Saturday, May 10, 2014

Fresh Start

Can it really have been five months since I last posted? Winter was long, busy and focused on regaining my health. The beautiful thing about my health protocal? It promotes clean eating. Hyper clean! No sugar, beans, grains, dairy, or potatoes. Between that and some serious supplements, I feel not just like my old self, but like a new person. Energetic, focused and clear headed, and committed to moving forward with my dreams. Doesn't get any better than that. Doesn't leave a lot of time for writing or musing either.

My other blog about regional farming continues to grow. I am working with a partner exploring business options to promote local food. I present at the next quarterly meeting of the Colorado Farm to School Task Force. And the biggest thing. J and I are contemplating what it will take to simplify our lives. Or better, to find a calling that pays the bills but also matches this simplicity. I continue to commute three to four hours a day to work in the city. Besides being insanely un-environmental, it is emotionally, physically and spiritually draining. It also takes hours out of my day that I could be in the dirt. Where my heart is.

The farm continues to grow as does the community around it. Sweat Lodge is every other Sunday, as long as the winds aren't too strong. We dug a five foot deep fire pit to accommodate most winds. But some days mother nature needs to let off some steam that our pit is no match for. Apparently neither are our roofs.The north side of the barn is again missing shingles. After we roofed the barn it was never hot enough to seal the shingles together on the north side. Where the wind comes from.

We'll fix that. And tear off the house roof to re-roof. We had someone roof it when we renovated the farm two years ago to move in. Apparently, being where we are in a wind tunnel, it is one of those jobs you really have to do yourself. Silver lining, I get my porch. We moved the culvert in the irrigation farther east on the property so we could move the driveway away from the house. That allows more freedom in the design and size. Since front porches are where most of your living happens, I feel it should be pretty roomy. I can already envision the flower gardens in front. The fire pit that we'll rock. This place becomes home more and more with each passing season.

Raised beds went in for the permanent vegetable, herb and fruit plants. We tilled a 30' by 100-150' garden bed. Irrigation will go in soon. But not tomorrow with snow in the forcast.

The chickens and guineas are doing well after a mishap with home ground mix from a local. Turkeys have entered the brood, and I added a hive to the orchard. I am in love with beekeeping. I could watch them for hours, if I wasn't intruding on their work. I love checking the hive when I fill their sugar water feeders. I get to be a vouyeur, if only for a few moments.

J has asked to get goats. I created a crazy beautiful monster. So, looks like fencing and building a goat house is in my future. I'm sure you would believe I am unhappy with that. (Thought with major sarcasm) Now to choose a milking variety. It's between Nigerian Dwarfs, for easy handling, and Alpines. We'll see.

For the rest of the day it is celebrating with friends. It's a good day.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Ringing in the New Year...

Happy New Year to everyone. May the year of the horse run strong and a little wild through your year.

J and I started our annual ritual this morning. We have a small journal where we review last years lists. Our accomplishments and gratitudes for the previous year, and a list of our goals, dreams for the coming year. Then we reflect on what we accomplished and our gratitudes and make a list for the year that is closing and a list of our goals and hopes for the coming year.

We are always amazed at how full our years are and how far we've come. This year we ended the year feeling like we worked a lot and didn't play hard. After the list, we realized we spent more time with friends and family, grew our community and had some really good trips. We reached around 50% of the goals we listed, and are on course to hit the others this year (our lists tend to be ambitious!). But, in the end, we love each other more and have found more peace with ourselves and the world. It's all good. My cup runneth over.

Community is at the center of our goals this year. We are looking at creating a community garden at the farm based on a barter system. I am putting it out to some of our friends and think we can achieve the garden we keep planning, but can never quite find the time for. J and I had a conversation this morning about not waiting for the "planets to align" before pursuing our dreams. I personally would love to work closer to home. Three + hours a day in a car to a job 75 miles away takes its toll. I am also grateful, as this job has provided for us tenfold and is one of the main contributing factors that allowed us to purchase the farm. My big dream. But I can't put off the farms evolution until I find work closer to home. I need to focus a percent of my energy on building the property and community I aspire to now.

