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.
It’s amazing to me that at this time last year I could barely breathe walking from part of a room to another, I had to shave my head because my hair was falling out so much that it was everywhere. It’s disturbing to see hair all over the place! Moving back to our home state of New Mexico was an act of desperation much like when we first arrived in New Mexico ten years earlier. We learned our lesson that this is our home forever. My mold allergies are so bad that our home state is the only one with the ability to help me recover.
And I am recovering, slowly but surely.
It has been nearly four years since we were raising animals and farming. Now that we have our land, we are moving full speed ahead, biting off more than we can chew, and I’m sure we’ll make plenty of mistakes along the way. I don’t fear making mistakes at all. I never have. It’s how I grow and it keeps me flexible when I want to stay rigid.
Jumping back into farming is something I am so very excited about. Proper planning, however, is key to being successful and profitable. We started the tradition of writing out our goals when we started homesteading in Los Lunas. It feels good to get back into the practice of writing our goals again. In every place that we were at from Vermont to West Virginia, we had grand plans for establishing a garden and keeping small animals, but I would get so sick from each house we lived in that we would need to move.
We moved a total of 10 times since leaving New Mexico four years ago. In 2019 we will make another move onto our land.
2018 was a great year. Our coffee roasting company, Buffalo Mountain, has thrived and made 10 times the amount made in 2017. We can’t yet take an income from it, but I believe by the end of 2019 we will be profitable enough to start paying ourselves. Buffalo Mountain pays for all its own supplies, operating expenses, internet and phone, and electric bill. We will be building the new roastery on the land and it will have an art studio, commercial kitchen, and a farm store attached.
We moved here to Reserve in February, and with the amazing support of our friend Jennifer, who allowed us to rent her little adobe this year, it helped us to get established in Catron County.
Simmi made a new friend named Angel and they have become great friends. It’s the first time she has had a real friend to play with…ever. it’s a pretty big deal!
Simmi has made great progress in her school work. She was evaluated by a dyslexia specialist when we lived in Vermont and we were told that she has profound dyslexia. This is not a bad thing, it just means that she processes information when reading or doing math differently than other children. Children with dyslexia have many strengths. I am also dyslexic, but mine is not as advanced as her’s is. So I work at her pace which is very slow, with lots of days in between for her to process what she has learned. If I do school work with her every day, she goes into overload and won’t stop rubbing her eyes because it’s like there are letters or numbers missing from what she’s reading. She believed that she was dumb and not smart because she couldn’t read like her friend Angel. It was very frustrating for her, but recently she has come to accept that she learns differently than other kids and that it’s okay to do things at a slower pace. I think she’s doing fantastic!
Dom has been working hard this year as a cook at the restaurant next door to us and also taking on side projects and maintenance work. He’s still emotionally recovering from this last move. The emotional stress of my illness over the last three years has really taken a toll on him. While I no longer have to worry about toxic mold exposure, I am still suffering with electro-hypersensitivity. My inability to deal with wifi and electricity, in general, has gotten worse since September of this year. My only solace is being down on our land where there are no frequencies at all, and if neighbors do have wifi in their houses, they are far enough away from our property to not affect me.
We made many new dear friends this year, and some of those friends became family to us.
We have our own land to call home and an emerging farm that is co-owned by Dom, me, Toulousse & Saint, and Sara. Sara will be moving to the property sometime in 2019. Toulousse and Saint are already there. I’ll be adding them to this website in the new year.
We gained a new son-in-law, Kyle, when our daughter Shoshannah was married in June of this year. Kyle is one of those rare, gentle and beautiful souls that captured my daughter’s heart and wouldn’t let go. I feel so blessed that they found such a great love in one another.
As we bring 2018 to a close, it’s time to look forward to the goals for 2019. While our list is extensive and so grand that we may not be able to fit it all into a year, it doesn’t have to fit neatly into a one year span. Let’s look at these goals as part of a Five Year Plan.
Firelight Farm’s Goals for 2019
Establish the market garden: Build the greenhouse, stake and build the grow beds, add row covers, install irrigation
Build a chicken coop and compost run
Line the duck pond and put up fence for the duck run
Build topbar beehives
Build a freestanding full bathroom: This will have a worm composting flush toilet (Solviva design), sink, shower and bathtub, and a washing machine. The bathroom will be located between the market garden and the French potager garden.
