Home at Last!

Home at Last!

We’re home! We arrived in Reserve, NM on January 25. Altogether the trip took 5 days and 4 nights. Most of our hotel stays were moldy in the bathrooms and just added more insult to injury with regards to my health. One of the hotel stays was so bad that we had to flee at 6:00 am because my breathing was so labored that I couldn’t stop coughing and sneezing.

We are located about 12 miles south of the main town of Reserve. Our house is a tiny little adobe building with two bedrooms and open area where there is a kitchen, dining area, and living room. We were amazed that we could fit all our stuff into this little structure. We had to get creative with the space in order to make it work, but it’s coming along nicely.

I thought I would give a picture tour of the property and at a later date, when our house is fully set up, I’ll give a little tour of the interior. We still have pictures to hang, more clothes to unpack, and shelves to hang.

Sometime in the future we’ll probably paint as well, but for now, because I’m still recovering it wouldn’t be wise for us to paint. The chemicals would affect my lungs too much. This little adobe place is a landing of sorts. It’s a mold free environment for me to heal, and as we get to know the area, locate a place where we can build our house. Our hope is that we can build very close to where we are at right now.

The house we want to build would be completely non-electric. That means no solar or alternative power either. It’s fine for in the buildings we’re using for our coffee business and other exciting plans we have, but our home will be built with no electricity. I’ll touch upon that subject at a later time.

So, where do we live? We live on a 40-acre plot of land that has three spring fed ponds (stocked with fish) in the Gila National Forest. We are at an elevation of 5,700 and we are surrounded by astonishing beauty, amazing rock outcroppings, canyons, evergreens, grasses, and wild game. The water here is crystal clear and tastes like heaven.

Just a week ago, I couldn’t walk more than a few minutes without sitting down, and I needed a nap at mid-day or lay down for a short period of time because I would become too dizzy to stand, and now one week later not only can I walk without running out of breath, but I can walk a whole block, as well as walk to the ponds. The first pond is directly behind our house up a little hill. Because of that hill, you don’t even know the pond is there. The first pond spills over and travels to the second pond, and then to the third pond. I have not made it as far as the second pond, but in the next week I know I’ll be able to accomplish that as well. I’m trying not to push myself too hard.

I’m so excited about these ponds. They are pure poetry.

In looking at it from an aerial view, it’s easier to see the vast beauty of the 40 acres. Over the next year, I’ll be planning out the different zones surrounding the riparian areas. Then observing the best way to utilize the land for orchards, gardens, and market gardens. It’s such a big project that it will take years to complete. I feel beyond blessed to have this land to cultivate.

Our county has a very large population of elk. The elk outnumber people and can be a nuisance or downright destructive in agricultural systems. I was so excited to see the first 10 acres being prepped for elk fencing. We don’t have a date yet on when the fencing will be installed…and I was so thrilled to see the tractor out there today!

There is a cute little greenhouse and a few garden plots that looked like there were tyme and other herbs growing maybe last year.

Here is another exciting area. Behind the cottonwood tree is the wood structure that will become our coffee roastery.

Here is a close-up shot. It’s just a stick built shed. The whole building, including any additions we put onto it will be done in salvaged very old doors and windows, and the walls will be infilled with straw-light-clay. The coffee roaster will be a cob/stone hearth, and the coffee will be wood fire roasted. I will be talking with the people who made my coffee drum about making a 20-30 pound drum custom for our new roasting hearth. Our inspiration for roasting coffee this way comes from Summermoon wood fired coffee. Below is a photo of their roaster. Ours will be similar in many ways.

The building will have very little power coming to it, and off the side of the building will be the art studio I need for creating the different products we sell for Buffalo Mountain Coffee Roasting Company.

I roasted our first few batches of coffee on February 1, and after a few roasts, I was able to get a feel for what it will be like to roast in the high desert. Altitude can affect how coffee is roasted, so I wanted to make sure I could get it consistent with how I roasted when we lived in West Virginia.

Our Etsy shop for our coffee company is now open for business if anyone is interested in buying coffee. Click here to visit our Etsy shop. 

I will be working on Buffalo Mountain’s website to offer coffee for sale there as well, it was just a low priority last year while we were building our business.

Okay, back to our little tour…

Here’s a cool little building that is right next to the roastery. At first, we thought it might be something we would want to restore and make our home, but after seeing that it is so close to the access road for the pond, we felt it would be better served as a bait and vermiculture area. Worms baby! I think it would be a great area to sell worms since people love to come fishing at the pond.

It’s in rough shape, but it’s dry inside. It just needs a little TLC and a torch. Haha, no, just the TLC and a roof.

And no, it’s not haunted.

