It’s amazing to me that at this time last year I could barely breathe walking from part of a room to another, I had to shave my head because my hair was falling out so much that it was everywhere. It’s disturbing to see hair all over the place! Moving back to our home state of New Mexico was an act of desperation much like when we first arrived in New Mexico ten years earlier. We learned our lesson that this is our home forever. My mold allergies are so bad that our home state is the only one with the ability to help me recover.
And I am recovering, slowly but surely.
It has been nearly four years since we were raising animals and farming. Now that we have our land, we are moving full speed ahead, biting off more than we can chew, and I’m sure we’ll make plenty of mistakes along the way. I don’t fear making mistakes at all. I never have. It’s how I grow and it keeps me flexible when I want to stay rigid.
Jumping back into farming is something I am so very excited about. Proper planning, however, is key to being successful and profitable. We started the tradition of writing out our goals when we started homesteading in Los Lunas. It feels good to get back into the practice of writing our goals again. In every place that we were at from Vermont to West Virginia, we had grand plans for establishing a garden and keeping small animals, but I would get so sick from each house we lived in that we would need to move.
We moved a total of 10 times since leaving New Mexico four years ago. In 2019 we will make another move onto our land.
2018 was a great year. Our coffee roasting company, Buffalo Mountain, has thrived and made 10 times the amount made in 2017. We can’t yet take an income from it, but I believe by the end of 2019 we will be profitable enough to start paying ourselves. Buffalo Mountain pays for all its own supplies, operating expenses, internet and phone, and electric bill. We will be building the new roastery on the land and it will have an art studio, commercial kitchen, and a farm store attached.
We moved here to Reserve in February, and with the amazing support of our friend Jennifer, who allowed us to rent her little adobe this year, it helped us to get established in Catron County.
Simmi made a new friend named Angel and they have become great friends. It’s the first time she has had a real friend to play with…ever. it’s a pretty big deal!
Simmi has made great progress in her school work. She was evaluated by a dyslexia specialist when we lived in Vermont and we were told that she has profound dyslexia. This is not a bad thing, it just means that she processes information when reading or doing math differently than other children. Children with dyslexia have many strengths. I am also dyslexic, but mine is not as advanced as her’s is. So I work at her pace which is very slow, with lots of days in between for her to process what she has learned. If I do school work with her every day, she goes into overload and won’t stop rubbing her eyes because it’s like there are letters or numbers missing from what she’s reading. She believed that she was dumb and not smart because she couldn’t read like her friend Angel. It was very frustrating for her, but recently she has come to accept that she learns differently than other kids and that it’s okay to do things at a slower pace. I think she’s doing fantastic!
Dom has been working hard this year as a cook at the restaurant next door to us and also taking on side projects and maintenance work. He’s still emotionally recovering from this last move. The emotional stress of my illness over the last three years has really taken a toll on him. While I no longer have to worry about toxic mold exposure, I am still suffering with electro-hypersensitivity. My inability to deal with wifi and electricity, in general, has gotten worse since September of this year. My only solace is being down on our land where there are no frequencies at all, and if neighbors do have wifi in their houses, they are far enough away from our property to not affect me.
We made many new dear friends this year, and some of those friends became family to us.
We have our own land to call home and an emerging farm that is co-owned by Dom, me, Toulousse & Saint, and Sara. Sara will be moving to the property sometime in 2019. Toulousse and Saint are already there. I’ll be adding them to this website in the new year.
We gained a new son-in-law, Kyle, when our daughter Shoshannah was married in June of this year. Kyle is one of those rare, gentle and beautiful souls that captured my daughter’s heart and wouldn’t let go. I feel so blessed that they found such a great love in one another.
As we bring 2018 to a close, it’s time to look forward to the goals for 2019. While our list is extensive and so grand that we may not be able to fit it all into a year, it doesn’t have to fit neatly into a one year span. Let’s look at these goals as part of a Five Year Plan.
Firelight Farm’s Goals for 2019
Establish the market garden: Build the greenhouse, stake and build the grow beds, add row covers, install irrigation
Build a chicken coop and compost run
Line the duck pond and put up fence for the duck run
Build topbar beehives
Build a freestanding full bathroom: This will have a worm composting flush toilet (Solviva design), sink, shower and bathtub, and a washing machine. The bathroom will be located between the market garden and the French potager garden.
Build the produce washing and workstation, and animal evisceration (for meat processing) area next to the bathroom: This is the heart of any market garden or garden in general. It’s where fruits and vegetables are processed for the market either on farm or at the farmer’s market.
