After more than a decade of trying my hand at different types of agricultural styles, I’ve finally settled with one- Syntropic Farming. I’ve tried my hand at growing conventionally, organically, using permaculture, and dabbling in biodynamics. None, however, can seem to touch what I’ve been learning about Syntropic Farming/permaculture.
I started having this feeling that our land and gardens could produce more abundantly if they had perennial plants and trees in the system. It was a reoccurring concept that wouldn’t go away. I knew there must have been something to it for the thoughts to not go away. I blame our elder beautiful live oak trees, Elsa and Agatha…they whisper to me their thoughts all the time. So, I can’t really take the credit for perennial plants in the gardens. I only started to have those thoughts after we bought our land.
Anyway, as the plans started to form for creating a perennial market garden, I started searching for something that seemed to be missing from my overall plan. And I found it!
Syntropic Farming and Permadynamics sent me down a rabbit hole…forever!
I’ll never look at gardening and farming the same again.
The concepts are easy to grasp and if you’ve practiced permaculture you’ll get that ah-ha moment.
I used to view how I grew a garden as someone who tended to the system. I was the one who planted, watered, fed, pruned, harvested, cleaned it up, helped to create abundance. But I never considered that I was a vital part of the system like the honey bee. I can get so caught up in doing that I forget about being.
Here is a definition the syntropy:
From Greek syn=together, tropos=tendency. It was first coined by the mathematician Luigi Fantappiè, in 1941, in order to describe the mathematical properties of the advanced waves solution of the Klein-Gordon equation which unites Quantum Mechanics with Special Relativity. As noted by Viterbo, syntropy is “the tendency towards energy concentration, order, organization and life” (http://www.syntropy.org/). In contradistinction to “entropy,” syntropy is a result of retrocausality leading to persistent and more complex organization. This is akin to the concept of dissipative structures developed by Ilya Prigogine, expostulated in Order Out of Chaos, by Prigogine & Stengers (1984). Buckminster Fuller developed a definition in relation to “whole systems” as “A tendency towards order and symmetrical combinations, designs of ever more advantageous and orderly patterns. Evolutionary cooperation. Anti-entropy” (http://psychology.wikia.com/wiki/Syntropy).
I love that syntropy is described as “the tendency towards energy concentration order, organization, and life.” It is the opposite of entropy.
As I’ve grasped some of the concepts of syntropic permaculture, what stuck out the greatest for me was how the use of grasses and perennials when pruned sends out hormones to other plants to invigorate the growth of those plants around them. Things are planted densely in guilds where each plant helps the next in cooperation. It isn’t about competition in the system.
The next important thing is that the ground is always covered to protect soil organisms and life that are extremely light-sensitive. Even all the walkways are covered in a thick layer of mulch.
Our perennial market garden is ground zero to start making beautiful mistakes. I’ve had to throw out much of what I’ve known about gardening and farming in order to make way for syntropic agriculture. I have to put away my impulse to rip weeds out of the ground and instead chop and drop them so as to not disturb the soil as it comes into balance.
It’s exciting! This weekend we got started with our second market garden bed. Dom and Noah have been working on the perimeter of the market garden for weeks, fortifying the fencing, adding taller posts and stringing wire. When they’re done, there will be 8 foot high posts attached to the existing posts we have and then strung with wire to prevent the deer from jumping in and eating our garden.
A 2′ high chicken wire is then put along the bottom of the fencing to deter bunnies from getting in.
Unfortunately, there’s nothing that can be done about the mutant squirrels that live here. Some are as large as a cat.
You can never trust a squirrel.
The area pictured above is our second market garden row. The first one we created a few weeks earlier.
This second row will be planted with:
- Four apricot trees
- Five black locust trees
- Artichokes between the trees
- Hairy Vetch
- Dutch Clover
- Sudan Grass at the edge
Amazing that so much can be planted in just one row, right? I found a nursery in Silver City and I was finally able to get apricot trees. I searched high and low for apricot trees for months. Most places online are sold out, Home Depot and Lowes didn’t have any, and I thought for sure I would not get any this year and then I found a nursery hiding in plain sight!
There’s a new carwash in Silver City and as Simmi and I were getting our car washed, I noticed a greenhouse and trees and roses. I couldn’t wait to get out of that carwash to see if it was actually a nursery.
They have apricots, cherries, apples, figs, and more. Not only that but they weren’t little tiny 2′ tall trees.
I purchased three apricot trees to start, and I need one more to complete the row. I would have liked it if they had at least three varieties of apricots, but two varieties will work.
All fruit trees planted become my mother fruit trees to produce more fruit trees from.
The pattern of trees will be black locust, artichoke, apricot, black locust, artichoke, apricot, until the full row is complete.
