Summer Update

Summer Update

Summer is in full swing and so much is happening all at once. Back in the beginning of June our son came home to save money and go to school to become an EMT with aspirations of becoming a paramedic. Our first goal was to get him set up with his own cabin. Our space is WAY too small for yet another living being. Currently, it’s three adults, one young adult, and three finches all trying to live and let live in the rig. It’s cramped for sure!

Our plans always seem to morph when least expected. I’m cool with it though. We stopped construction on the large chicken coop because we needed to turn all our attention to getting Noah in his own place. He was in the last remaining tent for a while, but it’s ready to collapse and with the monsoons upon us it’s currently flooded with water, scorpions, vinegaroons, ants, and other creepies wanting to stay on a nice warm bed. The photo on the right is of a vinegaroon aka whip scorpion. They’re pretty harmless but look badass, right?!

We brought his bed inside and he’s doing his best to deal with the lack of privacy.

Over the last three weeks, Noah and Dom were able to dig the post holes for the foundation, pour the concrete, set the piers, and get the floor framed out on Noah’s cabin. We’re playing it by ear this weekend. One of Noah’s friends died yesterday and we’re waiting to see when the funeral will be.

If the funeral is this weekend, cabin construction will most likely be put off until next weekend. Trying to work on the cabin during the week when they work all day on other construction projects is a recipe for burnout.

A good portion of our land is a steep slope. It feels more like we’re on the side of a mountain! As I’ve pondered where we want to build our house (we’ve thought of many locations) we settled on using the sloped portions instead of regular flat ground. Noah’s cabin is located about 100 feet from where we will be building our home. The slope is the perfect location for a step up kind of home that moves with the steep incline of the landscape.

They started working on the chicken coop before the cabin. Here are a few photos of that process…

Noah getting sand brought over to the site to make soil-crete.

Dom selecting which trees would be used for the chicken coop structure. There are no straight parts of this coop. Everything is wonky and natural.

Setting posts.

Adding welded wire to the outer walls. The walls will be created with a modified straw light clay infill. We’ll get this coop finished. It will only be a matter of time before we have 175 or more chicks peeping in this area!

The cactus blooms were spectacular this year. I love seeing them right before they open.

In the back of the rig is a large cholla cactus. A Curved-Bill Thrasher came and decided to build her nest. We’ve been watching her and can’t wait to see if her babies make it. They are up against some odds with crows and hawks eyeing up the nest just waiting for the mama to leave so they can steal her eggs. She’s been great at protecting them and by the end of this month, we should have three baby thrasher hatchlings.

It’s not the best photo, but there she is sitting on her eggs. I had to take the photo from pretty far away. Any closer and she would have left her nest.

There is a group of trees that we were planning on using to build Simmi’s treehouse. At the beginning of the month one of the main tree trunks that would have been a support for the treehouse snapped and fell down. Simmi was devastated. But as we become more bonded to the land, I have found that they subtly tell us things if we listen carefully. We had intentions of using the tree as the foundation of a treehouse, the tree told us it wasn’t safe and bent down to explain why.

My girl turned 13 at the beginning of June. She’s been enjoying the summer, listening to music, watching tv, and helping out whenever we’ve asked. She’s pretty motivated these days. We told her that after we get our roastery finished she could have a teacup Yorkie, and so she’s been saving her money and helping out to make even more money. Yorkies, Bichons, and Maltese are dogs she’s not allergic to. We’ll start looking for a breeder next spring. She fell in love with one of Dom’s client’s teacup Yorkie and she was smitten.

In the photo, Simmi is prepping horehound for Dom. He’s making a wildcrafted beer that uses a little horehound in place of hops.

This is Princess Bitchslap. Remember how I said trees tend to speak to us as we become more bonded to the land? Well, this girl right here is no different! She is located in the back of the rig near the roastery. Her branches reached all the way down to the ground and you couldn’t see how beautifully wonky she really was. I want her to grow upwards, not to the ground, so I trimmed her lower branches and gave her a bit of a hair cut.

She didn’t appreciate it very much. With every branch I cut off, I was welcomed with a whack to the back of my head, or my butt. At no time was I not in a battle with this tree. If I was taking care of an upper branch, an adjacent branch would whip me in the face. If I was dragging away a large branch, it felt like the branch was hanging on kicking and screaming like she was being murdered. It was like she had claws digging into the earth refusing to leave the spot.

By the time I was finished pruning her, I had twisted my ankle, received multiple facial scratches, my ass was literally kicked and bruised, and my arms were covered in scratches and bruises.

This is why I call her Princess Bitchslap. She’s lively and gave me a run for my money.

I love her. I think she’s warming up to me too.

We decided that even though we’re passed the time when you can plant potatoes, we would take a bash at it anyway! We ordered some of the best potatoes we’ve ever eaten from Wood Prairie Family Farm. We grew their potatoes when we were farming up in Maine. The potatoes I chose are early potatoes so they only take about 90 days to harvest. We’ve built a potato tower made from welded wire to grow them in. They are just starting to come up now. Once it gets too cold, we’ll wrap the tower in heavy clear plastic to extend the season a bit.

