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!
2020 is here! Happy New Year.
Dom and I haven’t sat down to officially write down our goals and intentions for the new year, but as usual, they are pretty big and exciting. First, I’d love to recap 2019 and touch on our future plans because it was a pretty incredible year for us.
Our initial plans prior to moving here included others who are no longer living on the land. They’ve moved on to new and exciting adventures. As things shifted, for some strange reason, my thinking did not. I still went about working on the land as though the others were still present. It took a good six months for me to plan out how the land would best function with others also living here, which mainly had to do with our planned gardens.
Since everyone has moved on, we’ve finally changed the direction of our plans for farming and living.
Our camping came to an end at the beginning of November. We were hit with a cold snap that went right through Dom and he was unable to handle the cold during the evening. Simmi and I were fine, but since he was feeling it in his bones, we made the transition from our tents to the rig where we have woodstoves to keep warm. We’ve been updating the rig for us to live in since we had only planned on the rig being used for Buffalo Mountain.
It was a good thing that Dom changed his mind about tent living because the tents were old when we purchased them and sun-worn in our high desert climate. About two weeks after we moved into the rig, we had a few very strong storms that ripped the tents to shreds. We had already moved all our things out of the tents, and if we had stayed the course it could have been disastrous.
I think often to what could have happened if we installed our woodstoves and decided to stay put. The tents ripped wide open in the middle of the night. All our belongings would have been ruined, including our mattresses. It would have been a financial nightmare.
Buffalo Mountain Coffee:
Our coffee company has been going through quite a bit of growing pains and I have felt the squeeze. Since we moved into the rig, we needed to move everything for Buffalo Mountain to another section of the rig, separate from our living space. Doing this reduced greatly the amount of room I had to work with. I had three areas originally for work which included an office, an art studio, and the coffee room, but Simmi will be moving into my office, Dom and I are in my art studio, and all our equipment and inventory is in one small space.
In the coffee room (as I call it) I have to work in stages, which really drags out the hours I work. We’ve made it as efficient as possible, however, my workflow suffers quite a bit. The roastery is our top priority but it needs to be balanced with what we need for our family.
From November up to me writing this blog post, we had so many orders come in for the holiday season that there were many nights I never even went to sleep. Dom works in construction and we’re not at a place financially yet where he can work full time at Buffalo Mountain, so I designed the space to be only used by me, and made it impossible for us to hire outside help for the season. This set great limitations on what he could do to help get orders out the door. Buffalo Mountain was severely short-staffed! The fact that we still only have one car adds insult to injury because it would mean that after being up all night filling orders, I had to take him to work each day.
I was exhausted! I still am. However, financially we were able to move Buffalo Mountain forward significantly. I don’t take an income from our company yet because everything is always reinvested back to the company to move us forward. We bootstrapped our coffee company so we wouldn’t have a huge debt load or burden. While it is difficult at times bootstrapping, I’m glad we chose to do it that way.
We have the supplies necessary to finish the roastery and some of the other projects we’re working on. There are some very wonderful people in our community who have donated lumber, windows, and other materials and we will have everything we need to get our plans accomplished in the new year. We chose to use recycled materials because it helps others in the community to get rid of what they don’t need, and it helps us to utilize actual money on things we can’t get recycled, like inventory, supplies, and assets vital to Buffalo Mountain.
In the wake of the holiday rush, I was flabbergasted by the amount of waste that is produced by Buffalo Mountain. There is very little about our company that is environmentally friendly, and that is a problem for us. In building our company, I didn’t really consider using products that were environmentally friendly because they were cost-prohibitive. However, with the mountain of waste products in the form of label backing, plastic tape, and other things that can’t be composted here on the farm, we’ve decided to change our packaging moving forward.
We’ll be phasing out what we use now, by using it up and slowly transitioning to an environmentally friendly packaging. We won’t be using sticky labels any more. I have found a company that sells labels that can be compostable, but they are still quite cost-prohibitive, and I don’t want to pass that cost onto our customers.
2020 is looking amazing for Buffalo Mountain. In 2019 we made three times the amount we did in 2018. It’s great to watch the growth, year over year.
As I mentioned, we are currently living in the rig. For those who don’t know what the rig is, it’s an RV with four additions built onto it prior to us buying the land. It was used mainly for Buffalo Mountain before we moved in. Now that we’re in the rig, we’ve turned our attention to making it more liveable for us over the next year. We want our space to be comfortable, but not too comfortable that we don’t move forward with our house plans.