Currently only three apricots are in. Two Tilton and one Harglow. This week I’ll be getting a second Harglow.
The black locust and artichoke I’ve started from seed a little more than a week ago and they just started poking through the soil this weekend.
Thursday the fourth apricot will be planted and the bed will be seeded, then covered in a layer of straw.
I had to wait on ordering the irrigation lines because Simmi’s birthday is coming up fast and we are getting a pool for her to have a pool party. Once the pool is ordered, I’ll be able to continue ordering supplies for the garden.
To the right, you can see the first bed planted. That bed is right up against the goat pen.
This bed has been planted with three bare root peach trees, three blueberry bushes, catmint, cucumber, Blackeye Susans, and milkweed. I’ve started Sea Kale from seed and when it’s ready it’ll be planted in between the fruit trees and berry bushes.
It has taken a good long while for Dom to fall in love with the wonkiness of nature. As a builder, it was difficult for him to marry straight lines with the curves of nature. Something clicked for him last year and he started re-learning how to build with nature. I’ve loved watching the evolution of his creations. I think this gate is my favorite so far! The only thing purchased to make the gate was the hinges. The welded wire is scrap that was just laying around.
B2 and B1 contain a countless amount of black locust seedlings. I wasn’t sure how many would grow so I planted a shit ton. Haha When they get their true leaves and have doubled their size they’ll be transplanted to their own containers.
Aren’t they so cute! It’s amazing that these little babies will grow to feed all the other plants around it, but it will also create the most beautiful tree that can be pollarded and fed to the poultry or dropped on the garden bed and create a mulch. The bees are crazy for this tree, and when I plant a large area of these trees close together, they’ll grow tall in a few years and we can coppice them are create fence posts, tool handles, and use for firewood as well.
The usefulness of this tree is unbelievable. Just think…I have 5 pounds of black locust seed. Ha!
I’ve started nearly 100 Colorado Star Artichokes from seed. They just woke up this weekend. By the time we’re done installing all the market garden rows, they’ll be ready to transplant.
Ginger! I plan on planting the ginger in a shady spot of the market garden.
Six itty bitty fig trees in three pots. When they’ve doubled in size, they’ll be transplanted into a larger container, and when their garden beds are ready they’ll be planted out in the market garden. I’m shooting to have them in the ground by the first week in July. Right now their just about ready to be moved to a sunny location.
The horseradish box is doing well. I planted the horseradish last year right next to our front door. Interplanted are Chinese garlic chives. I ordered the garlic chives last week and they should start growing this week.
The goats are doing well. We’ll be taking them out on the leash into the market garden to chomp down on all the glorious weeds coming up. They’re going to love it!
The goat pen is shaded by a large tree that is kind of like a willow and kind of like an elm. We’re still not sure exactly what kind of tree it is. It’s delicious to the goats, and the horses when we had them in this area. The tree becomes a reprieve to the goats as well as the full market garden area by 6:30 pm. The sun is blocked by the large tree at that time and it cools down the market garden area giving plants a chance to recover from the long hot day of the high desert sun.
It’s incredible that by the end of September this Syntropic Market Garden will be thriving and producing for us.
This is a view outside the market garden. Along that fence line are asparagus. There are also two fig trees that just leafed out. I expect they’ll grow at least three feet this year.
We’ll update this weekend when we create the next two market garden beds. In bed three, Four cherry trees, five black locust, and eight globe artichoke will occupy that space, and in bed four, four apple trees, five black locust, and eight globe artichoke will do the job. I haven’t decided on the annual fruits and veggies that will also be planted there…yet.
All total so far that we have planted and at various stages of growth:
- 2 plum trees
- 1 apple tree
- 8 fig trees
- 3 peach trees
- 2 pear trees
- 3 berry bushes
- 95 Colorado Star Globe Artichokes
- Asparagus (not sure how much!)
- 4 varieties of tomatoes started
- Sea Kale
- Cat Mint
- Blackeyed Susan
Have a great week!
A few weeks ago we brought home our first Nigerian Dwarf goats. We planned on purchasing a few doelings and at some point to purchase a pregnant doe. A few days prior to picking them up, a very pregnant mama needed a new home so we picked her up on the same day as our doelings.
We got the goats as a way to become more self-sufficient in terms of food production. We’ve honed in on what was most important to us and made concessions I never thought I’d make.
Like getting goats.
I’m really not a goat person. Goats are these larger than life creatures even if compact in size and they’re just always in your business. They’re very affectionate and super sweet, yet demanding and will show displeasure when something is out of place. It’s enough to drain the energy right out of me. It doesn’t really have anything to do with goats…it’s me that’s the problem.
But I love them.
They’re hilarious in small doses. I knew after we got them I would feel that way. I had hoped it would change but I know me and chose a long time ago to not lie to myself about anything.