Build the produce washing and workstation, and animal evisceration (for meat processing) area next to the bathroom: This is the heart of any market garden or garden in general. It’s where fruits and vegetables are processed for the market either on farm or at the farmer’s market.
Build a tool shed between both gardens
Build our hybrid canvas tents: We will be building four 12’x12′ tent cabins. One is for Dom and I, the second tent is for Simone, the third one is for guests who come to visit us, and the fourth is for furniture and boxes as well as storing our kitchen supplies and food in. There will be a large covered area where we will have our kitchen and dining room table. The free standing bathroom will not be located too far from our camp.
Build a canvas tent cabin 12’x12′ for our coffee company, which will be located near where we will be building the roastery.
Establish the French potager garden
Plant fruit trees
Build a tropical greenhouse: This is for our personal use because we want fresh avocados, citrus, figs, and other tropical fruits that won’t grow in our hardiness zone.
Build the coffee roastery: This roastery will be built from logs that our neighbors have sitting up at their property. It was as if it has been there for the last ten years waiting for us to arrive. Haha, at least that’s the way I’d like to think of it! There’s enough lumber for our business complex which will be the roastery, a commercial kitchen for making cold brew and lactofermented vegetables, and the farm store.
Begin improving the pasture for the horses
Clear and remove rocks from the front of the property along the river for the future flower farm: This area is about 30’x200′ feet by my best guesstimation. 😉
Build a horse barn for Sara’s three gorgeous horses that will be coming to their new home
Build Sara a house. Sara is like a mama to Toulousse and I. We adore her and feel so blessed that she’s a part of our family.
Purchase ducklings and goslings
Build a rabbitry and worm beds underneath
Purchase meat rabbits
Build a quail aviary
Build a scaled up black soldier fly shed: Black soldier flies are one of my all time favorite creatures. The larva are highly nutritious for poultry and the adult black soldier fly is an elegant creature, living for only about a week. Adults do not have a working mouth and do not carry vector-borne diseases. I could gush on and on about these little creatures.
Build the farm’s outdoor kitchen and covered dining area: This will be for Farm to Table events
Purchase EZ Up Tents and things needed for the Silver City Farmer’s Market
Purchase or acquire a donated a Suburban or farm truck: We desperately need a large working vehicle that can haul a trailer and for Dom to continue working. Right now we only have one vehicle.
Establish a few commercial accounts for our organic fruits and vegetables and animal products
Build chicken tractors for meat birds. (See photo of chicken tractors below)
Purchase meat chickens and turkeys
Is your head spinning yet? Mine popped off just writing it all down! There’s more, but I think I’ll stop there. When I build the page for our Farmstead Milestones, I’ll add the above list with the rest of our goals, because the list keeps growing. It’ll never stop growing as long as I have breath in me.
I hope you all have an amazing New Year!
2019 is the year of great expectations and will be filled with strength, courage, wisdom, laughter, friendship, financial abundance, and lots of love!
We spent the whole day in pallet land. Wait, let me back up a bit, first, lets start with yesterday. I was perusing craigslist yesterday (one of my favorite places to shop since I hate going to the store…ANY STORE OR MALL!) and came across a rabbitry for sale. What intrigued me about the ad was the it was only for $75 bucks (no pun intended). So I emailed him and he got back to me with the dimensions…4’x8′ rabbitry. Wow, really? So we rented a uhaul trailer and decided that since we had it, it would be a good day to pick up pallets. When we got to the house, I was impressed with how clean the rabbitry was. It was a bit weathered and would need a new roof, but Dom asked if $60 would be okay and the man agreed (Thanks Mike!). The extra cash paid for some gas for the upcoming marathon of traveling from business to business trying to score some intact wooden pallets. We brought the rabbitry home, unloaded it, and headed back up to Albuquerque for the pallets. One place was a bust, the second place was okay, but the third place we went…we really hit the jackpot! We’ll be going back to this particular place because their whole property was LOADED with intact beautifully strong wooden pallets. You’re next question might be, “What the hell do you want those for!” Well, we’ll be creating our main outdoor garden (we’ll also have an aquaponic garden in the greenhouse) comprised of many raised garden beds. The area we’ll be putting them is approximately 30’x60′ which turns out to be 1800 square feet. The beds will be 4′ W x8′ L x 3′ H and some may be smaller. The slats on the pallets will be filled in and to show a sample of what can be done with pallets in the garden, here is something I found online: While the beds won’t be configured this way, it does show what can be done with pallets. We have four piles of compost made and we’re going to need a LOT more than that for this undertaking.
