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.
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.
We’ve been quite busy over the last three and a half months. I had hoped to blog more but with the country’s response (for good and bad) to the current events, we felt the need to speed up our plans and reprioritize what we were doing. It’s amazing how clear we can become if we’re motivated enough.
Dom and I have always been on the path to being more sustainable and self-reliant. Not in the sense, however, of us being an island unto ourselves and living like hermits somewhere out in the wilderness. If that were the case, we wouldn’t have chosen the area we’re living in as a place to set down roots.
We believe in community and helping where we can. We want to be productive and provide products and services that can help stabilize our local economy. As we’ve watched our nation and the world go through extremes, we’ve seen the impact it has on us personally.
Having taken care of animals and grown our food in the past, it has become crystal clear that we need to get our asses in gear now. I believe that hyperinflation is inching closer and that things are about to get extremely ugly (they are already ugly) with regards to food security. One thing is appallingly clear…we are NOT prepared!
I hate to sound like a cliche, but I thought we would have more time. We knew this was going to happen. Well, not that there would be a lockdown and all our rights being taken over 38,000 deaths in the United States, but we knew there was going to be a great shaking. It’s one of the reasons we began growing food and caring for animals in the first place.
It feels surreal to watch everything unfold in the world. Worse yet, we are feeling somewhat powerless, marginalized, and unable to help those who are suffering in any meaningful way.
Our goals were to start getting animals and have a little extra to sell. To have a few large gardens and have some produce to sell. But in this season of change, I’m setting my sights much larger.
It’ll start with the chickens…
Originally we planned on having about 75 chickens which would include Brahmas and Croad Langshans as our meat birds, and Cream Legars, Welsummers, Marans, Faverolles, and a few other egg layers. But I’ve chosen to increase the number to between 175-200 birds. The area we’ve been preparing for them is large enough to handle such a large number of birds.
I will also start a breeding program for each kind of bird. I’ll be crossing the Brahma and Langshans eventually to create a new table meat bird.
Our birds will be raised on organic feed and have one of the most important jobs on the farm…making compost for us. No one can turn a compost pile faster and with more efficiency than a mob of chickens.
This system of animal production will be intensive and highly productive. Each section will be multifaceted. For example, the chicken composting yard will have fruit trees, meat rabbit housing (yellow rectangle) and under the meat rabbits will be worm bins. Behind the rabbit row will be an enclosed area for berry bushes.
The fenced-in chicken composting yard will also have an enclosed turkey run with more berry bushes on three sides, and a round turkey coop (green circle). Why a round turkey coop? Because turkeys LOVE round things. They are fascinated by round objects and love round spaces. At least that’s what we’ve observed in keeping turkeys in the past.
There will be an area for ducks. We won’t have as many ducks as we do chickens, but we’ll have at least 30 for egg production as well as meat. Even though I really wanted to get Dutch Hookbills for this area, we have so much land that I decided that I’ll have them in another area. In the duck area we’ll be adding Cayugas, Silver Apple Yards, Pekins, and a few geese.
In the market garden, there is an overlap between the duck area and the garden. This overlap is because of where the large trees are. We won’t be removing the trees. Instead, the duck housing will be on the market garden side. There is an old large water trough that was for cattle. It will be turned into their pond. A spigot will be added to it, and the duck poop water will be used to water the market garden.
The market garden…
Currently, we have rows dug. They can be seen in the plot below. We don’t have the greatest water pressure coming from our well, and in order to save water, we decided to completely rework the market garden.
We’ll be creating inground wicking beds. The wicking beds will allow us to drain the duck pond water directly under each garden row. Think of it like bottom watering your plants. Freshwater will be used once a week to topwater, but the duck pond water is the real workhorse, nourishing all the plants and fruit trees that will be planted there.
Around the perimeter of the market garden we’ll be adding tall posts and electric to keep out the deer.
Last year we started building our little chicken composting run in the market garden. It’s the little green rectangle. This is intended to be our Silkie chicken nursery. Silkies are good mothers and will happily hatch out eggs. They can also be bullied by other chickens, so they get their very own area. We won’t have more than 10 Silkies. They’ll also be making compost in their area.
The outdoor kitchen and meat processing area (turquoise square)…
Last year we had an overgrown HUGE patch of wild grapevines. I cleared it out and burned the area so that they wouldn’t grow back. We have so many wild grapes on the property, that it wasn’t a big sacrifice. Now that the patch is gone, we can build our outdoor kitchen. We will harvest our small animals in the outdoor kitchen. It will also serve as the farm kitchen when we start holding events.