The goal here is to have milk and even meat from them. I wasn’t interested in the color of their coats, markings, or eye color. I am most interested in having robust animals with good genetics for milking. We don’t plan on having more than five total, but we all know how goat math goes!
So even though I’m not fond of goats, it doesn’t stop me from caring for them properly. Dom absolutely adores them so he’s super excited to get outside every morning to let them out of their little houses and spend time with them.
Currently, we are waiting for our mama, Tuffnut, to kid. She’s due any moment now. Dom set up the heat lamp in her little house and gave her extra straw to make her comfortable. We put together a kidding kit and extra bottles and nipples in case she does have more than three kids.
Tuffnut belonged to my friend Amber. When she told me the goat’s name was Tuffnut, I cracked up laughing at such a quirky name. She said she named her that because she throws three kids.
Yes, so we could easily go from having only three goats, to have six or more by the time Tuffnut kids.
Tuffnut has doubled in size since coming to live here. We have been watching closely for signs that she could be close. I often catch her looking off in the distance and I can’t help but wonder what she’s thinking about.
So how many kids do you think are in that swollen belly of hers?
Every day she gets a little wider.
I think she has at least four littles in there.
The area they’re in isn’t their permanent home. It’s temporary and over this next year we’ll be getting their area ready for them.
We decided to build a larger area for them and our future sheep behind our coffee roastery. We’re putting a commercial kitchen in the roastery, so it made sense to bring our dairy animals there as well.
We’re aiming to get a few Icelandic sheep in 2022 for milk, fibers, and meat. I’m very fond of sheep, especially Icelandics. I love that they just want to be left alone.
Their new area will have a barn, small milking parlor, and very rocky steep hilly terrain. The area they’re in now will become the final destination for our ducks and geese.
Outside the goat pen is the 60’x60′ market garden area. This area was a hot mess! Yesterday Dom and Noah cleared it, leveled it out a bit, and in the next few weeks it’ll be ready to plant.
Another major concession I made (I kind of hate myself for it) was to use landscape fabric in this area.
After observing the area and the kinds of weeds we have here and my time constraints, I realized that I needed a weed barrier. I work full time AND will be farming full time (I’m not sure how that will happen!) so I knew that I would not have the time to be pulling weeds and obsessing over those kinds of time sucks.
Our focus is on establishing perennials and annuals in this space. We’ll be adding 60 fruit trees and 60 berrry bushes, perennial vegetables, and of course your standard fare of fruits and veggies like tomatoes, cucumbers, root crops, etc.
We purchased our first six fruit trees a few weeks ago. The largest challenge right now is finding affordable fruit trees. They’re either very expensive or sold out.
I’ve been trying to get my hands on apricot trees and I found only one place online to purchase them.
I remember a time when bare root fruit trees were so plentiful they were practically giving them away. It would seem that is a thing of the past now.
We’ll be building some cold frames for the area and a Post Harvest station for processing fruits and veggies.
Dom and Noah will also be adding tall posts and electric wire to prevent the deer from jumping into the area. We’ll be installing a 3-D fence around the outer perimeter of the market garden as well. This will cause the deer and elk to not be able to negotiate their ability to clear the height of the fence. It’s an effective strategy. Someone said to add peanut butter or some other sticky food they love on the electric wire and it will condition the animals to stay away after they get an unpleasant shock from the hot wire.
We might try it.
For irrigation, we’ll be using drip tape. But before that can happen the irrigation pipe needs to be repaired. Dom believes there is a crack in the pipe because when I watered the garden last year, the water would be brown. This only happened in the garden. It drove me insane because the sediment that was coming out of was clogging the hoses and sprinklers. It took a few months to figure out there was a problem with the irrigation pipes.
I’ll be ordering the landscape fabric, drip tape, and landscape fabric next week.
Here are more photos of our lives in spring…
Simmi name this sweet girl Milkyway.
This one is Honeybun.
Our goats names will be the theme of any offspring born to them. For Milkyway, her babies will be named after star constellations or candy bars. For Honeybun, her babies will be named after sweet dessert treats. And Tuffnut’s babies will be named after some sort of nut.
It feels like only yesterday that I wrote about compassion, and yet, here I am more than two months later wondering where the time has gone? I’ve written infrequently on my blog because my dance card is quite full these days. I have several projects I’m working on that are a labor of love (I cannot disclose them at this time), homeschooling Simmi has started again, I’ve been working on the backend of this website to create an updated version that will be a magazine-style layout, and we’re moving into the fall/winter mode which means working on the interior of our rig again.