Build a tool shed between both gardens
Build our hybrid canvas tents: We will be building four 12’x12′ tent cabins. One is for Dom and I, the second tent is for Simone, the third one is for guests who come to visit us, and the fourth is for furniture and boxes as well as storing our kitchen supplies and food in. There will be a large covered area where we will have our kitchen and dining room table. The free standing bathroom will not be located too far from our camp.
Build a canvas tent cabin 12’x12′ for our coffee company, which will be located near where we will be building the roastery.
Establish the French potager garden
Plant fruit trees
Build a tropical greenhouse: This is for our personal use because we want fresh avocados, citrus, figs, and other tropical fruits that won’t grow in our hardiness zone.
Build the coffee roastery: This roastery will be built from logs that our neighbors have sitting up at their property. It was as if it has been there for the last ten years waiting for us to arrive. Haha, at least that’s the way I’d like to think of it! There’s enough lumber for our business complex which will be the roastery, a commercial kitchen for making cold brew and lactofermented vegetables, and the farm store.
Begin improving the pasture for the horses
Clear and remove rocks from the front of the property along the river for the future flower farm: This area is about 30’x200′ feet by my best guesstimation. 😉
Build a horse barn for Sara’s three gorgeous horses that will be coming to their new home
Build Sara a house. Sara is like a mama to Toulousse and I. We adore her and feel so blessed that she’s a part of our family.
Purchase ducklings and goslings
Build a rabbitry and worm beds underneath
Purchase meat rabbits
Build a quail aviary
Build a scaled up black soldier fly shed: Black soldier flies are one of my all time favorite creatures. The larva are highly nutritious for poultry and the adult black soldier fly is an elegant creature, living for only about a week. Adults do not have a working mouth and do not carry vector-borne diseases. I could gush on and on about these little creatures.
Build the farm’s outdoor kitchen and covered dining area: This will be for Farm to Table events
Purchase EZ Up Tents and things needed for the Silver City Farmer’s Market
Purchase or acquire a donated a Suburban or farm truck: We desperately need a large working vehicle that can haul a trailer and for Dom to continue working. Right now we only have one vehicle.
Establish a few commercial accounts for our organic fruits and vegetables and animal products
Build chicken tractors for meat birds. (See photo of chicken tractors below)
Purchase meat chickens and turkeys
Is your head spinning yet? Mine popped off just writing it all down! There’s more, but I think I’ll stop there. When I build the page for our Farmstead Milestones, I’ll add the above list with the rest of our goals, because the list keeps growing. It’ll never stop growing as long as I have breath in me.
I hope you all have an amazing New Year!
2019 is the year of great expectations and will be filled with strength, courage, wisdom, laughter, friendship, financial abundance, and lots of love!
Another year has passed, and I’m thankful yet again that God has sustained me and kept me alive. I’m in very poor health and slipping further into illness as the days pass. We knew this would happen, I just wish it didn’t have to be this way. I’m becoming weaker, and continue to deal with extreme inflammation and edema. Dom shaved my head last week because my hair was so thin you could see my scalp. Ironic that shaving my head would help with seeing my scalp, right? Well, when my hair gets super thin I don’t look healthy at all. I mean, let’s face it, I’m not healthy going through allergic reactions to mold, but why look the part too. It really comes down to how comfortable I am and how much Dom can take. Seriously! Losing hair is a very itchy experience. It feels like there are bugs crawling all over my head and body. That happens because as my hair falls out in clumps, it touches my arms and legs and feels like bugs crawling. Beyond that is dealing with hair everywhere. On the floor, in the tub, in places hair shouldn’t be. I also can’t have hair falling into coffee when roasting or packing up orders. That’s just gross. Being bald works for me on so many levels, and Dom likes it too. So he shaved it off. 😉
I have my prescription for clearing my body of mold, however, I can’t take it until we are out of this house and in a mold-free environment. I hate that I have the one thing that will make me better, but I can’t take it. In the meantime, I am taking Oreganol, Oregamax, and fermented cod liver oil. They are helping somewhat with the inflammation and allergy, but they are no match for my immune response to mold. It’s only a matter of time before it stops working.