Health is also a big focus this year. Having found wonderful practitioners who were able to determine what ailed me, has changed my perspective dramatically. And I have found the motivation to make the necessary changes toward obtaining good health and more importantly, maintaining it. These changes have also inspired J to make some changes and place some emphasis on better self care.

So while the winds blow, and the snow falls and the cold covers the pastures over these next few months, plans will be hatched and put into motion. Fencing, outbuildings, garden beds and seed and bee orders will be laid out with great care and intention. This is the year of balance and home, community and connection. I am looking forward to it.

Love to you all! May your year be filled with great care and intention!

Monday, November 11, 2013

Filling the larder...

I saw Joel Salatin speak this past Saturday. He was funny and entertaining and provided a lot of food for thought. Especially relevant for me since some of my stomach issues have returned. A visit with the nutritionist today, and a return to my strict diet for now, has us heading in the right direction. I feel after this, I may become very anti antibiotic. This has been a difficult road back to health. But, an end is in sight. And, it is likely the one motivational means with which to make some seriously needed lifestyle changes.

With that said, I have been preparing some pretty good size meals for J. Lots of things I can't eat right now, which helps me in the not nibbling department. Tomorrow he leaves for a week long camping trip in the Rocky Mountains hunting elk. Last year he came home empty handed. This year, and several shopping trips later, he is well geared and better prepared. He also bought a mini GPS so he doesn't lose the four wheeler again, or himself.

The freezer is almost empty from last years quarter share of beef and the roasted tomatoes I harvested. Which is good. We just put in an order for a half side of pork and if J gets an elk, we will be full until next season. And, that is the point. Joel spoke about the security one feels with a full larder close by. He had a comedic spin to it which I could never do justice, but he was right. Food security is an important part of our life, and one that through convenience and a false sense of access we often overlook.

To add to that bounty, I was able to dig up close to a half bushel of potatoes. Not nearly the three bushels of last year, but enough for J. Potatoes are out for me right now. As is any processed grains, sugar, flour, out of season or sweet fruit and well, basically anything I don't cook myself. This diet was amazing for the two months I was on it. I felt better than I ever have. Unfortunately, the issues we were fixing weren't quite fixed, and it looks like there are probably a couple more. All fixable though. And the way I feel eating whole foods, well, I hope to make this a permanent change.

While I've got the crock pot going and another pot cooling on the stove, I'm going to sneak in some reading time snuggled up with the dogs. I should be vacuuming or doing some other long overdue domestic chore, but those can wait until later in the afternoon. I have a day off darn it. And I'm using it! Michael Pollan here I come.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Progress during the days of grace...

A friend of blogger/author Jenna Woginrich calls this time of year the days of grace. I agree. All the business of summer has slowed down. All those projects waiting for attention are finally getting some. And the days are cooler, maybe a little breezy, and so much easier to work in. The promise of a cozy tucked in winter hints through the wind and sun.

It also seems to be a time for community. We have recently moved the sweat lodge of J's community to our property. It was in town, but neighbors complained of the smoke from the fire, and I'm sure those "weird drum sounds" and singing may have played a part. So we have had folks from the lodge community up here working on it and getting it ready. The lodge kids have had fun on the farm as well. Watching chickens and playing with the building materials pile. A 2X6 and an old tire make a mean see saw.

While I myself have built a lodge in the past and participated in several Native American ceremonies with the Cherokee back east, I have yet to do a sweat lodge. My time is coming.

This weekend we also had quite a crew, which we are in immense gratitude for, come assist with re-roofing the barn. Gone is the metal roof (which I love) and on with new decking and shingles (which I also love). New trim is also in the mix. One side is finished and next weekend we finish the other side. Now the barn/workshop will be dry, and hopefully dust and bird proof. J and I talked about what the barn looked like when we moved here. Oy vey! It was leaning like the tower of Pisa and there were birds and years of dust built up. The wind came through the sides and you could see pin holes of sun through the roof. Now, it is a great shop with a second floor and windows. What progress!