The addition/rooms put onto the rig were built with pallets. They didn’t have insulation so insulation was added to the office space and where we sleep.
There were places in the rig where wild animals could get in, and we had a very interesting thing happen one night about three weeks ago.
Simmi came into our room saying there was a skunk in the rig in the middle of the night. I didn’t believe her because it just sounded absurd to my sleeping brain. But it was true. It was a baby skunk not more than about 5 inches from nose to tail.
He came up under the rig and found a small hole to climb into. Then he made his way down to our room and got snapped in a trap we had set for mice. He started jumping and trying to free himself and started spraying his little stinky scent everywhere. Dom was able to get him out of the house and by the time he got him outside, the little guy died. Dom buried him in a burlap sack out in our ash pit.
I had a reaction to the smell of that tiny little cutie pie. He didn’t have a full skunk smell, just the smell of onions and garlic. Within about an hour, I passed out for six hours. My body couldn’t handle his scent.
Not everyone was as repelled as I was by his scent…his mother found his scent and tried to dig him up. He was already dead, but she refused to leave the sack. She stayed on the ash pile for three days and died. It was quite heartbreaking. Simmi cried, I was upset, and Dom was disturbed. We have never witnessed such dedication as that of a mother skunk. We brought her food and tried to help, but if we got close to her she would have sprayed us.
Dom found any holes where an animal could climb into the rig and closed them up.
The mama skunk was such a beautiful little creature. I think she was still young herself because she hadn’t reached the full size of a mature skunk.
Anyway, sealing up any small holes in the rig will prevent such a tragedy from happening again.
Rehabbing the rig is going slow, but soon we’ll pick up the pace. For the last six weeks, it has been nonstop work for me with Buffalo Mountain as well as homeschooling Simmi. Not an easy task to do both fulltime. But I made it work!
Our lumber keeps arriving from neighbors and people in our county, and we’re confident we have what we need to now gut the main part of the rig and redo it.
The kitchen will be refinished. All the cabinets and the RV bathroom will be removed and in its place, we’ll have bottom and top open shelves.
We have a full-sized Kohler sink and a white Chambers Stove to install. The stove we will be picking up the end of January when things settle down with Buffalo Mountain. Orders are still coming, so it’s difficult to get away for the day.
I’m so excited about getting this stove. I’ve known about Chambers Stoves for a long time, just didn’t think we’d ever have the money to afford one…especially one that has the pots and pans that go with it! I’m geeking out just thinking about it.
The Chambers Stove we’ll be installing is a model A from the year 1936-1939. It has all the bells and whistles of a classic Chambers Stove, AND the backsplash folds down to create more counter space when not in use. That comes in handy when you’re in close quarters on the rig. We also needed something that was thin enough to fit through the RV door, and the Chambers is just a little slimmer than the RV door opening.
It took a long time to find this model. When I found the seller, we struck up not only a conversation about coming to buy it, but became friends and may even partner on future projects between our coffee company and her catering company. The above photos are not of our stove, but ones I grabbed off the internet. Ours needs a bit of work to clean her up and shine again, but they can be restored beautifully. I’m so excited!
We currently are using the RV stove and oven that was in the rig. While I LOVE cooking on it, it just doesn’t provide the space we need to roast things. It has served its purpose so far, but if we plan on living in here for the next year or so, we need the space to be as accommodating as possible. I know me, and if things don’t start to flow the way we need them to as a family, depression and apathy will set in and Dom and I will start feeling sorry for ourselves. Haha That is NOT a pretty sight!
We’ve learned that when our surroundings aren’t what we need them to be, we become complacent, tired, and even depressed. It happened to us early on in our marriage when we would have to move into a new place that wasn’t optimal for us. Over the years, we’ve learned that we need to make something home before we start feeling homesick. It sounds like an oxymoron, but truly, homesick isn’t just for those who miss being home after being away. It’s also being sick mentally and physically while living in your home.
Neither of us wants to be homesick. No thanks!
As soon as we get our rig completely rehabbed (I’ll do a blog post about it), we’ll turn our attention to the roastery. After the roastery is finished, we’ll turn our attention to working in phases on our new house. We had planned on building a cabin, but since we moved into the rig, we won’t need to build a cabin until we’re ready to get rid of the rig. The new cabin will be designed as a guest cabin and we’ll stay in that after the rig is removed and until our house is built.