Our timeline for the move back to New Mexico is set for between January 15 through February 1. I hope it doesn’t go that far, but as it stands right now, we don’t have the money needed to rent a truck and travel cross country. We’ve factored the cost of our move and it’s $5,000 for the Uhaul, car trailer, gas, lodging, boxes, and food. We need to be careful of where we stay as we travel also because of moldy motels. Finding an affordable hotel isn’t easy, and if the air quality in the heating system for the room isn’t clean, I risk having my airways begin to constrict. Fun, right?
We need a miracle. Dom wanted me to put together a Go Fund Me page to help raise the money, but I’ve tried that for other things in the past and it didn’t work out for us…at all. We’ve sold some things that we don’t use anymore, and there are many household things we’ll leave behind here at the house, but it still doesn’t get us anywhere near what we need.
We’re in between a rock and a hard place. We know where we’re going in New Mexico. We can see it and almost touch it…but it’s out of reach to us. In a panic because of the state of my health, Dom is ready to just abandon everything we have own, jump into the car and go. Yeah, we can do that, but then we have a repeat of what we went through when we first moved to New Mexico in 2008. I’m tired and feel defeated. I don’t want to start from scratch again! I don’t want to leave behind all the beautiful things we’ve acquired over the last several years. We will though if it comes down to me being hospitalized. It’s almost too late at that point.
We have managed to keep me pneumonia free for seven years now. The last time I had pneumonia was in 2011 when I contracted RSV, a viral respiratory infection. I contracted pneumonia when we first moved to New Mexico in January 2009 because of mold in the house due to a swamp cooler. That was the last time I had bacterial pneumonia. They say that after seven years, you have a brand new set of lungs. I hope so! I need new lungs, or at least lungs strong enough to continue to handle the onslaught of allergic reactions I’m enduring here.
Dom is also ill, as is Simmi. We all go through cycles of illness where it gets bad and we’re knocked on our butts, and then we start to get better, but never fully recover before getting ill again. This has been happening since August 2017.
It has to stop. I’m tired. I just want us to be well again.
Every December for as long as we have been married, we have discussed what we want to see happen in the coming new year. We don’t do resolutions. Instead, we set our course, create goals, and set out to accomplish them. We’re not “New Year New Me” people. We set the tone for what that new year will hold for us. In December 2016 we said that we wanted 2017 to be the year of abundance. Dom laughs every time he thinks of that word abundance. He says, right, abundance… an abundance of trouble, abundance of MOLD, abundance of heartache, the abundance of physical harm, an abundance of betrayal, an abundance of insanity.
Were there good abundant things that happened in 2017? Yes, for sure! Buffalo Mountain Coffee Roasting Company was birthed in 2017 (technically 12/16), my computer Agnus was born in 2017 and NOTHING good would have happened professionally or personally if it wasn’t for our dear friend gifting us with Agnus. We received rich blessings financially and maintained deep connections with friends and family despite not having a phone to communicate for a full year.
In looking ahead to this new year of 2018, Dom wanted to be clear in setting the tone; abundant good health for he and I and our family, financial prosperity for us as a couple, fulfilling my calling as a steward of the earth in caring for animals and growing food for my community, and setting down roots in a town we can call home and serve faithfully.
It has been a very long and trying year. We are weary but optimistic that better days are on our horizon.
Happy New Year! May 2018 be a spectacular year filled with rich opportunities for growth and prosperity, and abundant in exciting new experiences and joy.
What does it take to “green” an urban dwelling? That is my newest question because of my own moral and ethical concerns over using certain products to rehab a pre-existing home we are considering purchasing. In my last blog post, I talked about how we are searching for a home in the city of Albuquerque. We went to see a house that at first I was apprehensive about, but as it turns out, I was pleasantly surprised at what I found. While the house was old and built in the 1950’s, it had a certain charm and if I can be really honest, it had a great “feel” about it. It wasn’t a creepy old house. Was there mold there? Yes, and every home we have seen so far has had the same issues of roof drainage creating water spots that penetrated into the home. We have seen two homes that were infested with mold due to roof leaks or water wicking into the foundation that spread to hardwood floors warping them horribly. Major mold issues are not something that I am willing to tackle when it comes to the health and well being of my family, but minor mold issues are fixable.
