Great Expectations for 2019

Great Expectations for 2019

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. ūüėČ
  • 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!

 

 

 

Staying Soft When Things Get Hard

Staying Soft When Things Get Hard

 

Dom and I have been married for almost 14 years now. Before we became romantically involved we were great friends. We were vulnerable, soft, caring, and compassionate to each other. Professionally, it served us well as raw vegan chefs running our own catering company and later starting an organic CSA. Working together is a gift we share with one another. It is a pleasure each moment we plan, conspire, build, and complete projects. It was like that in the beginning of our relationship when we built a solid foundation of friendship, and that friendship has endured and grown ever stronger with each passing day. It has also given us the unique ability to work well with others who are open to real friendship. It has become so ingrained in us that it just naturally flows out to those around us.

We have always been soft towards one another. Being soft requires strength, courage,¬†and bravery. Emotional safety is the hallmark trait of remaining soft in any relationship, regardless of whether it’s a marriage or a¬†friendship. It means that we can be honest with one another without fear of reproach. It also means that when things get hard in life, we don’t turn against each other, biting and gnawing at the other’s very being. It means that we don’t accuse the other of nefarious activities and unpure motives, mention past offenses to open old wounds or gush on about how much we do for each other as if that is a justification for any type of bad behavior we might be exhibiting at the moment or as a way to manipulate the other person into submitting to our will.

No. That is the behavior of someone with a hard heart. A hard heart breaks easily, is offended often and is annoyed at the slightest provocation.

Have you ever gotten something stuck in your finger, like a piece of glass or splinter? If it doesn’t get infected and we don’t remove it, our bodies will begin to create a hard casing around the object to keep it from harming us. Like an internal callous, these objects can be physically felt and rarely hurt, but they are there nonetheless. They are a constant reminder that there is something foreign¬†under our skin that we have not removed, either because of fear of pain, or sheer laziness. We can often remember just when that piece of glass entered our bodies and have stories about how it happened. We recall it easily and remark at how clever our bodies are to be able to keep it encased.

We do that with emotions and hurts too. Emotional hurts and slights become encased in bitter feelings and emotions and lodged in our hearts and minds like a shard of glass. We put layer upon layer of excuses and justifications to wrap it up tight, and at just the right moment we tell those who have harmed us to feel the bump they caused. “Feel it!” we say, “See what you did to me and all I ever did was try to love you…this is what I get in return.” We become hard. Our softness begins to dissipate, and it becomes increasingly difficult to get through the cohesion of hurt and hardness.

Dom and I don’t live this way. We never have. Staying soft when things get hard is a lifestyle choice. It means that you won’t put up defenses because they aren’t necessary. It means that he can say what is on his mind and heart, and not be criticized by me or judged harshly. If he feels I have hurt him, he can tell me without fear of reproach. I can hear him say the thing that hurts him most and offer the most loving thing I have to offer…a soft heart. There is no pride to protect, no egos to overcome, no scorecard or *one-up-manship*, and no need to defend myself when he says I have hurt him. And vice versa.

When couples are able to practice being soft and malleable, it makes it possible to face hardships that come at us. Our marriage is steeped in hardships! Not towards one another, but because of different circumstances.

We have been homeless, penniless, friendless, family-less, very sick and often very alone. One thing we do have is a softness to each other and those we come into contact with.

Softness has nothing to do with demeanor. We aren’t pushovers, nor can we be easily crushed. We are soft even in the face of great adversity.

Right now as my health declines, Dom is frantic. I’m physically weak and become out of breath just walking from one room to the next. I wake him up at times wheezing and coughing at night, and all the life is draining from my face and body. It has set him to panic mode, where he alone is now responsible for not only working 7 days a week, but also packing up the house, cooking dinner at night, cleaning dishes and doing laundry. He is doing it all while I sit weakened, emotionally vulnerable and always on the verge of tears.

He could destroy me right now. He could beg that even though I am unable to take a bath without extreme effort, I should try to do more. I can’t though. This is what happens to me in moldy houses. I begin to fade away, vulnerable and emotional. But he doesn’t destroy me in these times. Does he get upset? Hell yeah. Is he upset with me? No way! We have been through this situation so many times that it’s completely predictable. Most people fear the unknown, but when it comes to dealing with my health and mold, we see it clearly. Mold is the enemy…not each other.

There is no need to get upset with each other or take it out on one another. He understands what is at stake and has always been my protector, my shield, my everything.