A few ideas I’ve grabbed from pinterest for inspiration in how we’ll redesign the main part of the rig. We don’t have a lot of height/headroom so we wouldn’t have as many upper shelves, but painting everything white and opening up the space will help it become more functional for us.
I’m debating whether to use our live edge shelving for the rig. I love the look, but I want to use what we have for our future permanent kitchen space. I’m on the fence about. Nothing is set in stone though.
I love the open shelves and open bottom shelf design. We have what we need to do a new floor as well as all the countertops and shelves.
Between the countertop and the first shelf, I’ve chosen long subway tiles that are a bit wonky. I love the texture and movement in them. They’re a bit expensive, but because the area we’ll be using them is small, we’re willing to invest in my sanity and create a backsplash that will make me smile every day. Investing in my sanity is a real thing, by the way!
We’re unsure of the style we’ll use for shelf brackets. I love the black angle iron but it’s costly. However, because they can be removed when we’re ready to remove the rig, I may want to invest in these, knowing they would be put into our final kitchen.
We purchased a full year of workshops and tutorials for building a cob home as a Christmas gift for each other. Our goal is to build our cob home where the rig currently is. Because of my issues with electricity, this house will not have any electricity or plumbing. The plumbing part has to do with my severe allergy to molds. Our main bathroom will be located on the exterior of the house inside an attached greenhouse. Technically it will be in the house, but the greenhouse makes the bathroom separate. Water damaged buildings create mold that is difficult to get rid of. Having any running water inside a house is inviting disaster to my health.
Our cob house will have bedrooms, a living room, a dining room, an apothecary, and a music room, but the kitchen will be separate and completely outdoors, connected by a porch/overhang. This will not be a ragtag kitchen. Instead, it will be designed with rustic elegance and equipped to handle the winter weather. I’ll share more on that as we finish up our final designs.
We’re redesigning the infrastructure. My plans had to be scrapped when Dom wanted to build a cob home. He wants to play in the mud and sculpt our house. Who am I to deny him such a winsome desire? Building a cob house will require a huge amount of earth for not only the walls but also the plasterwork. I created a plan (it took a long time to design) for our potager garden which is a 60’x60′ patch of earth located right next to the market garden. It was the area the horses were in when we first moved here.
Well, my need for having a pond and Dom’s need to play with mud caused me to change my mind about the location of the potager. We’ll be digging out that area to make cob and the hole it creates will make our pond/living swimming pool.
A living swimming pool is a deep pond with a buffer zone where aquaculture is cultivated. No chemicals are used and the buffer zone filled with plants cleans the water. I’ve seen them done complex as well as simple. We’re going for simple.
I want this pond to be passive with only a solar aerator to keep the water moving. I have seen them done very similar to a pool, where a bog is created and water is pumped from the bottom of the pond to the bog where it flows down back into the pond, but it would drive me up a wall to hear the pump going night and day. It would also create an unpleasant electrical field that I would start avoiding since electrical fields cause hives and heart palpitations in me. I want a system that can clean the water passively while creating habitat and a new microclimate for the area.
Plus, it doesn’t hurt that it would be located about 60+ feet from our house. A pond in front of the house? Yes, please! One that Simmi and our family and friends can swim in? Hell yeah.
We haven’t decided on the shape of the pond yet. We just know we want to start digging it in the next year.
By the way, none of these things will be done quickly. But they will be done! My timeline doesn’t work according to everyone else’s beliefs of when a project should start and finish. We have a lot going on in our lives, and I won’t allow myself or Dom to rush through things just to check them off of some list. We want these things and we are willing to wait in order to do them properly and without killing ourselves in the process.
There are so many things that need to happen before we can even start digging a pond. The pond is a part of the new farm infrastructure.
We have the materials we need to start building our duck yards. We’ll be building fencing, a mini pond with its own bog, and a few duck houses. There will be two areas of the duck yard. On one side, there will be housing, food, and water. On the other side, their pond will be finished. The pond is an old water trough from cows that used to graze on the land a long time ago. It’s hooked up to the well. The two areas are separated because anyone who has ducks knows, these little cute quirky birds love to party all night and spend lots of time mating.
They will be trained to stay in the area where there is food, water, and housing at night, and at mid-morning be allowed access to their pond area. Ducks aren’t like chickens where they go into a coop and lay eggs. No, they walk along and boop! one falls out. From my experience, they also lay at night or very early morning. If they are given access to a large piece of land every morning would become an easter egg hunt. Some ducks will try to hide their eggs, and keeping ducks in a smaller area makes it easier to find them.