Work continues on Noah’s cabin, and as he gets closer to being able to move in, I can’t help but think of finally getting Simmi into her own room. That in turn leads to us gutting the rig to make it more functional for us to be in. Which then allows us to create a proper living room and dining room space. It has to happen in that sequence. Patience is key to making the transition go smoothly.
Below are photos of progress on Noah’s cabin. He has financed everything himself and he will have a debt-free cabin when everything is finished. Having no debts for his cabin will allow him to buy a newer vehicle without a car loan, pay for school without a school loan, and provide him with greater cash flow. Why pay rent throwing money away when you can own your own home free and clear? Eventually, if he wants to remain here, he will have the opportunity to build a larger home where ever he chooses on the 14 acres. All my children will have that opportunity as well.
Dom and Noah are shooting for the end of October for him to move into his cabin. The cabin won’t be completed until probably the spring, but before then, he’ll have the exterior board and batten, insulation in the floor, walls, and ceiling, drywall up, and flooring down. Trim and finish work will come later. The goal was to get him in his own private space. He can continue to work on the interior through the winter after the walls have been mud and taped, and his loft has been stained. In the spring a covered porch will be added.
The next project after that will be to insulate and put drywall up in Simmi’s room. Currently, Noah is sleeping in Simmi’s room. We’ll be able to fix her space, move her in, and get her comfortable. Right now she’s sleeping in the main part of the rig.
We had a highly productive tiny garden this past summer. I was very surprised and delighted at all that I was able to harvest. I didn’t weigh anything this year, since it was all an experiment to see what would grow well and what would languish or not grow at all.
We’re excited to start planning for next year’s garden. I learned a lot about my region and the ebb and flow of our microclimate. It’s been a great learning experience.
Another thing we’ve been working on is the temporary goat area. I reluctantly decided to finally warm up to the idea of getting dairy goats. I’m more of a sheep person. I could probably write a whole blog post on why I prefer sheep over goats, but it really doesn’t have anything to do with the animals themselves…it’s all because of my personality. Anyway, after careful thought and consideration, I made the decision to go ahead and start planning on having dairy goats.
We’ll be getting Nigerian dwarfs, mainly because that’s all I am emotionally equipped to deal with at this time in my life. Sounds weird, right? They will have a permanent home near our commercial kitchen, however, until that kitchen is completed, they will be living in the area that will eventually become the duck yard.
Dom, being very motivated by my decision to finally acquiesce to having goats, went to work straight away getting the goat area ready. He still needs to build the three gates for the different entrances, but for the most part, it’s nearly ready. We chose this area because we want the goats to eat the weeds in the market garden. They will have access to it throughout the winter months into spring before we start planting.
The fencing for this area was created using felled trees on the property and fencing from other areas. The wood planks were donated last year from a lady in our town who was getting rid of old wood fencing.
I love watching him work and execute plans that I’ve created. It’s always an unexpected treat watching him put everything together shirtless. Haha
That just about wraps up my update. Autumn came quickly and, just like that, it will be spring before I even blink! One thing is for sure, I’m looking forward to finally getting our rig gutted! I’ll try and make a more concerted effort to blog more than I have.
We’ve been quite busy over the last three and a half months. I had hoped to blog more but with the country’s response (for good and bad) to the current events, we felt the need to speed up our plans and reprioritize what we were doing. It’s amazing how clear we can become if we’re motivated enough.
Dom and I have always been on the path to being more sustainable and self-reliant. Not in the sense, however, of us being an island unto ourselves and living like hermits somewhere out in the wilderness. If that were the case, we wouldn’t have chosen the area we’re living in as a place to set down roots.
We believe in community and helping where we can. We want to be productive and provide products and services that can help stabilize our local economy. As we’ve watched our nation and the world go through extremes, we’ve seen the impact it has on us personally.
Having taken care of animals and grown our food in the past, it has become crystal clear that we need to get our asses in gear now. I believe that hyperinflation is inching closer and that things are about to get extremely ugly (they are already ugly) with regards to food security. One thing is appallingly clear…we are NOT prepared!
I hate to sound like a cliche, but I thought we would have more time. We knew this was going to happen. Well, not that there would be a lockdown and all our rights being taken over 38,000 deaths in the United States, but we knew there was going to be a great shaking. It’s one of the reasons we began growing food and caring for animals in the first place.
It feels surreal to watch everything unfold in the world. Worse yet, we are feeling somewhat powerless, marginalized, and unable to help those who are suffering in any meaningful way.
Our goals were to start getting animals and have a little extra to sell. To have a few large gardens and have some produce to sell. But in this season of change, I’m setting my sights much larger.
It’ll start with the chickens…
Originally we planned on having about 75 chickens which would include Brahmas and Croad Langshans as our meat birds, and Cream Legars, Welsummers, Marans, Faverolles, and a few other egg layers. But I’ve chosen to increase the number to between 175-200 birds. The area we’ve been preparing for them is large enough to handle such a large number of birds.