We have had times when I was so sick that I needed to be hospitalized, and then coming out of the hospital after 3 or 4 weeks in intensive care, would come 3-4 weeks of home care. He would have to quit his job to care for me because I can’t even move. I can’t tell you how many times this has happened while we were living on the east coast in the early days of our marriage. Through it all, however, he has always maintained a soft heart.

Dom’s softness has often been confused with being “happy-go-lucky” and “roll with the punches” but I can assure you that is not who he is. He is deeply mindful of the emotional needs of others. He excels this way. I, on the other hand, have a very soft heart but a rugged exterior. My softness doesn’t seem apparent until after you have known me for some time.

We compliment each other well. This is how we have survived as a couple over the last 14 years. We have been dealt some pretty nasty blows over the years but as a team, we have faced those challenges head-on and it has made us even more bonded than we already are. People we have met and shared our story with have often commented on how strong we are, or that they don’t understand how we are still married, but I can say with all candor that it is our softness of heart that gives us the strength we need to endure life’s hardballs.

Hardballs can be anything from needing to get rid of everything you own because of mold, to being hurt by the selfishness of others. That happens a lot to soft people. But we don’t become hard to endure their abuse, we simply choose not to be involved in the lives of those who would harm us emotionally or try to manipulate us. Easier said than done sometimes, I can tell you that much! People are complicated creatures with their own set of values and rules. Not everyone comes equipped with a soft heart and luckily we can see that while developing friendships and make decisions about how close we want to become to others.

Hardballs hurt. They leave marks in the flesh that we don’t easily forget. We flinch at times remembering a past pain or traumatic event, yet, we stay soft. We stay resilient.

Our lives are rich and full whether we are in good health and have a house full of treasured belongings, or if we’re homeless, sick, and left destitute.

We’re ready for a good change. We don’t know yet how it will all happen, but we trust that God is in control and will make a way for us. He is the ultimate reason our hearts have remained soft through all these years.

Life is good, even when it disappoints. Love is real, even when despair causes our hearts to weep because of an unknown future.

We are soft, even when things get hard.

Homeschooling will Come to an End in the New Year

Homeschooling will Come to an End in the New Year

Since we moved to Vermont in August, we have struggled with the idea of sending Simone to school vs homeschooling. The reasons for homeschool have more to do with keeping her free of anaphylaxis and less to do with education. Can we homeschool her? Yes. Do we want to homeschool her? No.

I know that sounds mean, but it isn’t.

Simone is a gregarious child, curious and filled with wonder. She epitomizes true childlike innocence, thirsts for real connections with others, and is an all-inclusive kind of girl.

I have been reluctant to talk about her pure and beautiful nature because this is the internet, and there are things I would rather not have the whole world knowing. Unfortunately, in our world, everyone, and I mean EVERYONE who has come into contact with Simmi will understand that this child is different.

She marches to a heart song that echoes out a melody so few have ever heard. The joy she brings to all she lays her eyes on goes beyond just a curious greeting-she longs to know you. It is a need as deep as breathing.

Can you see how my discussion of her deeper side could be troubling in the online world? We have often worried about her personal safety because she sees everyone she meets as friends and family.

Black, white, Asian, old, young, deformed and missing a limb or two, homeless, smelly, troubled, angry, sad, crying, happy, elderly, and even infants are not out of her line of inquiry which leads to her asking these questions:

“Hi, I’m Simmi, what’s your name? Would you like to come to our house for dinner? How about a sleepover? Can you come over for Christmas?”

No one can escape her innocent questions.

While shopping for food, she must say hello to every single person she sees. If it’s a child, she will approach them, and if they have a sour nature wanting to be mean, it will only take about five minutes for my kid to turn sour into sweet.

Its amazing to watch. Its beautiful to be a witness to her light in an ever darkening world.

Adults often struggle to speak with her. They will look to me as if to say, “You do know she is talking to me right now, and she wants to physically hug me even though she has never met me before, don’t you?” They seem disarmed, filled with fear and looking for me to remove my child. Some of them even ignore her, refusing to make eye contact.

Stranger danger, god, it’s everywhere. They seem to apply it to my kid. She’s the stranger. How weird is that? Adults having a difficult time with an eight-year-old seeking to know more about a complete stranger. I guess that is strange in our often anonymous world.

Why am I saying all this and what does this have to do with homeschooling coming to an end? Well, there are a great number of reasons we want her to go attend school. First and foremost, however, is that the children in school need her, and she needs them.

Simone has what feels like a unicorn soul. A rainbow of feeling and emotion that borders on the magical. She has a way of reaching even the most hardened 7-year-old.

