Summer Update

Summer Update

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.

Setting posts.

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. 


Wine Cooler Chick Incubator

We’re gathering our materials for building an egg incubator. I saw an awesome homemade incubator that was made from an old wine cooler and I knew that was what I wanted to do. I started searching online for a broken wine cooler and I struck gold on craigslist! The compressor was busted on this particular one and they were selling it for $50.00 . Since they were located in Santa Fe (which is over an 1 1/2 hour drive) I asked if they would take $30.00 for it…and we had a deal.
The whole thing weighs about 100 pounds and can hold 24 wine bottles. It also has a lock on it which will come in handy when  Simmi is present. We’re planning on creating an insert at the end of our kitchen island so the incubator will slide right in.

We’ve been looking at a few different DIY projects for the wine cooler incubator, and some of them are quite elaborate. Right now we’re trying to decide how technical we want this incubator to be. After we decide whether we want to include an egg turner, we’ll finish collecting everything and get started on the project! I’m really excited about it.

The weather here has been absolutely gorgeous with the temperature in the 60’s during the day. I’ve been taking Simmi out into the back courtyard so she can go on her favorite swing and I can start planning out her side of the courtyard. We’ll be planting 30 fruit trees in her area, as well as 15 berry bushes, edible flowers and herbs. It’s amazing just how many fruit trees you can squeeze into a small area if they are espaliered. We’ll be planting three varieties of the following trees in her area:

  • 3 apples
  • 3 pear
  • 3 plum
  • 3 peach
  • 3 apricot
  • 3 persimmon
  • 3 cherry
  • 3 orange
  • 3 grapefruit
  • 3 lemon

Of course the orange, grapefruit and lemon trees will be more experimental, but I believe that with the right preparation they will be successful. We’ll be painting the wall where the citrus will be planted a dark color (on both sides) as well as hooking up some plastic to keep them safe in the winter months. We’ll also be adding six inches wood mulch where her swing set is.

We’ve also been drawing up the rabbit hutches and second chicken coop that will be located in Simmi’s play area. We will probably only have about three or four chickens that live in the courtyard, and we are unsure just how many angora rabbits we’ll be keeping. The area for the chickens and rabbits is a large area that does not impede upon Simmi’s play space. Both the coop and rabbit hutches will have a living roof above and worm bins below. Dom is really excited about the living roof since he used to install them when we lived on the east coast. It gets a little more complicated having a living roof in the southwest, but we do have a few ideas for making a living roof possible out here in our dry climate. I always end up chuckling to myself when I watch Dom’s eyes light up as he draws up plans that include a living roof. LOL

On the other end of the courtyard, as I’ve said in other blog entries, we’re planning on creating an outdoor fireplace, bread ovens and grill station. In the concrete right now are five poles that we’ll be connecting a wire grid to over head, and we’ll be busting some of the concrete open in order to plant three or four varieties of grapes. The whole area to be covered is about 27′ x 22′ . I originally thought I’d plant squash there, but we just wouldn’t be able to consume that much squash!

While I was mapping out the courtyard yesterday it occurred to me that some of the homes we had been looking at before we purchased this house, actually had backyards smaller than our courtyard. Back then, we were trying to decide whether we wanted to have a newer home right near the Mesa in Albuquerque, or a house with some land. At that time we did seriously consider this one new home that needed no interior work done. I turned out many drawings of how I’d espalier fruit trees, still have a little aquaponics on the patio and do some vertical gardening. I think my time spent back then didn’t go to waste since the plans that I have now for our courtyard include many of the design possibilities I created for the new house we were considering at that time.

I really love where we live, and as we map out and plan each section of our land, I fall even more in love with our life and direction we are moving in.

New Ideas are Like Opening a Can of Worms!

I have so many ideas for our home and land, and each time I have a new idea it feels like I’m opening a can of worms!
Geez! Where do I start when I have so many other ideas on the back burner? I tell ya, it makes my head spin sometimes. I think I need a vacation from my brain.

Yesterday Dom and I were discussing the sun porch in the back courtyard, and our ideas have morphed from that room being a mini greenhouse, to a breakfast room, and now finally into a baking room/food prep and storage area.

I think the final idea is what we are going to do, but when?

Everything takes time, that’s for damn sure. Our reasons for turning the sun porch into a prep room has to do with our plans for the back courtyard.

We’re planning on having many, many beautiful dinners outside in the back since the weather here is so gorgeous during the spring, summer and fall. We also have plans on building two bread ovens as well as an outdoor fireplace.

It makes sense for us to make another kitchen/prep room. I love baking bread, but with Simone’s allergies to what is in the bread, it also makes sense to utilize the sun porch as the area to proof my breads.

I guess sometimes I just can’t take a big enough breath when I think of the overwhelming tasks at hand. Who makes them overwhelming? Why…me of course!

The photo to the right is of the area where we will be building the outdoor fireplace.

Attached to the fireplace will be two bread ovens, a grilling station, and rocket stove for cooking.

Big plans right? Overwhelming when I think about it.

We have so many other plans that come first, that I need to put all our ideas in some sort of brain catalog and file them away.

I know we’ve only been here for 4 1/2 months, and we’ve gotten a lot accomplished in that time, but my lists of projects just keeps growing, and I know it will be at least a year or more before we can even scratch the surface of this project.

Dom would like to start this project in the spring, but I have other plans that are going to take us through the spring and into the summer months.

We still need to finish Simone’s room, do some finishing touches in the master bedroom, complete the living room, finish the kitchen and on and on!