You might be tempted to think that it’s just termites holding hands, but under that weathered wood is plastered walls. 😉

Our house is heated by a tiny little woodstove. It does a pretty good job of keeping us warm at night. We also have two propane heaters, but we don’t use them often.

This gorgeous creature showed up and is such a great outside companion for Simmi. We’re allergic to cats, so it was nice to see him show up and hang out with us. There are three other cats as well, but they don’t stick around like he does. Simmi named him Fluffy Lucky.

There is also a gorgeous beautifully natured dog that comes around. Her name is Whisper and her person is a contractor who works in town a lot. She tags along with him, and comes to hang out with me when I’m roasting coffee. She got her name because she doesn’t make a sound. No barking. She’s like the perfect dog.

Life is good here! We are settling in, making a life for ourselves here, and enjoying the beauty of New Mexico once again. It’s good to be home.

Will Urban Homesteading be Our Destiny?

Our search continues for some land or even a house that we can settle down into, but as life would have it, we need to stay closer than 40 minutes to doctors and therapists. Our grand daughter Simone was just diagnosed with Apraxia of Speech and she will need to have intensive speech therapy everyday. If we are way out in the middle of nowhere, even if it is only 40 minutes from a proper medical facility or a center to get her speech therapy, how much time and effort will that take up in our day? She is well worth the effort, so we are going to need to search for a house with land that will be much closer to the different facilities.
Permaculture principles encompass more than just growing food. Designing our homestead must take into account not only the needs of our family at home, but outside the home as well. We’ve found a few houses that have potential, but in order to keep costs low, we have needed to look at fairly rundown houses. Its not easy finding a home in the city that has land, but I know we will find something. We want our home to be centrally located to both medical facilities as well as the Parajito Mesa.

The picture in the upper left hand corner is a house we went to see. It is a 2,900 square foot, 4-5 bedroom, two story pueblo on a half acre of land. The property sits just three miles from the Parajito Mesa and would be an awesome home once completed. The neighborhood where the house is located is mainly equestrian…lots of beautiful horses and upscale homes. The property is being offered at an extremely low price since the rehab of the house halted and the owner wanted out.  The photo on the right is of the front of the house where some of the exterior was improved. A lot of time and energy went into fixing the house and it shows. As I looked at the interior, I saw something that I don’t always see…construction done right. I think that is what I liked most about this house. The house must have had some problems with a busted pipe inside, as well as roof drainage problems, but from what we saw, these things were addressed right away. The house offers us a blank slate so we can design the house in a way that would suit our needs. But alas, there are many offers on the house, and it will be scooped up very soon. We aren’t ready to put an offer on any house until we have seen all our options. Here are a few more pictures I took of the land:

This weekend we’ll be going to see another home, which I’m a little freaked out about. Its an old house, and I’m highly allergic to mold. Typically New Mexico and the southwest is very dry, but when there is an old home and the plumbing hasn’t been maintained, or roof leaks were allowed to persist, mold can develop. Add to that a swamp cooler and humidity levels rise, activating the mold spores already present. I’m not saying that there is mold in this particular house we are going to see, but it is old and unoccupied right now. The house is almost 3,000 square feet, partial adobe with six bedrooms and three bathrooms. It sits on 3/4 of an acre and backs up to the Rio Grande. Even though I haven’t walked the land yet, I am fairly excited to walk the Riparian Zone which is just behind the property.

Here is a few aerial screen shots of the house backing up to the Rio Grand:

Will urban homesteading be our destiny? It may! We are adjusting and scaling down the vision we had for a homestead in a rural area. We can still accomplish our goals, it will just be on a much smaller scale. Part of that vision was to have heritage cows, sheep, goats, pigs, horses, alpacas, and donkeys, and now we’ll only be including some angora goats and rabbits, a small pig or two,  heritage chickens, ducks and geese to support the system we set up. If the property we buy has less than a 1/2 acre, then we will need to further scale down the types of animals we want to include in the system.

There are a number of things we are interested in doing on the homestead. All of them will take time to develop, and none will be implemented right away, here is our partial list…things will be added or omitted when we finally purchase:

  • Tropical green house on the back of the house so we can grow our own coffee and other exotic fruits and plants
  • Growing gourmet mushrooms
  • Vermiculture- selling worms, beautiful composted soil and worm tea
  • Silk production- this is for our own use and would not be for sale
  • Angora rabbit fibers
  • Angora goat fibers
  • Eggs- Definitely would be for sale since we can’t eat or cook them in the house due to Simone’s egg allergy
  • Food forest if our land backs up to an open field or riparian buffer

There is more that we want to do and I’ll add to that list as we move forward.