I will also start a breeding program for each kind of bird. I’ll be crossing the Brahma and Langshans eventually to create a new table meat bird.
Our birds will be raised on organic feed and have one of the most important jobs on the farm…making compost for us. No one can turn a compost pile faster and with more efficiency than a mob of chickens.
This system of animal production will be intensive and highly productive. Each section will be multifaceted. For example, the chicken composting yard will have fruit trees, meat rabbit housing (yellow rectangle) and under the meat rabbits will be worm bins. Behind the rabbit row will be an enclosed area for berry bushes.
The fenced-in chicken composting yard will also have an enclosed turkey run with more berry bushes on three sides, and a round turkey coop (green circle). Why a round turkey coop? Because turkeys LOVE round things. They are fascinated by round objects and love round spaces. At least that’s what we’ve observed in keeping turkeys in the past.
There will be an area for ducks. We won’t have as many ducks as we do chickens, but we’ll have at least 30 for egg production as well as meat. Even though I really wanted to get Dutch Hookbills for this area, we have so much land that I decided that I’ll have them in another area. In the duck area we’ll be adding Cayugas, Silver Apple Yards, Pekins, and a few geese.
In the market garden, there is an overlap between the duck area and the garden. This overlap is because of where the large trees are. We won’t be removing the trees. Instead, the duck housing will be on the market garden side. There is an old large water trough that was for cattle. It will be turned into their pond. A spigot will be added to it, and the duck poop water will be used to water the market garden.
The market garden…
Currently, we have rows dug. They can be seen in the plot below. We don’t have the greatest water pressure coming from our well, and in order to save water, we decided to completely rework the market garden.
We’ll be creating inground wicking beds. The wicking beds will allow us to drain the duck pond water directly under each garden row. Think of it like bottom watering your plants. Freshwater will be used once a week to topwater, but the duck pond water is the real workhorse, nourishing all the plants and fruit trees that will be planted there.
Around the perimeter of the market garden we’ll be adding tall posts and electric to keep out the deer.
Last year we started building our little chicken composting run in the market garden. It’s the little green rectangle. This is intended to be our Silkie chicken nursery. Silkies are good mothers and will happily hatch out eggs. They can also be bullied by other chickens, so they get their very own area. We won’t have more than 10 Silkies. They’ll also be making compost in their area.
The outdoor kitchen and meat processing area (turquoise square)…
Last year we had an overgrown HUGE patch of wild grapevines. I cleared it out and burned the area so that they wouldn’t grow back. We have so many wild grapes on the property, that it wasn’t a big sacrifice. Now that the patch is gone, we can build our outdoor kitchen. We will harvest our small animals in the outdoor kitchen. It will also serve as the farm kitchen when we start holding events.
I told you we were busy! Haha
As our plans continue to morph, I will be tucking things into each system. Two things that aren’t on the plans are the post-harvest washing station and the greenhouse. The post-harvest station will be located on the north side of the market garden. In the upper right-hand corner above the market garden is where our tents used to be. That will be the location of our greenhouse.
Everything will be in close proximity to each other. This creates fewer steps. At the center of everything is the water supply. Farms should be run efficiently with as few steps as needed. We’ve worked on farms that weren’t planned out very well. Water that would need to be hauled great distances, needing to walk 10 minutes to a field way out in the middle of nowhere to harvest lettuce, only to turn around and walk another 10 minutes in the opposite direction to collect eggs and yet another 20 minutes to go feed pigs. This is extremely time-consuming. Our systems will not be done that way. There’s no need for it.
To the right of the market garden is the entrance to the pasture. We will be keeping dairy sheep and horses there. More on that another day!
Here are some photos of things that were accomplished from the end of January until this week:
Our little teeny tiny bathroom is nearing completion. Pallet walls are an ingenious way to rooms but if they aren’t sealed up with walls and insulation, animals feel free to make themselves at home in our spaces. That is a big fat NOPE! The walls were finished with drywall and an opening for windows was put in. We found the windows under one of the rigs on the property. They were partially buried in the dirt. I cleaned them up, painted, and reglazed them.
The toilet and bathtub were installed, and we got the cutest little antique Italian Florentine chest of drawers to convert into a sink. We need to purchase a wall-mounted faucet and hopefully, in the next few weeks, the sink will be functional.
We still have shelves, a mirror, and a few other things to add, but it is looking great! It feels glorious to take a long hot bath too.
I love watching him work and get creative. I love how he makes our lives so much better every day!
My girl continues to grow into this stunningly beautiful young woman. She turns 13 next month.
Some cedars and pine were taken out of the chicken compost yard. When completely cleared of dead or dying trees (we had both in that area) fruit trees will be added. The straight branches that were still in good condition will be used to build the chicken coop.