One of the reasons we wanted some land out in a rural area, was so that we could build our own home made from products that came from our own land. We wanted to live in a temporary home such as a fiberglass yurt, and slowly build our permanent home as time afforded. Our plans were to use earthbags and build a large pueblo revival style home that would accommodate all our family’s needs. It was to be ground zero for having a place that parents could bring their children suffering with multiple chemical sensitivities as well as food allergies. We wanted to have a homestead that uses permaculture principles, and eventually also provide a means of working from home as producers of honey, aquaponic systems and products, mushrooms, animal fibers, fresh produce, worm tea, and many other things. Many of those things are still very possible and viable in an urban setting, with one big huge “but!” in there…”but how do we make our home as chemical free, safe and green as possible?” This has been plaguing me as I research the different alternative products that could allow us to rehab an urban dwelling.
Being that I am extremely allergic to many different household molds (I almost lost my life because of mold), going into an existing structure was almost a “no-no” in my mind. Right now we are renting a house that does have mold, but as we keep the moisture levels very low, the mold is not a problem nor is it reproducing. However, there is one concern living here in the southwest that is quite alarming. Many newer type homes with a concrete stucco on the exterior have had mold problems existing in the facade due to improper adhesion of cement stucco to the building. This creates a pocket of air where condensation builds in the wall which can encourage mold growth. You don’t know its a problem until the health of the family gets worse or visible signs of mold become present. I have met a number of families in New Mexico who have lost not only their health, but also everything they owned due to mold contamination. Their stories were similar to our own, since each of our family members living in our previous home on the east coast was affected by the contamination of mold and we too lost everything we owned. So as you can see, our concern over buying an existing home comes with the danger of also buying the mold present in the house. Mold is inescapable and a part of life. You can’t be “mold-free” but you can take steps to reduce the prospect of mold developing in the first place.
So how do we go about creating an environment that doesn’t encourage mold growth? The house we just went to see backs up to the Rio Grande and the relative humidity in that region is slightly higher than in other places around the Albuquerque area. This is due to being near the water, and therefore doing everything possible to keep the house dry would be of utmost importance to us. The exterior of the house is a stucco type surface, and it is built on a crawlspace. I found this to be interesting since the majority of homes in this region are typically built on a slab foundation. The interior of the home is extremely dated with shag rugs, plaster walls (not sheet rock) and also wood paneling. There were very cool little niches, built-in cabinets, wall systems and space saving features added. The windows are original single pane glass with gaps and cracks. As we walked around this house, we sort of fell in love with it. As unappealing as the interior looked, it felt like a house that had lots of love in it. Maybe it sounds like new aged hooey saying that, but just as I have gotten a “feeling” of creepiness from other dwellings, this one felt very peaceful. The roof needs to be replaced and I am sure that insulation is minimal if not absent all together.
In my search for how to rehab this particular home, I thought to myself “how sustainable or eco-friendly are these new products really?” The old plaster and wood paneling would need to be replaced and we didn’t want to use drywall because if it gets wet, it can breed mold, so we looked at papercrete as a viable option to rehab the interior walls. But papercrete is porous as well and could invite problems down the line. Feeling discouraged about that, I discovered that ferrocement could be used. Could this be the answer to all our problems? I did some research on it, and found that it is a super eco-friendly product. Water cisterns, homes and boats can be made of ferrocement, so my next question to myself was “why couldn’t we use this for our walls AND our roof? The roof needs to be replaced, which leads us to the next dilemma…what the heck do we use on the roof? We didn’t want to use asphalt shingles since we are planning on doing rain catchment and because of what it can do to the environment (but it is the most economical choice), and metal roofing tends to leach zinc and other things in the roof, and clay tiles seem to be the best choice but they are very expensive…so what do we do? Well, how about ferrocement roofing? Wouldn’t that be a reasonable alternative? Then there is the trouble of insulation! I have the biggest bone to pick with conventional products and some of the new “green” products out there to insulate the home. We all know the potential dangers of fiberglass insulation, and while there are alternatives such as recycled denim and natural fibers, the insulative value often falls short. Is this a case of robbing Peter to pay Paul? If the materials used to insulate the home is more “eco-friendly” yet cause us to still use more heating and cooling, how is it eco friendly unless you have the latest and greatest alternative energy source. I don’t have anything against using natural fibers to insulate the home, but for our home, we couldn’t take the chance on them from a health standpoint. Condensation, air gaps, cold spots in walls all become potential breeding grounds for mold, pests and other unwanted creatures. We began looking at sprayfoam insulation as a good alternative. After all, it is “green” right? There are quite a few sprayfoams on the market, and most of them are petroleum based. Yet to stay in step with the growing trend of being eco-friendly, some sprayfoam companies are offering soy, sugar, castor bean based products to reduce the use of petrochemicals. But are these products really green? We are all becoming aware of the dangerous affects of genetically modified food crops to our health as well as to the environment, so why should I support such a product being pumped as insulation into the walls of my home? There is no doubt that sprayfoam insulation will save you money as well as the environment in terms of personal greenhouse gas emissions from your home, BUT the corn, soy, castor bean, sugar beets and sugar products still have to be grown, harvested and processed into that sprayfoam. In the long run, if everyone is running out to sprayfoam their home, how much good is actually being done? These companies have created a “need” and boy do we ever need good insulation. It sounds too good to be true doesn’t it? What do we do with this kind of dilemma? Morally, I’m apposed to the sprayfoam insulation that contains bio products such as corn, soy, sugars, castor beans because of genetically modified crops used, and the conventional farming practices that are destroying the ecosystem. Ethically I’m apposed to how the big producers of these products are destroying the fabric of small farmers as well as biodiversity. What’s the solution? I found a product that is a sprayfoam insulation but is unlike all the others. Its called AirKrete. Here are the results of 3rd party testing of AirKrete:
Federal Conservation Inc.