Outside, we need to finish up our contouring of the land, work on our chicken coop, map out the north east quadrant, order our trees, shrubs and seeds, build our compost heaps, worm bins, top bar bee hives, and build our incubator.

Again, I say overwhelming! I’m just on a brain overload right now. I know it will get done, I just want it all right now.

I need to put together a schedule again of what we are planning to do, and the time frame I want it completed. Otherwise everything is seems so big, that I never know where to start.

I guess I’m just going through an impatient phase.

Side Tracked by Tumbleweeds

In my last post, I was discussing the importance of getting Simmi’s room done for her therapy to resume, however, we’ve been outside for much of the last few weeks now slaving over tumbleweeds. For anyone who has never removed huge tumbleweeds, let me tell you that it’s backbreaking work! Some of the weeds have such a thick trunk at the base, that it takes quite a bit of work to get them out of the ground. Making matters worse is the fact that they have very viable seeds….THOUSANDS of seeds, and just disturbing each of these tumbleweeds releases the seeds to the ground. So far most of the tumbleweeds in the front yard have been removed, as well as the NE quadrant of the land. I cringe every time a tumbleweed is uprooted and dragged to its final location because all we are doing is creating a massive amount of tumbleweeds to spring up next year. Staying vigilant in removing them when they are very young will help to keep them more under control.
There is a lot of pollen out right now, and digging up the tumbleweeds means a lot of sneezing and a hacking cough for all involved. I took a break from weeding a few days ago, and I’ve been doing the research on the different systems we’d like to have in place. Since much of the tumble weeds have been removed, we’ve been able to observe the land better. I ended up side tracked by those damn tumbleweeds, and now I’m a mental mess. LOL I need to start focusing my attentions back on the interior of the house, and my impulses say keep going with the outside! Grrr! Both the interior and the exterior of our home are important, but if we are ever going to get our chicken pasture established, it means that I need to balance my time between interior work and exterior work. This has proven to be a major challenge for me.

Observing the land has allowed us to also see exactly where we are going to place structures. One of the mini projects that was completed outside was the removal of some fenced area of the chicken pasture. Since we don’t have any proper parking, we allotted some space in the front part of the chicken pasture for our cars. Now we have a level area to park our cars.

Another thing that was accomplished was the planning of the chicken coop. We were going to move the coop to a different location, but instead, we’ll be leaving it in its current location and adding on to each side of the shed to create the coop. The chicken run will extend into the chicken pasture. We will also be utilizing the back of the chicken pasture for our top bar beehives. Directly behind the house and courtyard is where our future kitchen garden was going to be. After lengthy discussion and research, we’re moving in the direction of actually making the full kitchen garden area as well as some of the chicken pasture into an aquaponic greenhouse. Originally we were planning on doing some aquaponics, but it makes far more sense to make our kitchen garden a year round productive operation. I think the thing that sold me on doing a full aquaponic kitchen garden was the amount of water that is saved. I know it probably seems like a contradiction, but it is a closed loop system that uses less water than we’d end up using since we are in the high desert. Water conservation is very important here (and everywhere), and trying to keep raised garden beds moist can be a challenge in these dry lands.

I’ve been busy researching the kind of greenhouse we’ll build, how we will construct our aquaponic system, the kind of materials we’ll use and finally the time frame for when we’ll start doing it all. I know that I’ve made more work for myself, but for my own state of mind, I need to know exactly what goes into each of these systems, do cost analysis, and figure out how each system works with the next. An interesting thing that I did discover with aquaponics is that tropical fruit trees can be grown in these systems and an even more interesting tid bit is that earthworms thrive in an aquaponic system. I’m excited about all the possibilities aquaponics can provide. Fresh fruits, vegetables and fish year round for our family is an amazing prospect. I can’t wait!

Chicken Coop Planning

We have a week left until our carpet is installed, and as I’m busy working around the house I find myself reflecting on our white shed outside. We have plans to move it to its final destination in the NE quadrant of the property where it will become our chicken coop. Well, not just for chickens, but also guinea fowl, and turkey. I’ve already started planning out which trees, shrubs and vegetation will go into that quadrant which will become our chicken pasture.
The shed sits on a very nice slab of concrete which will become the perfect slab for storing our garbage cans as well as recycling bins. A privacy fence and gate will be added at a later time, since we’ll be adding acacia, olive and fig trees (just to name a few) to the area. The fences we have in this particular section of the property will be utilized for raspberries and blackberries.

What I’m excited about is moving that shed and beginning to make its transformation into a chicken coop. I’ve surfed the net looking for some creative ideas of how we can convert this shed into a coop, and the following photos are of some of the different awesome coops I’ve seen:

I know that we’ll come up with something that is very aesthetically pleasing as well as very functional for our coop. I just love looking at all the different options and how creative people become when it comes to their chickens.  We’ll be making our incubator this winter and ordering fertilized eggs in February, as well as purchasing our first paired Silkie Bantams this spring. I’ve been keeping my eye on a few breeders I was fairly impressed with.

The photo to the left will become our chicken pasture as well as the location of a few other small outbuildings. Right in the center of the quadrant is a large utility pole, which will be the location of our bat box. Along the back fence will be the future location of our top-bar bee hives as well. I’m VERY excited about making the bat box as well as the top-bar boxes.

After the carpet has been installed, we’ll be taking a week or two to finish planning out chicken coop and pasture, so that Dom can begin to plan the earthworks for the area.