Our supply area is filling up fast. The pallets will be used to build a storage shed for all our things that are currently being stored in the roastery. We have many projects going on all at once. Behind the pallets are a LOT of glass panels. Those are for the greenhouse.
This is the next section of the chicken yard that needs to be cleared. This whole area is one large tree that fell but never died. It is connected at the root by about two feet of tree. It must have fallen at least 5 years ago but refused to die. This is the area where the large chicken coop will go.
We have two entrances to our property. One is on Mineral Creek seen in the photo above, and the other is on a back road when the creek is flowing.
This year we had so much rain that we couldn’t get across. The creek cuts into the banks creating a steep drop off. We need to have heavy equipment come in to fix this each year. What we really need is a bridge!
Once the water subsides the creek bed is a hot mess! We had it leveled on Friday and we can finally cross again.
Much better! There’s only a small amount of water flowing now, and within the next few months, it should be dried up completely until next winter.
The other project I’m currently working on is updating and changing our website. Firelight Farm will still have the blog, but it will be a magazine-style layout and include lots of different sections. Instead of having one blog where I write everything, there will be categories like animal shelters, animal husbandry, growing a garden, building structures, how to lacto-ferment, and more. We want our website to be more informative. I also want to start producing videos again. We started to a few years back, but when we sold our last farm, there was no reason to continue making videos.
My aim is to have the new site launched by the end of May. It’s pretty exciting and it’s all coming together.
This truly is the season of change!
It’s amazing to me that at this time last year I could barely breathe walking from part of a room to another, I had to shave my head because my hair was falling out so much that it was everywhere. It’s disturbing to see hair all over the place! Moving back to our home state of New Mexico was an act of desperation much like when we first arrived in New Mexico ten years earlier. We learned our lesson that this is our home forever. My mold allergies are so bad that our home state is the only one with the ability to help me recover.
And I am recovering, slowly but surely.
It has been nearly four years since we were raising animals and farming. Now that we have our land, we are moving full speed ahead, biting off more than we can chew, and I’m sure we’ll make plenty of mistakes along the way. I don’t fear making mistakes at all. I never have. It’s how I grow and it keeps me flexible when I want to stay rigid.
Jumping back into farming is something I am so very excited about. Proper planning, however, is key to being successful and profitable. We started the tradition of writing out our goals when we started homesteading in Los Lunas. It feels good to get back into the practice of writing our goals again. In every place that we were at from Vermont to West Virginia, we had grand plans for establishing a garden and keeping small animals, but I would get so sick from each house we lived in that we would need to move.
We moved a total of 10 times since leaving New Mexico four years ago. In 2019 we will make another move onto our land.
2018 was a great year. Our coffee roasting company, Buffalo Mountain, has thrived and made 10 times the amount made in 2017. We can’t yet take an income from it, but I believe by the end of 2019 we will be profitable enough to start paying ourselves. Buffalo Mountain pays for all its own supplies, operating expenses, internet and phone, and electric bill. We will be building the new roastery on the land and it will have an art studio, commercial kitchen, and a farm store attached.
We moved here to Reserve in February, and with the amazing support of our friend Jennifer, who allowed us to rent her little adobe this year, it helped us to get established in Catron County.
Simmi made a new friend named Angel and they have become great friends. It’s the first time she has had a real friend to play with…ever. it’s a pretty big deal!
Simmi has made great progress in her school work. She was evaluated by a dyslexia specialist when we lived in Vermont and we were told that she has profound dyslexia. This is not a bad thing, it just means that she processes information when reading or doing math differently than other children. Children with dyslexia have many strengths. I am also dyslexic, but mine is not as advanced as her’s is. So I work at her pace which is very slow, with lots of days in between for her to process what she has learned. If I do school work with her every day, she goes into overload and won’t stop rubbing her eyes because it’s like there are letters or numbers missing from what she’s reading. She believed that she was dumb and not smart because she couldn’t read like her friend Angel. It was very frustrating for her, but recently she has come to accept that she learns differently than other kids and that it’s okay to do things at a slower pace. I think she’s doing fantastic!
Dom has been working hard this year as a cook at the restaurant next door to us and also taking on side projects and maintenance work. He’s still emotionally recovering from this last move. The emotional stress of my illness over the last three years has really taken a toll on him. While I no longer have to worry about toxic mold exposure, I am still suffering with electro-hypersensitivity. My inability to deal with wifi and electricity, in general, has gotten worse since September of this year. My only solace is being down on our land where there are no frequencies at all, and if neighbors do have wifi in their houses, they are far enough away from our property to not affect me.
We made many new dear friends this year, and some of those friends became family to us.