Some friends told us when they first saw the place they thought we were going to just raze it and start over. The house and the barn. There was so much to be done and the place was a total mess. It takes serious vision to see what we saw in the bones of both buildings. Now they readily express their surprise and delight with our cozy home and made over barn. It feels good to see the fruits of your labor and know it is all worth while.

I have my mind on next years garden. Raised beds vs. another plot. I think for ease, the raised beds may win over. With the weed invasion here, and our time constraints with battling said weeds, it makes the most sense. While we will have beds planted in the old garden area of fruit bushes and maybe corn, the raised beds will allow us more control over our crops and be easier to maintain after the initial building work is done.

I have been off work for the most part going on three weeks. A forced vacation courtesy of Congress. I haven't minded too much, even though the time frame is precarious and doesn't really allow for long term planning. I do wonder however, how I will get the gumption to go back. Sleeping in until 7am is nice. I also have some projects I have enjoyed working on. And time for writing, well that is just a total bonus. It makes the motivation to look for work closer to home that much stronger. We'll see how that goes. For now though, the focus is on making progress. And that we have in spades.

The original

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

A day late..or months...

Pics from the County Fair of a few of my favorite things.

Quick change...

After that last post. You know, the one on August 3 (is it really October?), I went to that Fair. I also received a call from J, miles away from home on his motorcycle, that a storm was coming to our neck of the woods. And the dogs were outside. Uh oh.

I raced home up the highway, hoping I would beat the storm. Not so lucky. The sky on the highway was green and grey and swirly. You could see layers of the atmosphere swirling in opposite directions. I saw a sky like this once several years ago. It is tornado sky.

I reached the exit before ours and started heading west. The good thing about living in the foothills of the Rockies, is tornadoes usually don't hit so close to the foothills. They usually start east of the main highway and head further east from there. Once I got off the highway the sky was clearer heading toward the farm. Maybe, just maybe, I would be lucky and it missed us. As I headed up the county road, the one before you turn onto our red dirt road, I started to see piles of white stuff on the sides. Then I turned onto our road. It looked like a twisted winter scene. As I got closer to our house the ground was covered in hail, and the trees were bare. A spontaneous river was flowing across the road in front of our neighbors house. The culverts were now ponds.

My heart was pounding as I made our driveway, wondering if the dogs and birds were ok. Then, three
That is a five gallon bucket
buried in there
little faces looked out from their pen. Relief hit me in a wave. Then, I drove over to check the flock. All inside and accounted for, minus a few tail feathers.

Two foot high piles of hail were against the north side of the house and barn. I went inside with the dogs. Grateful for the safety of my critters. I called J to tell him not to come home until the storm passes. He and his buddies were in a carport in a small town out on the eastern plains. They waited out the storm there. I also told him right now our road had a river running through it, so he might have some trouble when he did get back. Then I went inside and caved to my nervous habit. I made cookies. I also called the neighbors to check in on them. The horses were good, a little bruised up, and only one loss. A rooster who didn't make cover fast enough.

Once my nervous inspired sweet tooth was satisfied, I went out to survey the damage. Mind you, we just finished the coop that day, and our house is all relatively new as of last summer. The house screens were shredded and smashed, the siding on the barn, house and trim were dented, the coop windows were smashed, and all of the plastic anything in the yard was in bits. J's truck looked like a gorilla danced on it, and that and our old farm truck had busted windshields. The tractor had busted lights and dents all over. Then the roof survey showed about 14 holes. Some you could stick your finger in. While we are blessed with such little major damage, we had some work ahead of us. I am also grateful for insurance.

Then, Colorado was hit with floods. Again, we were blessed being out of the flood zone, our region has been devastated. The farmers who missed the ravaging hail storms then were hit by massive rains and floods. And we thought the fires last year were bad (which they were). It will be a busy fall and winter rebuilding. For us as well as others. This weekend we start replacing the barn roof. Next, the house roof. The silver lining, I get my front porch. Since we have to pull the roof off the house, we are going to put the covered porch on.

