal the splendor of a fertile and untouched land.
There are quiet places to recharge the soul, and gathering places to engage our hearts.
Time stands still here.
I’ve started planning our gardens, ordering seed, and designing our first house. It will not be our final house, but instead, it will be the business hub that we move into.
In past posts, I’ve mentioned that we want to build a house that doesn’t have any electricity and that includes conventional or alternative. The space we’re designing and living in first will have electricity in it. It’s the place where our businesses will thrive. My non-electric house will not be built until we have observed the land and find the best place suited for it. We do have an area that we adore, however, we need to live there full time and go through the seasons to know for sure where to build.
The business hub will be located in an area that is near the pasture. It will have our offices, art studio, fabric studio, a roastery, outdoor kitchen, as well as a become a Farm to Table venue. It all starts with that space.
It will (hopefully) be a bit larger than the space we’re currently in, but ultimately it will allow me to cultivate the land and get animals established prior to building our final home.
We’ll be living in our current house until we’re able to move into the new space. Unfortunately, we don’t have a good timetable for when that would be. We want to do it efficiently and inexpensively, utilizing the timber nearby as well as other free or almost free repurposed materials. I will be blogging about everything we’re doing on the land, but it won’t just be me blogging!
I’ll be adding new features to this blog, including new writers and artisans in our community. In future posts, I’ll share who they are and how amazing they are because there is just too much to say in one blog post. 😉
In the meantime, here are some photos of our new land…
This area we’re considering as the location for the business hub/temporary home. It is located near an open pasture to the left and two paddocks on the right. One of the paddocks will be used for small and medium sized animals, and the other for our garden. Each paddock is about 50’x50′.
The view from the first paddock looking north.
Simmi running past the second paddock.
A view north-west.
The western side of the property.
Beauty surrounds us.
Simmi’s favorite tree.
An opposing gigantic cottonwood tree stands guard at the entrance to the pasture.
The grapevines have decided to be hardcore and skip cultivation. They’re total badasses.
The pasture awaits larger animals and meat birds in chicken tractors.
This is one of the paddocks that will be turned into an intensive French potager garden.
There is so much to love about this place. It is a dream realized and a hope fulfilled.
Thank you for visiting my blog. I just turned 50 years old, and as I enter the next chapter of my life, I’m so pleased to be able to share it with all of you. I am a lifelong artist, writer, vocalist, crazy organic farmer, and own and operate Buffalo Mountain Coffee Roasting Company.