I love how the animals and insects that choose to be here find ways of complementing the landscape. If this dragonfly never moved, I wouldn’t have even seen him! His clear wings are amazing.

In the garden, we have radishes, cilantro, parsley, tomatoes, carrots, arugula, snow peas, beans, mint, basil, dill, and cucumbers growing. Well, maybe not cucumbers! Something came and ate them all. But we did get a bunch of mystery squash come up! The one in the photo above showed up and won’t stop growing. I had to remove this particular one because it was right in the way of the sprinkler. However, we have about four other mystery squash plants coming. I never planted them so we’ll see what they are as they set fruit.

Green beans and mint. They don’t seem to mind each other.

Basil, borage, cilantro, and radishes. Also some weeds and grasses all growing together. I took this photo last week, and it’s just about time for me to do the first pruning of the basil. I have about three different kinds of basil coming up. I’ll be harvesting and drying it today.

It’s hard to believe that in just a few short months this tiny fig tree will be at least four feet tall and wide. It took a while to figure out where the little Chicago figs would be planted. Plants, as I’m discovering have a will and spirit all their own. And if we are patient, they might just reveal to us where they want to be planted. It’s a cooperative act…a trust between two living beings.

I didn’t use to think that way. I just thought plants were plants, without an agenda or will of its own. But I was wrong.

I posed the question in my mind while picturing the figs in my mind, “Where do you want to be planted?” and of course I didn’t get any kind of real answer in an auditory way and didn’t think I would get any answer at all. But I felt this pressing to get them into the ground.

The next morning while waking up a picture came into my mind of where and HOW they wanted to be planted. It felt right too.

They are planted in a ten-foot diameter basin. Small stones covering the base going out, and eventually larger stones as we reach the perimeter. Each fig is to be planted in this way.

I told Dom that the figs explained how they wanted to be planted, thinking he was going to laugh at me. But he didn’t. He smiled wildly and said, “Did you know that if we plant the trees with the stones that way it will create a paramagnetic field that will create fertility in the soil?!” How did he know that? He had just finished reading a book about rock dusts and cosmic energy.

I haven’t read the book. I don’t think the figs read the book either, but to me, that was a confirmation that they know how they want to be planted.

In the same area where the figs are growing, rue will be planted. Behind the figs is a trench where we planted tomatoes last year. That area we populated with asparagus crowns this past spring, but the ground squirrels decided it was like a buffet for them. Every crown was gone! So in its place, behind the trench against the fence, I’ll be planting apricot foxglove, milkweed, and hollyhocks. In the trench itself, cardoon will be planted.

Dom built some wooden flats for me and I’ll be starting all the new perennial flowers and plants today.

This morning in the garden, lots of things are growing. Volunteers like squash and sunflowers, grasses, and weeds. With all the delicate cilantro still coming up, I won’t be pulling the grasses out. They can all grow happily together. Our compost is so jampacked full of goodies that there’s more than enough to go around. This morning I got more radishes and basil harvested.

I’m not sure what squash decided to show up here, but I’ll take it! I guess we’ll see once her fruit shows up what kind of squash she is.

The rain has been glorious and very much appreciated. We went through a blazing hot spell where the average daily temperature for around two weeks was 104 degrees. That’s unusual for this area. Once the monsoon arrived, our temperatures went back to their normal 80 degree days with the highs sometimes in the 90’s. We’re almost to the end of July already but this is when we get our rains so it’s one of the most anticipated times of the year.

The rest of this month I’ll be dreading my hair, getting a new septum piercing, and possibly a chin tattoo. Yep, I’m going full-on feral. I’ve been wanting to get a chin line done for about a year now. I ordered my new septum ring from Norway and it should be here in a few weeks. I am trying to honor my authentic self, and at times that becomes drowned out by my own inner voice saying, “What?! Are you nuts? Why would you want to do that?” They’re passing thoughts that have been a part of my life for as long as I’ve known myself. “What?” That one is the word most used by my inner dialogue, even though I already know the answer.

I’ve spent so much time not paying attention to the things I want for myself that I nearly lost the sound of my own soul crying out. In January 2020 I started seriously listening and doing some very intense soul work, to heal the deeper parts of myself that I allowed to become damaged. We can always blame others, but I’ve found that I’m responsible for how my soul is treated, and because I’ve allowed past abuses to take place, I alone can make it right within me.

So I listen careful to her; my inner beautiful soul’s voice. I respond with gentleness and protection making sure she is always heard and always loved by me. It has become my greatest accomplishment within myself.

Things are changing. I’m glad to see the old fade away and the new get embraced with passion and excitement. Life is so damn good!

That’s about all I have to report for this month. If you’d like to follow me daily I post regularly on Instagram. Click here to follow. 

 

Living Two Lives

Living Two Lives

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!

Pure magic!

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.