Luckily this isn't the only dog house.
The dogs can get into a pen in the barn.

It amazes me how much can change in a day, or an hour. I left home on a hot and sunny morning and come home to a winter wonderland. Now it is October, and the winds have started. Some days they make you walk sideways. It's funny. Even with the adversity, today, I wouldn't want to be anywhere else. I think some of that stubborn pioneer spirit has infused itself into me. Not that I didn't have the stubborn Yankee residing there already.

As we move into fall, and I check to see if the potatoes survived the weather for a small harvest, we start planning for next season. How can we protect the garden, how do we repair the fields. When do we start the fencing, and what are we going to need to keep penned. In the face of adversity, we fall to hope. I think my neighbors, those who suffered tragic loss and are displaced, feel the same. As I see a lot of rebuilding going on. I'm looking forward to what the future brings.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Catch up...

It's been a busy summer. It's August already!! And my garden, what is left of it, has gone to the weeds. There was just not enough time to maintain it with all the other projects that were competing for priority.

We finished the exterior of the coop. We have one more door to cut out and hang and then we can insulate the coop and hang the interior walls in the fall to prep for winter. Then, I will have my garden shed. I've been waiting for one of those forever! The new girls are fine, and we have the most gorgeous rooster. I haven't named him yet, as we only recently discovered she was a he. I think it had to do something with the spurs growing out the side of his legs and the fact that he is huge and showy. And riding all the hens. I think that was the giveaway.

The new girls are starting to lay. I put out the call for month to month egg shares. I already have a few folks signed up. I'll be happy if it covers the feed costs. Right now I purchase local organic non-gmo layer feed from the feed store in town. I am researching sprouted grains so I can move away from the corn/wheat/soy combo of the prepared feed. It will be more work but in the long run healthier and possibly easier. Especially if we could grow our own.

We had a scare in early summer with the trees. They all turned brown and lost their leaves. I thought they were goners. But with consistent watering and observation they have all bounced back. It was close though. I will be much more vigilant after the spring rains/snows stop to make sure I am watering the next batch we plant this fall.

The barn has received a second coat of paint and I started painting the trim. It's looking good. J cleaned out the tall grass/weeds next to the barn where we piled all our building supplies and wood scraps along with other odds and ends. The next project is to finish taking down the old fencing and barbed wire to open up the back area.

J was able to get me two large rolls of orange snow fence. I had an epiphany that our current location for the garden wasn't the best. It's hard to water, direct hot sun all day with no relief in high summer, and when they don't plant the fields behind us (like this year) there is no wind buffer or extra water to count on. While we were camping in the mountains a few weeks ago I realized the best location, which is now drought withered weeds, would be near the orchard. The house and trees offer wind protection and it is near a water hydrant. I will use the snow fence to fence in some chickens during the day to do their magic clearing the area and eating all the weed seeds in the dirt. I'll move the compost pile in there and they can go to town breaking it down further and burying it. Then in the late fall I will cover it with composted manure and straw to be ready for spring. Or if I'm ambitious I'll plant some winter rye to work in some nutrients and deter weed growth in the spring. This way we can take some time to figure out targeted irrigation rather than broadcast irrigation that waters the seeds. I am excited to heal that dirt.

In the old garden bed we will lay weed barrier and start planting rows of berry bushes. It is a better use of the amended soil than row planting crops that we can't water well.

Today I'll be heading down to the county fair to check out the animal barns. My neighbor, Tucker, who is my poultry guru, along with his mom Jody, will be exhibiting 19 animals from his menagerie. This kid raises everything! These are the times I wish I was in 4-H as a kid. I'm looking forward to the shows. I'm hoping I don't miss the auction, though we are not quite ready for pigs or goats. Need more fencing!! However, a barn cat or two would work, maybe (read a previous post on that topic!).