I was inspired by a youtube member that had all his raised beds in his front yard. His name is John at Growing your greens.com and his layout really got me thinking about how to best configure our beds. The location for this garden is on the north west corner of our property.
Here is his video if you’d like a shot of his garden:
We filled the whole trailer top to bottom with pallets and then Dom got all pallet greedy and wanted to go back tomorrow for more. We can’t do that, we need to get the angora rabbitry roof done tomorrow on his day off and more fall clean up around the property.
The other things that can be made with pallets and we WILL be making with pallets are:
The foundation and storage area for the Utility kitchen
A few dressers
Top bar beehives for the spring
A platform for our slaughter station
Containers to hold our Avocado trees
Our first humanure station
On a more serious note, we’ll be taking down two drakes on Tuesday of next week. Stay tuned for our first slaughter. I hope it will be done as quickly and humanely as possible. Its very important to us to get it right the very first time.
Yesterday I don’t know what got into me, but I decided to take Simone to the park.
I know to some reading this, you may be thinking, “yeah, so? I take my kid to the park all the time!” Well, this child of mine has multiple life threatening food allergies.
We’ve taken her to places where kids hang out, and the result is always the same…some sort of bad allergic reaction just from touching things that other children touched after eating and NOT washing their hands.
The biggest culprit is peanut butter. Peanut butter residue does not come off easily. We can never take her to a McDonalds to go into the kid play area either.
Soy oil has the same affect on Simmi as peanuts, peanut oil and so on.
Anyway, I want to take her to the park more than once every year, and yesterday she was in her glory. She loved going on the slide over and over again. Then it happened, she started breaking out really bad. At first I thought to myself, wow, I found a place I can take her to each morning and she’ll have so much fun!
Then my optimism turned to doubt and fear as I watched her face and body start to break out. Within 45 minutes she had hives, was itching and scratching and finally I said, “are you ready to go home” and that little cutie pie picked up her things and started running for the car.
She was in pain. The poor little thing was scratching and ripping at her skin. She wants to go again to “special” (I told her we were going to a special place, so she just settled for special as the name) after her boo boo’s went away. I feel torn taking her to these places when I know the outcome is horrible for her. But I need to try too, because I can’t keep her in a bubble.
She usually needs to be holding something in her hands, today it was “raffie” and he accompanied Simmi on the slide over and over…till it hurt.
I’m glad we waited to allow her to go to school this year.
She is far too vulnerable since she can not say anything more than “boo boo” when she gets hurt.
Sometimes she can’t even tell us where the boo boo is.
That can be scary, especially if she were to eat something that could kill her.
All is well now, her rashes have subsided and she is once again ready for an adventure.
Last night Dom took her for a ride down the block to our neighbor’s house and Simmi got to ride a horse for the first time. I wish I was there to see it! Next time I’ll get pictures.
I feel like I’m on overload right now.
I know Dom feels the same way.
We have so many projects going on all at the same time, that sometimes it feels like I can’t catch my breath!
These are the projects going on right now:
Dom’s in the middle of building the rabbitry (it looks kick ass!)
The pond still needs to be finished- 50% complete
The duck house needs to be constructed
We’re exploring all our options for building our bio-dome greenhouse
The utility kitchen is being painted and items for the kitchen are still being collected
Dom brined 40lbs of cucumbers that will sit in a large pot for three weeks.
Dining room is somewhere on our agenda to complete before the holidays
One more big project that is looming in the back of my mind, is a new website we’ll be unveiling next year sometime.
While Simone was playing and having fun yesterday, I was pondering how this new website would function.
I purchased the domain name yesterday, but it will be a while before we unveil it…just know its all about food!
We have animals to buy, more structures like the animal shelters and adobe bread ovens to build before we can even launch the site. It will be quite a unique website with instructions, video, recipes and going where we haven’t seen any foodie go before…we are super excited about it.
About Evangeline Grace
Thank you for visiting my blog. I've entered my 50's, and as I delve into the next exciting chapter of my life, I’m so pleased to be able to share it with all of you. I am a lifelong artist, writer, vocalist, crazy organic farmer, and own and operate Buffalo Mountain Coffee Roasting Company.