We have our own land to call home and an emerging farm that is co-owned by Dom, me, Toulousse & Saint, and Sara. Sara will be moving to the property sometime in 2019. Toulousse and Saint are already there. I’ll be adding them to this website in the new year.
We gained a new son-in-law, Kyle, when our daughter Shoshannah was married in June of this year. Kyle is one of those rare, gentle and beautiful souls that captured my daughter’s heart and wouldn’t let go. I feel so blessed that they found such a great love in one another.
As we bring 2018 to a close, it’s time to look forward to the goals for 2019. While our list is extensive and so grand that we may not be able to fit it all into a year, it doesn’t have to fit neatly into a one year span. Let’s look at these goals as part of a Five Year Plan.
Firelight Farm’s Goals for 2019
- Establish the market garden: Build the greenhouse, stake and build the grow beds, add row covers, install irrigation
- Build a chicken coop and compost run
- Line the duck pond and put up fence for the duck run
- Build topbar beehives
- Build a freestanding full bathroom: This will have a worm composting flush toilet (Solviva design), sink, shower and bathtub, and a washing machine. The bathroom will be located between the market garden and the French potager garden.
- Build the produce washing and workstation, and animal evisceration (for meat processing) area next to the bathroom: This is the heart of any market garden or garden in general. It’s where fruits and vegetables are processed for the market either on farm or at the farmer’s market.
- Build a tool shed between both gardens
- Build our hybrid canvas tents: We will be building four 12’x12′ tent cabins. One is for Dom and I, the second tent is for Simone, the third one is for guests who come to visit us, and the fourth is for furniture and boxes as well as storing our kitchen supplies and food in. There will be a large covered area where we will have our kitchen and dining room table. The free standing bathroom will not be located too far from our camp.
- Build a canvas tent cabin 12’x12′ for our coffee company, which will be located near where we will be building the roastery.
- Establish the French potager garden
- Plant fruit trees
- Build a tropical greenhouse: This is for our personal use because we want fresh avocados, citrus, figs, and other tropical fruits that won’t grow in our hardiness zone.
- Build the coffee roastery: This roastery will be built from logs that our neighbors have sitting up at their property. It was as if it has been there for the last ten years waiting for us to arrive. Haha, at least that’s the way I’d like to think of it! There’s enough lumber for our business complex which will be the roastery, a commercial kitchen for making cold brew and lactofermented vegetables, and the farm store.
- Begin improving the pasture for the horses
- Clear and remove rocks from the front of the property along the river for the future flower farm: This area is about 30’x200′ feet by my best guesstimation. 😉
- Build a horse barn for Sara’s three gorgeous horses that will be coming to their new home
- Build Sara a house. Sara is like a mama to Toulousse and I. We adore her and feel so blessed that she’s a part of our family.
- Purchase ducklings and goslings
- Purchase worms
- Build a rabbitry and worm beds underneath
- Purchase meat rabbits
- Build a quail aviary
- Purchase quail
- Build a scaled up black soldier fly shed: Black soldier flies are one of my all time favorite creatures. The larva are highly nutritious for poultry and the adult black soldier fly is an elegant creature, living for only about a week. Adults do not have a working mouth and do not carry vector-borne diseases. I could gush on and on about these little creatures.
- Build the farm’s outdoor kitchen and covered dining area: This will be for Farm to Table events
- Purchase EZ Up Tents and things needed for the Silver City Farmer’s Market
- Purchase or acquire a donated a Suburban or farm truck: We desperately need a large working vehicle that can haul a trailer and for Dom to continue working. Right now we only have one vehicle.
- Establish a few commercial accounts for our organic fruits and vegetables and animal products
- Build chicken tractors for meat birds. (See photo of chicken tractors below)
- Purchase meat chickens and turkeys
Is your head spinning yet? Mine popped off just writing it all down! There’s more, but I think I’ll stop there. When I build the page for our Farmstead Milestones, I’ll add the above list with the rest of our goals, because the list keeps growing. It’ll never stop growing as long as I have breath in me.
I hope you all have an amazing New Year!
2019 is the year of great expectations and will be filled with strength, courage, wisdom, laughter, friendship, financial abundance, and lots of love!
The last couple of Saturdays we finally spent a lot more time down at our land. Dom cleared more weeds and put up our tent. This tent will serve as our bathroom and supply tent for things we want to keep out of the elements. Inside is a composting toilet, bathroom supplies, baby wipes, and other things we don’t want to lug down every week as we work.
Our friends lent us two more tents so that we have a place for Simmi to play and do her school work during the week when we’re down there working.