 

 

 

Relocation Countdown: Six Days to Go

Relocation Countdown: Six Days to Go

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yellow Bird of Paradise

Fernbush

Desert Willow

Western Sandcherry

Silver Buffaloberry

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

New Trees Ordered and on the Way

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

A large assortment of trees, shrubs and flowers (578 to be exact)  were ordered and are currently on the way to our farm. Here’s a list of what’s coming:

  • 100 Mulberry trees
  • 25 Giant Arboritae
  • 50 Crown vetch plants
  • 50 Day lilies
  • 50 Viburniem American Cranberry
  • 1 American Sycamore
  • 2 Mimosa
  • 100 Siberian peashrub
  • 100 Elderberry (2 varieties)

It looks impressive, but all the different species are just little tiny seedlings. There’s no way we could afford large gorgeous trees! Little babies will suit us fine, and since they are all relatively fast growing trees and shrubs, we’ll have a food forest in just a few short years.

A few very generous donations (not listed on our farm site and wanting to remain anonymous) were graciously given to us to help get our farm off to a great start. Money for playground equipment for visiting children, garden supplies, building materials, a farm truck and so much more. Thank you to everyone who has believed in local small farms, and donated to us. From buckets and simple tools, to large and expensive items we could have never afforded…

Thank you, thank you!

We’re currently in the planning stage for designing the new playground. We found a used swing set that will work for us, and we’re also planning the sandbox area, gathering area and fire pit, and other things that engage a child’s imagination.

Originally we planned to put the playground in the Northeast Quadrant, near where we’ll be keeping the rabbit colony, but we changed our minds last night, instead choosing the area directly behind the courtyard. Below are a few photos of the area:

IMG_0119

This area was chosen because it’s attached to the courtyard, and makes it possible for children to play during potlucks or other gatherings in a safe gated area.

IMG_0120

The 4×4 posts surrounding the tree my daughter Gina painted is the perfect location for a covered sandbox area. All kids love sand, and creating an area that is shaded, with shelves for sandbox toys will be amazing.

IMG_0121

The play area is about 35’x50′ and planted in this area will be:

  • 4- Siberian Peashrub
  • 1 American Sycamore
  • 2 Mimosa
  • Coneflowers
  • Crown vetch
  • 8 Mulberry trees
  • Comfrey

In the future I’ll be planting honeyberry shrubs, after the other trees are established. Edible landscaping that encourages children to eat fresh fruit at their height couldn’t be more heavenly…don’t you think?!

IMG_0122

Although you can’t see it from this angle, the area is on a slight slope. We’ll be renting some heavy equipment to level the area for the swing set. I’m told that the dimensions of this set in an “L” shape are 30′ long x 25′ wide, with two playhouses, a slide, swings, and a long walking plank. Next weekend we’ll be picking up the set, so things will need to be done quickly to prep the area.

After the swing set has been installed, the trees and plants will be planted.

May 1st or 2nd is when our chicks arrive, and we’ve been preparing for that as well. We have a LOT of planting to do in the next two weeks, rounding everything off with our warm season crops going into the ground mid May just after the ducklings, goslings, and turkeys arrive.

We’re in a mad dash to get things finished off because we will be hosting our first potluck and garden tour the end of May. I’ll be living off a constant flow of caffeinated tea, very little sleep, and lots of Motrin to get me through. Planting 500+ trees and shrubs, no matter how small they are takes a toll on the body. Beyond the major tree planting, we need to finish the market garden and Northwest Quadrant garden, and get each of those planted out as well.

It’s so thrilling watching everything come together!

The Mulching Continues

IMG_1488

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here’s more photos of the day:

IMG_1481 IMG_1482 IMG_1483 IMG_1487 IMG_1489 IMG_1490 IMG_1491 IMG_1492

New Growth, Revived Hope

Can you see it?! It’s so exciting to watch something planted spring up.
In the photo to the left are a whole mess of things growing.

  • Delicata Squash
  • Corn
  • Bolita beans
  • Amaranth
  • A French variety of scalloped squash

Yesterday it looked like it was going to rain. The winds kicked up and it misted only slightly and then BAM! we got hit with a major wind storm.

Dom scrambled outside to stake one of the pear trees since it was swaying a little too much.

I was checking on the new seedlings, wondering if they would make it through the desiccating wind.

I took these photos this morning, so…YES! so far they did make it.

Some of the straw blew away yesterday, but as you can see, in this section, no straw was lost.

Another interesting observation is that we never prepared any of the soil these seedlings are growing in. It’s straight up sand and duck poop water. That’s it. Oh, and of course water. 😉

Here are a few more photos from this morning:

Here are some peaches that stayed on the tree through the storm. We lost a lot of fruit early in the season due to wind storms:

A few different shots of squash fruiting. By the way, we will have way too much squash this year. Last year we only has a few zucchini and summer squash plants and we still had way too many…hopefully we’ll be able to sell them this year:

And finally one more photo of our artichokes…I’m going to let them flower:

See all the lush green tumbleweeds in the background?! There isn’t enough time in the day to get all the weeds. 😉

At this time last year:

Actually it was on June 7th, 2011 but what’s a few days right?


Awww! A long lost photo of Pinkie named for her pink toe. She died last year bravely trying to swim like a duckling. She so wanted to be like them. Rest in Peace Pinkie…we love you.