Galeno is standing in the water trough in the photo on the right. Half of the trough will be made into a bog, the rest of it will be water. It’ll be lined with a rubber membrane and then rocks will be added. We’ll also have a spigot attached so that we can take the duck poop water and use it on plants that aren’t root vegetables. Plants love duck poop water and it won’t burn them.
In the background, you can see the area that will be turned into a living swimming pond. The ducks will not have access to the pond and will only be in their duck yard. They would put too much stress on the pond.
We’ll be finishing our chicken composting run as well. We’re nearly there, but it came to a screeching halt when we kept putting all our attention on things that kept redirecting us personally. I’ll leave it at that because we had to deal with some pretty disturbing things in 2019.
We won’t be getting animals until after our trip to California. We are planning to take a trip sometime between March and June. We thought we’d go for our 16 year anniversary, but then thought it would be nice to go a little later and celebrate Simmi’s 13th birthday. She’s never been to the pacific ocean, the San Diego Zoo, Sea World or any other place. Her life-threatening food allergies always kept us from traveling by plane. But since we live only about 14 hours from California, we can drive there. We want to do so before we get animals because we don’t want to worry about feeding schedules and things like that.
It will be our first trip ever going on a vacation. It will most likely be the only one we ever take. I don’t like traveling to different places. It stresses me out. I love being at home or taking day trips. That’s about it!
We will start with chickens, ducks, and turkeys in early summer. We would love to plant this year, but I’m not sure yet what that looks like since I have no idea where I’m putting the potager garden. In the market garden, we can get that ready, but again, with our upcoming trip to California, it would be better to wait until after we return home to start planting.
I’ve been recovering very well, but I want to speed up my process. Back in November, I started an elimination diet to see what foods were causing lingering inflammation and autoimmune problems. I have a very high pain threshold, so pain for me is different than pain for others. What causes me to ache might be crippling for others. My body has always been that way. Anyway, there is an underlying discomfort that I’ve had for years that I want to be gone.
I’ve tweaked my health over the last few years since returning to New Mexico. If I were still living on the east coast…I would be near death if not already dead. The mold in buildings triggers an autoimmune response and horrible stuff starts happening to me.
My last big flareup was in August 2018 and it lasted through Christmas. I don’t feel 100% and if I think about it, I haven’t felt 100% in years. So I’ve jumped on the carnivore meat wagon. It’s the ultimate elimination diet. I’ve tried to just eat only animal products like eggs, cheese, dairy, butter, pork, fish and shellfish, poultry, lamb and beef, however, I still had issues that wouldn’t clear up. After seeing many of my fellow autoimmune warriors switch to ruminant meat, salt, and water diet and completely send their disorder into remission, I knew I should try it for at least six months. I will also be mostly consuming my beef raw, which I already have been doing since last year.
It’s not a big deal in that I already eat that way, I’m just removing some of the tasty things I have always loved. That will be the difficult part. I’m committed though to figuring out what foods are affecting my body. I’ll revisit reintroducing other foods into my diet in six months unless I’m feeling fantastic and don’t want to jinx it.
It’s been a while since I’ve done an update on what we’re up to, so I think I’ll stop there. I’m hoping to write more this year. I tend to go quiet during busy times or disturbing times. Long pauses in my posts happen, but I want to make the effort this year to put at least two posts per week out. I don’t know if I can make that happen, but I’m willing to try.
I hope everyone has an amazing New Year, filled with blessings, hope, courage, new direction, and clear vision! It’s the start of a new month, new year, and a new decade, and I’m glad I get to share it all with you. Be safe!
It has been six weeks since we moved here, and it has been six weeks of being betrayed. Betrayal is a nasty word and one that is only fitting for our situation. Our lives have been filled with joy, happiness, inspiration, and wonder. Simmi is acclimating to life in our semi-wild location. Dom has been busy with work. Sara has been working around the land and taking care of the horses.
And me? Betrayed by my own body. My autoimmune problems have gone away, but in its place comes my clumsy ways where I bang into walls, trip over small sticks, bang my head on corners of cabinets, lose my balance standing on the first step of a ladder, and cramp my hands up so bad that I can barely pick up an ax or hammer without it slipping through my fingers.