Results show that the “ air krete® Insulation Sample” was resistant to mold growth at both 75% and 95% relative humidities. Neither molds were found to amplify in the materials at either humidity.
Modified ASTM E814/UL 1479 Fire Resistance on an air krete® wall panel
Tested: February 21, 2008 VTEC #100-2862
The initial ambient temperature was 57°F.
Hose Stream Test: No holes formed in the unexposed side of the
sample after being exposed to the hose stream for 24 seconds.
The sample met the acceptance criteria of the “F Rating” for 120
minutes per ASTM E814/UL 1479 specifications.
Hardwood Plywood Manufacturers Association
Report on surface burning characteristics determined by ASTM-E 84 Twenty-five foot tunnel furnace test method.
The normal 10 minute test was extended to 30 minutes with the following results:
Flamespread Factor: 0
Fuel Contributed Factor: 0
Smoke Density Factor: 0
The apparent thermal resistance of a specimen of a cementitious foam insulation material density:
2.07 lbs. per cubic foot @ 24C (75F)
K factor = .257 per 1 inch thickness
R factor = 3.9 per 1 inch thickness
Twin City Testing Corporation
Report of shrinkage test conducted according to ASTM:L C951, Par. 8.5 results:
Report of analysis sample of reacted foam insulation identified as air krete® , was qualitatively checked for formaldehyde:
No evidence of formaldehyde was found.
Hardwood Plywood Manufacturers Association
Report on smoke density characteristics determined by NBS-Aminco Smoke Density Chamber.
These test results demonstrate:
air krete® is non-toxic.
Mold Proof Test
Air Quality Sciences, Inc.
A Microbial Resistance Evaluation of Indoor Materials
air krete® Insulation Sample
Executive Summary / Project Description
Air Quality Sciences, Inc. (AQS) is pleased to present the results of its microbial resistance evaluation of air krete’s indoor material identified as “ air krete® Insulation Sample”. AQS conducted this study using a microbial test protocol following the requirements of ASTM Guideline D 6329-98 (1). This ASTM method is established to study indoor materials for their ability to support mold growth. Testing of the indoor material was conducted using static environmental chambers operating at 75% humidity(considered a *high normal” for indoor commercial spaces) and 95% humidity (considered an extreme moisture condition within buildings). air krete’s indoor material was inoculated with two representative indoor molds, Stachvbotrvs chartarum and Eurotium amstelodami, and growth rates were measured over a three-week period as the materials were exposed in the two humidity environments. Mold growth is considered significant if it exceeds 20% of the initial baseline levels. Test methodology and results are given in the attached summary reports.
Our next step is to get a structural engineer in to find out if its possible for us to use ferrocement as a wall and roof material. AirKrete would be used for insulation. Both my husband and I are quite familiar with lime plaster after working with it quite extensively and we would use this instead of painting the interior or exterior of the house. We would want to install adobe floors and radiant heat run on a solar heater. Can a potential nightmare be turned into our dream home? I believe it can…now lets hope that an engineer can work with us to make that dream into a reality!
I was amused by the following two videos…”Monsonto’s House of the Future”
About Evangeline Grace
Thank you for visiting my blog. I've entered my 50's, and as I delve into the next exciting chapter of my life, I’m so pleased to be able to share it with all of you. I am a lifelong artist, writer, vocalist, crazy organic farmer, and own and operate Buffalo Mountain Coffee Roasting Company.