We brought down our propane camp stove, our on-demand water, and when we get hold of a small sink, we’ll add that as well. When you have a child with multiple life-threatening food allergies, it’s imperative that running hot water is always available. We can’t wash dishes in a little tub filled with water that gets nasty and filthy. We need a continuous stream of hot soapy water to wash dishes. Having a working camp kitchen is essential to us getting anything meaningful done while we are building.
Our workstation is set up near the well and spigot, so we’ll be able to not only cook food and wash dishes while we are here, but we’ll also be able to prepare the garden beds.
We also set up a fire pit and smoke wall. Bushcrafters call them fire reflectors, but ours isn’t to bring heat near the tent. It’s simply a way to attract the smoke away from the tent. I like how our smoke wall came out and Dom had a blast playing with the small branches to weave them all in. There weren’t any real straight branches to create the wall, so he just got creative.
I love the final product.
At a lot of hardware stores, they sell campfire grills so we’ll probably invest in one of those in the next week since we love cooking over an open fire.
I’ll also be creating a new page that will list either free, repurposed or purchased materials and the running totals of how much we are spending each week.
I will be calling the page Farmstead Milestones (or something like that). I know that others will be curious about the expenses. I’ll say right off the bat we are not interested in getting huge loans, and so this whole process of building the infrastructure and outbuildings comes with the very slow and tiny steps towards our goals. It could take YEARS for us to finally get to build our actual house, but since we decided to stay debt free, bootstrapping it is our only viable option.
Instead of always relying on purchasing materials, we have lots of wood, stones, clay, sand, grasses, and leaves to choose from. I like that nature has a hand in sculpting our experiences here.
I want to walk along (as I already have) and spy a massively curved branch that is both rugged and elegant, and say to myself, “THAT! would be beautiful in the living room holding up the ceiling!”
My heart isn’t in dimensional lumber. It is in the sexy curves of trees that grow gnarly and waiting for the chance to be noticed. It’s the relationship we have to the land. That’s where my heart is and I want everything we build to reflect that.
This is the area on the other side of the fence where our canvas tent structures and outdoor kitchen and bathroom will be located. The tents will be semi-permanent in the pasture, but when removed the only thing that will remain is covered area and permanent bathroom. It will be a great place to sit and observe (and enjoy) the larger animals.
Simmi helping with the process of stomping the area flat.
This is such a great shot of where the potager garden will go.
Dom was in a state of deep contentment as he dug the firepit AND listened to Simmi sing while banging rocks into the pit’s edge.
Dom is removing some posts where the market garden greenhouse will stand.
Putting up the second tent.
This second tent is for Simmi to play in when she brings her friend down on Saturdays. When we are here during the week to work, it’s for her to do her school work in.
If it were late spring or early summer we would be camping out every day! But these tents aren’t warm enough to sustain us in the bitter cold.
Simmi and her friend Angel are reading Diary of a Whimpy Kid.
He’s eye candy to my soul.
The first three grow beds have been strung. The footprint of this area is 15’x60′. Over the top of these beds will be a high wind and snow load greenhouse. Before we create the middle grow bed, we need to install 4’x4’s. The greenhouse won’t be installed until sometime in January. Our hope is to have the market garden strung and created while we’re waiting on fencing for the potager garden area. We can’t start that process because the four large adorable pit bulls that have full access to the area would get busy pulling out all our stakes and dig holes everywhere. Silly dogs!
This is one of the big slobbery babies that live here.
This is very close to the same type of greenhouse we’ll be installing. It will not be heated at all. It’s mainly a season extender for high-value crops like tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, basil, etc.
All the way at the end of the rows there is a shadowy area. It will shade less than a 1/4 of the greenhouse. That area will be used to start seed in the spring.
We brought down our heavy duty propane camp stove, propane hot water on demand, and turkey fryer. We have never used the turkey fryer to cook a turkey. Instead, we use it boil hot water to process poultry.
I love how everything is coming together. Over the next few weeks, we’ll have more materials to work with. We need some T-posts and poultry fencing to start a composting chicken run, and this week I’ll be designing the chicken coop. Currently, there are about 10-15 chickens roaming around with the four dogs, so we want to get them into their own space and working for their food. A composting run will allow them to eat lots of yummy scraps and weed seeds, keep them safe from predation, and begin the process of moving them from regular dry feed to lacto-fermented feed. The chicken composting run divides the two gardens right down the center. On the left of the chicken run is the market garden, and on the right side of the run is the potager garden.
As we work the land, previous plans and ideas give way to more practical plans. If we don’t spend time down there, we can see where the winds come from, when the trees cast shadows throughout the day, which areas contain more moisture than others, and what is the prime garden real estate. HA! It wasn’t until we put up the second tent that we realized that the rich sandy loam that is beneath the second tent is prime real estate and shouldn’t be used to house animals. Instead it should be used to feed people AND animals.
Stay tuned! Great things are still to come.