I told you we were busy! Haha
As our plans continue to morph, I will be tucking things into each system. Two things that aren’t on the plans are the post-harvest washing station and the greenhouse. The post-harvest station will be located on the north side of the market garden. In the upper right-hand corner above the market garden is where our tents used to be. That will be the location of our greenhouse.
Everything will be in close proximity to each other. This creates fewer steps. At the center of everything is the water supply. Farms should be run efficiently with as few steps as needed. We’ve worked on farms that weren’t planned out very well. Water that would need to be hauled great distances, needing to walk 10 minutes to a field way out in the middle of nowhere to harvest lettuce, only to turn around and walk another 10 minutes in the opposite direction to collect eggs and yet another 20 minutes to go feed pigs. This is extremely time-consuming. Our systems will not be done that way. There’s no need for it.
To the right of the market garden is the entrance to the pasture. We will be keeping dairy sheep and horses there. More on that another day!
Here are some photos of things that were accomplished from the end of January until this week:
Our little teeny tiny bathroom is nearing completion. Pallet walls are an ingenious way to rooms but if they aren’t sealed up with walls and insulation, animals feel free to make themselves at home in our spaces. That is a big fat NOPE! The walls were finished with drywall and an opening for windows was put in. We found the windows under one of the rigs on the property. They were partially buried in the dirt. I cleaned them up, painted, and reglazed them.
The toilet and bathtub were installed, and we got the cutest little antique Italian Florentine chest of drawers to convert into a sink. We need to purchase a wall-mounted faucet and hopefully, in the next few weeks, the sink will be functional.
We still have shelves, a mirror, and a few other things to add, but it is looking great! It feels glorious to take a long hot bath too.
I love watching him work and get creative. I love how he makes our lives so much better every day!
My girl continues to grow into this stunningly beautiful young woman. She turns 13 next month.
Some cedars and pine were taken out of the chicken compost yard. When completely cleared of dead or dying trees (we had both in that area) fruit trees will be added. The straight branches that were still in good condition will be used to build the chicken coop.
Our supply area is filling up fast. The pallets will be used to build a storage shed for all our things that are currently being stored in the roastery. We have many projects going on all at once. Behind the pallets are a LOT of glass panels. Those are for the greenhouse.
This is the next section of the chicken yard that needs to be cleared. This whole area is one large tree that fell but never died. It is connected at the root by about two feet of tree. It must have fallen at least 5 years ago but refused to die. This is the area where the large chicken coop will go.
We have two entrances to our property. One is on Mineral Creek seen in the photo above, and the other is on a back road when the creek is flowing.
This year we had so much rain that we couldn’t get across. The creek cuts into the banks creating a steep drop off. We need to have heavy equipment come in to fix this each year. What we really need is a bridge!
Once the water subsides the creek bed is a hot mess! We had it leveled on Friday and we can finally cross again.
Much better! There’s only a small amount of water flowing now, and within the next few months, it should be dried up completely until next winter.
The other project I’m currently working on is updating and changing our website. Firelight Farm will still have the blog, but it will be a magazine-style layout and include lots of different sections. Instead of having one blog where I write everything, there will be categories like animal shelters, animal husbandry, growing a garden, building structures, how to lacto-ferment, and more. We want our website to be more informative. I also want to start producing videos again. We started to a few years back, but when we sold our last farm, there was no reason to continue making videos.
My aim is to have the new site launched by the end of May. It’s pretty exciting and it’s all coming together.
This truly is the season of change!
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
- Purchase worms
- Build a rabbitry and worm beds underneath
- Purchase meat rabbits
- Build a quail aviary
- Purchase quail
- 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.
Stay tuned! Great things are still to come.
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.
We’re home! We arrived in Reserve, NM on January 25. Altogether the trip took 5 days and 4 nights. Most of our hotel stays were moldy in the bathrooms and just added more insult to injury with regards to my health. One of the hotel stays was so bad that we had to flee at 6:00 am because my breathing was so labored that I couldn’t stop coughing and sneezing.
We are located about 12 miles south of the main town of Reserve. Our house is a tiny little adobe building with two bedrooms and open area where there is a kitchen, dining area, and living room. We were amazed that we could fit all our stuff into this little structure. We had to get creative with the space in order to make it work, but it’s coming along nicely.
I thought I would give a picture tour of the property and at a later date, when our house is fully set up, I’ll give a little tour of the interior. We still have pictures to hang, more clothes to unpack, and shelves to hang.