It all started when Simmi destroyed the zippers (both sets!) on her tent. The first set is on the outside of the tent, and the second set is on the screen. You see, she LOVES to make a small opening in the tent, and then dive in. There is no time to unzip the tent properly because what’s the fun in that?! No, this child wants to dive through the smallest opening possible. I kept telling her not to do that because she’ll damage the tent, but she didn’t believe me.
And then it happened. Both zippers broke. It’s not like we can take the tent down and just run it through my sewing machine to repair it. I have to sew it all by hand. The key word is hand. I had zippers from the extra tent we have, so I removed them and started sewing. It took four hours to get the first set of zippers properly attached. My hands were so cramped it was difficult to type or do any work. It took nearly a week for my hands to start working properly. Once they were somewhat recovered, I had to get the second set of zippers put on because a storm was coming.
Six more hours of sewing the outer zipper. This zipper was more of a challenge because of the thickness of the canvas. After I finished the second set, I could barely move my hands. I was betrayed by my own body. But I did it to myself. I pushed through and destroyed myself.
Six weeks of being betrayed.
My hands are finally getting back to normal. I still have problems with fine motor skills and typing is somewhat of a problem, but I can use my ax again without fear of it slipping out of my hand and cutting open my head or leg, or anyone standing in close proximity. Being accident prone is something I’ve always had to contend with, but when hands are so cramped they can’t do what they’re told, it makes my issues with banging into things and falling even worse.
It’s kind of like when you bang your toe on something and then all the sudden you keep banging it in that same area. When I fall because I tripped over a small twig or leaves (yes, I’ve tripped over a leaf last week) and my hands aren’t working properly, my fall is even worse because I can’t catch myself.
Beyond my quirky accident-prone ways, things are going great here. Here are some photos of the goings on around here…
Dom built a temporary teepee greenhouse. The poles were taken from trees the horses stripped.
We originally wanted to use our leftover plastic furniture wrap. It kept snagging and ripping so we ended up using some plastic we had laying around.
I sewed fabric straps to anchor onto the outside. Dom will need to attach them where I can’t reach. The straps keep the plastic from moving and provides a way for me to string up the outside and inside of the teepee to prevent the plastic from moving too much in the wind.
We added a door lined with chicken wire to prevent the chickens from getting in. They have been conspiring all week to get in and eat my little sprouts. We’ll be adding bricks to the front since it gets pretty muddy at the entrance.
The door was made from branches and attached with some old cabinet hinges we had. Making this little greenhouse was fun and it didn’t cost any money to make.
The seedlings have been enjoying their new home. We currently have artichokes coming up in the aquaponic system and next week they’ll be moved to the greenhouse.
I’ve had this cutie pie with the most adorable little freckles helping to move the seedlings into the greenhouse.
See what I mean? As I was stripping the bark off the poles, the chickens were plotting the great seedling heist. A few of them managed to get in there and I had to chase them out.
My girl has the best laugh.
She loves playing cards with her dad. She likes to trash talk while playing. It’s hilarious. When I hear Dom and Simmi playing, and she’ll say to Dom as she wins, “Eat it old man!”
I love him.
We started building the chicken compost run. It’s made from wood that was laying on the property, screwed together and lashed with jute. The side walls will have welded wire attached, and chicken wire will line the top. We have a nice stinky pile of compost under that tarp. On the right side is where the horses are (they’ll be moved soon to the pasture full time), when they are out of the area I’ll be putting tomatoes on that side. Tomatoes can handle compost so it will be a good set up and it will shade the compost pile and the chickens towards the end of the day. We’ll also be adding honeysuckle and trumpet vine to the chicken run to shade the girls all summer. They’ll also attract many pollinators for the garden.
At the close of Sunday evening a few weeks ago, Dom was frustrated, hot, bothered, and ready to be done. We pushed through the dehydration and cramping hands during mid-day in the hot sun because we needed to get the chicken run covered with chicken wire to protect the posts from the horses. Yet, even with a torn meniscus and working on the uneven ground all dehydrated and weather-worn, the end of the day scowl was the only thing showing his pain. I feel fortunate to have such an amazing person to walk through this life with. When he came home from work he apologized to me for the way he handled the day. I was unsure why he needed to apologize. He said, “I love that we get to work together, but I know I could have made the whole day more fun for both of us. Instead, I barreled through and made everything a chore.” What he doesn’t understand is that every moment I spend with him is heaven, and the fact that he would apologize and want to make it even better rocks my world.