It sounds strange to say that, doesn’t it? That a 7-year-old could be hardened? But many of them are. I’ve seen it first hand while we are out at the stores. Parents on their phones or other devices, their child angry and scouring, or sad and sobbing.

I’ll give you one example of hundreds of stories I could share about how the world responds to Simone:

We were in Hannaford (grocery store if you don’t live in New England) and walking through each aisle as I shopped for food. It was Friday, October 30, and a little girl was shopping with her dad. She was around Simmi’s age, very overweight, and busting out of her large blue Disney princess costume. Why do I say it this way? Because that is what I saw. A child, very uncomfortable, and extremely aware of her surroundings. She held onto the shopping cart as her father spoke on the phone the whole time they were in the store. From the moment he brought her in, until after he left, he at no time put the phone down.

The little girl walked beside him, and with her eyes squinted half shut and with an almost smug look, refused to acknowledge Simmi as she said, “Hi, my name is Simmi, what’s your name?” The little girl wouldn’t answer her. She wouldn’t look her directly in the eyes. She had this weird grin on her face. I wanted to judge this little girl. I mean, who does that right? When someone is being nice and saying hello, do you really turn up your nose and walk away?

When we were finished shopping and at the checkout counter, we just happened to be right behind the man and his Disney princess daughter.

Would you like to know how Simone reacted to the snooty rebuff?

To her, there was no rebuff. Remember, I’m the witness. I’m the observer. I remained silent as I watched the icy world melt from around this girl.

Simmi approached the girl who stood just a little taller and about three sizes bigger than her. She said in a soft and loving voice, with eyes warm and inviting, “Hi, my name is Simmi, what’s your name.”

The little girl looked to her father who was STILL on the phone and completely oblivious to the fact that his child was talking with people. Then the little girl looked to me. I smiled at her, and the girl opened up and told Simone her name. Simmi talked about how beautiful her princess dress was, and how pretty she was.

Then it hit me. This child is probably relentlessly bullied at school because of her size. She was a large little girl, and unfortunately fat doesn’t work. It didn’t work when I was a little girl, and it certainly doesn’t work now. Obese children are often targeted.

Being fat was never a part of the conversation between these two little girls. It was about how pretty she was, and how special the dress was, sparkly and new. It took everything inside me to NOT cry at what I was observing.

This little girl was broken inside. She wasn’t a snooty little snob. She wasn’t trying to be mean. Her guard was up because she was afraid some little girl her age was going to say something horrible to her. Have you ever put your guard up as an adult?

Simone brings down the walls of hatred. She melts even the coldest of hearts.

This is a profound gift that has come into the world. She is a gift. A miracle.

She is almost always prepared. At home, she will color hearts, pieces of paper, create stitch work on felted hearts, and shove them in a bag or pocket. When we go out, she pulls out these creations to give to anyone who will accept them.

She doesn’t know who she will meet, but when she does, she has a gift for them and an invite to join us for dinner, lunch, the holidays or her birthday.

I’ve had people show up at the farm because she told a stranger with children where they could find us. And you know what, they came and we invited them in.

Can that be dangerous? Perhaps. But lots of things can be dangerous.

Loving from the heart is a miracle as well as dangerous, but I’m not going to stop her.

In her fearless pursuit of loving others, she will approach homeless people. She rolls down the window to ask them how they’re doing.

She has no fear of rejection and has no idea what that even is. When someone is ignoring her, she doesn’t feel rejected, she just looks for another way to reach them.

She is a pearl.

Our choice to school her isn’t to “socialize” her. Believe me, she’s about as social as they come.

We can’t keep her from sharing her beautiful soul with others. At the same time, we also have that other problem, her life-threatening food allergies.

In weighing all the options such as where the nearest hospital is, how long it would take for paramedics to get there, and the best place to get her the educational help she needs because of her neurological disorder, we keep coming back to Montessori School.

Even though it will take an hour to drive her to school each morning, putting me in the car for four hours a day, and the fact that we will be extremely financially tight, we feel good about our decision.

We want other children to experience the feeling of being completely accepted. We want her to grow her friendships, achieve academic success, and learn how to work with her disabilities.

Her strengths far outweigh her weaknesses. We want to support her in that.

So we’ve been saving money for her tuition, and for a while, we’ll be struggling with driving Sweaty Betty, our gas guzzling snow beast. We need to get some sort of used hybrid car that handles well in the snow since I’ll be traveling 160 miles per day in the car.

Somehow it will work out. My rainbow unicorn will start school in January and I couldn’t be more thrilled (and terrified).