Sometime in the future we’ll probably paint as well, but for now, because I’m still recovering it wouldn’t be wise for us to paint. The chemicals would affect my lungs too much. This little adobe place is a landing of sorts. It’s a mold free environment for me to heal, and as we get to know the area, locate a place where we can build our house. Our hope is that we can build very close to where we are at right now.
The house we want to build would be completely non-electric. That means no solar or alternative power either. It’s fine for in the buildings we’re using for our coffee business and other exciting plans we have, but our home will be built with no electricity. I’ll touch upon that subject at a later time.
So, where do we live? We live on a 40-acre plot of land that has three spring fed ponds (stocked with fish) in the Gila National Forest. We are at an elevation of 5,700 and we are surrounded by astonishing beauty, amazing rock outcroppings, canyons, evergreens, grasses, and wild game. The water here is crystal clear and tastes like heaven.
Just a week ago, I couldn’t walk more than a few minutes without sitting down, and I needed a nap at mid-day or lay down for a short period of time because I would become too dizzy to stand, and now one week later not only can I walk without running out of breath, but I can walk a whole block, as well as walk to the ponds. The first pond is directly behind our house up a little hill. Because of that hill, you don’t even know the pond is there. The first pond spills over and travels to the second pond, and then to the third pond. I have not made it as far as the second pond, but in the next week I know I’ll be able to accomplish that as well. I’m trying not to push myself too hard.
I’m so excited about these ponds. They are pure poetry.
In looking at it from an aerial view, it’s easier to see the vast beauty of the 40 acres. Over the next year, I’ll be planning out the different zones surrounding the riparian areas. Then observing the best way to utilize the land for orchards, gardens, and market gardens. It’s such a big project that it will take years to complete. I feel beyond blessed to have this land to cultivate.
Our county has a very large population of elk. The elk outnumber people and can be a nuisance or downright destructive in agricultural systems. I was so excited to see the first 10 acres being prepped for elk fencing. We don’t have a date yet on when the fencing will be installed…and I was so thrilled to see the tractor out there today!
There is a cute little greenhouse and a few garden plots that looked like there were tyme and other herbs growing maybe last year.
Here is another exciting area. Behind the cottonwood tree is the wood structure that will become our coffee roastery.
Here is a close-up shot. It’s just a stick built shed. The whole building, including any additions we put onto it will be done in salvaged very old doors and windows, and the walls will be infilled with straw-light-clay. The coffee roaster will be a cob/stone hearth, and the coffee will be wood fire roasted. I will be talking with the people who made my coffee drum about making a 20-30 pound drum custom for our new roasting hearth. Our inspiration for roasting coffee this way comes from Summermoon wood fired coffee. Below is a photo of their roaster. Ours will be similar in many ways.
The building will have very little power coming to it, and off the side of the building will be the art studio I need for creating the different products we sell for Buffalo Mountain Coffee Roasting Company.
I roasted our first few batches of coffee on February 1, and after a few roasts, I was able to get a feel for what it will be like to roast in the high desert. Altitude can affect how coffee is roasted, so I wanted to make sure I could get it consistent with how I roasted when we lived in West Virginia.
Our Etsy shop for our coffee company is now open for business if anyone is interested in buying coffee. Click here to visit our Etsy shop.
I will be working on Buffalo Mountain’s website to offer coffee for sale there as well, it was just a low priority last year while we were building our business.
Okay, back to our little tour…
Here’s a cool little building that is right next to the roastery. At first, we thought it might be something we would want to restore and make our home, but after seeing that it is so close to the access road for the pond, we felt it would be better served as a bait and vermiculture area. Worms baby! I think it would be a great area to sell worms since people love to come fishing at the pond.
It’s in rough shape, but it’s dry inside. It just needs a little TLC and a torch. Haha, no, just the TLC and a roof.
And no, it’s not haunted.
You might be tempted to think that it’s just termites holding hands, but under that weathered wood is plastered walls. 😉
Our house is heated by a tiny little woodstove. It does a pretty good job of keeping us warm at night. We also have two propane heaters, but we don’t use them often.
This gorgeous creature showed up and is such a great outside companion for Simmi. We’re allergic to cats, so it was nice to see him show up and hang out with us. There are three other cats as well, but they don’t stick around like he does. Simmi named him Fluffy Lucky.
There is also a gorgeous beautifully natured dog that comes around. Her name is Whisper and her person is a contractor who works in town a lot. She tags along with him, and comes to hang out with me when I’m roasting coffee. She got her name because she doesn’t make a sound. No barking. She’s like the perfect dog.
Life is good here! We are settling in, making a life for ourselves here, and enjoying the beauty of New Mexico once again. It’s good to be home.