We have wild grape vines setting their fruit. We’ll be cutting back most of the vines in this area and grafting different types of table grapes to them. We’ll be putting up a pergola for Farm to Table events and the new grapes will grace the pergola.
I got my hands on the last pot of Spanish lavender. I’ll be taking cuttings to make a lot of lavender that will grow down the driveway and in the potager garden and well, everywhere else. I love lavender!
Scored some rhubarb and I’ll be planting it next week.
When the Benadryl hits hard, goofy faces happen.
Sara is loading horse manure onto each of the market garden beds. Soon we’ll dig the pathways and form the beds.
Hopefully, in the next few weeks, my hands will be fully recovered. In the meantime, I’ll be busy creating new plants from cuttings, planting more seeds, continuing to work on the market garden, and working on the business hub. Now that I can type again, I can also start writing more blog posts!
Oh, and in two months we’ll be welcoming some ducklings! I’m so excited about that. We’ll be driving to Arizona to pick up Dutch Hookbill Ducklings. I haven’t decided how many we’ll purchase, yet. This month I’ll be ordering the pond liner and getting the duck area ready. It’ll take a month to get all the rocks moved into their pond.
Pictured above is a Dutch Hookbill Duck. We’ll be getting our ducklings from someone who is preserving this breed in Arizona. She’s an excellent photographer as well!
Here’s what the Livestock Conservancy says about the Dutch Hookbill:
This unique and very old Dutch breed of duck is thought to have originated in the Netherlands between the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries in the province of Noord-Holland. As the name implies, the breed is characterized by its downward curving beak, setting it apart from other duck breeds. It is believed that this trait was particularly useful to duck breeders in making it easier for hunters to distinguish Hookbills from wild ducks that inhabited the same areas as the domesticated birds. In Holland these ducks were managed in the waterways and canals of the countryside and they were expected to forage for most of their own food. Today they are still among the best foragers of domestic ducks.
According to the Dutch Association of Breeders of Domesticated Waterfowl (Nederlandse Vereniging van fokkers van gedomesticeerd watervogels) the Hookbill duck and the Noord-Holland White Breasted duck (also known as the Witborst duck) had similar genealogies. Their exact origin has never been determined but it is speculated that the breeds developed from early importations of Indian Runners. This idea is supported by J. Bonenkamp in the magazine Avicultura (8/1990) where he accounts of finding pure Hookbill ducks among groups of ducks in East India.
The unique appearance of the Hookbill made them desirable as ornamental birds but early on the Hookbill was known for being excellent layers of eggs. That combined with their remarkable foraging capability made the breed widely popular on Dutch farms. In Holland, in the 18th century ducks were provided a place to nest and feed while they were brooding, then ducks and ducklings were all sent out to the surrounding wetlands to forage for their own food and received no further supplemental food. The wings of the ducklings were clipped to make them easier to catch later. By mid-August the birds were gathered and sent to market in Purmerend, where they were purchased by duck keepers who would use them for egg production. The birds kept for breeding were selected to be sturdy and disease resistant, self-sufficient, adaptable to new circumstances, and efficient layers needing less food than other breeds in order to be productive.
The Dutch Hookbill breed declined in the 20th century due to a diminished market for duck eggs and the effect of increasingly polluted waterways that served as their home. By 1980 the Hookbill was nearly extinct, but through a Dutch effort led by Hans van de Zaan, the last 15 birds were collected and used to start a conservation breeding program in the Netherlands.
Dave Holderread was among the first to import the Dutch Hookbill into the United States in 2000. He found that there were three bill types in the population: extreme curve, moderate curve, and straight. In his book Storey’s Guide to Raising Ducks (2011), Holderread outlines that the most effective breeding strategy was to cross birds with moderately curved beaks to each other or an extremely curved beaked bird with a straight beaked bird as the best breeding options. He found that crosses between birds with extreme curved beaks had poor egg fertility. There are still very few primary breeding flocks of Dutch Hookbills in the United States.
Dutch Hookbill ducks have excellent flight capability, especially younger individuals. The birds reach sexual maturity very quickly by around 16 weeks of age. Healthy ducks can be expected to lay anywhere from 100 – 225+ eggs per year. They come in three primary color variations: dusky, white, and white-bibbed dusky. Other colors exist but not in great numbers here in the US. The Hookbill is a remarkable breed that deserves a second look as a viable and efficient egg producer for small scale farming.