Settling into the farm has been wonderful. Last week I was on vacation, and while I had several soul reviving events like coffee and walks with girlfriends, the best of the week was the time I spent at home. Hanging with the dogs, making pie, cooking, puttering around and making things better. I painted the foundation of the house, which makes the house look a little more finished. I like this pace. I think this is the pace we are meant to live in. I have increased the energy on looking for a job closer. I have one car payment left and the next fiscal tackle is the student loans, along with fencing for the paddocks.

Things are good, and while the summer hasn't been filled with big trips or adventures, it has been immensely satisfying. Writing my other blog has also helped with my state of mind and overall satisfaction. Now, along with the fiscal goals, I have taken steps to get healthier, and shift more attention to home. These steps feel good.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Hunter's instinct

Had a little drama on the farm tonight. After closing up the chickens tonight we heard a ruckus in the field behind the house. A pack of coyotes sounded pretty close. I brought the eggs in and came out to feed the dogs. J ran in and grabbed his shotgun.

We put the spotlight on the field and not far behind the coops I spotted five coyotes. After a couple shots they ran off to the west. We drove around the section to see if we could see them. Making sure they really took off and weren't coming back for a second shot at whatever tasty morsels were lying in wait.

Instinct sure kicks in during one of these moments. I was tracking those guys by their eyes. Don't even think of coming near my little rooster Henry. Don't even think of it.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

What a difference a day makes...

Or several. Actually, quite a few.

It's been a while since I've posted. I've been busy working, gearing up for the season and writing a new blog, I thought it would be easy writing a couple extra posts a week. Well, those posts are not on our life. They require research and interviews and visits. I love it and it is one step closer to creating a life closer to home.

Early spring snows really greened things up here. The coop is built and the hens are diggin' their new run. While it needs a paint job, it is looking mighty fine. We will also need to build a separation wall inside and add a second door so I can have my garden shed.

The herb garden has sprung up and the strawberry patch is thriving. Walking through the west field we noticed some fruit bush survivors that we thought were goners for sure. A raspberry, a currant and a gooseberry. I will be transplanting them near the strawberry patch so I can keep an eye on them and keep the weeds at bay. That is the plan anyway.

The orchard also made it through its first winter. I was thrilled. The trees bloomed a little later than they would have if we were in town. Good thing, cuz the blooms would not have survived the three big snow storms that hit us.

Those storms brought some odd losses. Many small birds and a baby barn owl didn't make it. We found them in the drive and near the house. We will be building owl houses this summer to provide them better shelter. The new trees we planted as a wind break are also doing well. With the exception of a leaner. Not sure how to correct that little problem.

J and I have been dreaming more of farm life than work life. I suggested we make a list and write down what we want our life to look like. Set some intentions for our future.

I visited home last week. It was beautiful in New England and I went to the ocean for a few days and ate my fill of seafood and wild blueberry everything. My brother gave me six packets of seeds from a seed saver he knows. I am excited to plant them and see how they do. He doesn't garden and has had them for a couple years. Next visit he plans on taking me to their farm.

The dogs had a couple run in's with a bull snake. Unfortunately it made its way into their pen and
caused a ruckus. It didn't make it. My reaction and panic at the sight of a snake is dwindling. I think that is a good thing since I need to live with them. And, they keep the mice population at a minimum.

I am suffering a terrible cold from being run down and traveling. Once I kick it I plan on finishing the planting. Especially a flower garden. I'd like to start a large variety of perennials that I can later transplant in gardens around the house. Once we figure out what we are doing with porch building and driveway relocation.

I had a brilliant idea to use the paper bags from the grocery store as a mulch for paths in the garden, covered with hay to keep the weeds down. The problem with that brilliant idea was that I did not take the wind into account. Half of my paths have blown away. I will have to wait to try again once the plants fill out. Lesson learned.

Off to sweet dreams now. Thinking about the seed packets spread out all over my table.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Spring Fever...

Spring fever is catching here on the farm. So many new and exciting additions to our little world.

Last weekend was a tough and glorious weekend. We began building the new garden shed/chicken coop. We completed the floor and and framed the walls up. They are sided and in the coming weekend we will begin to frame the trusses and get the roof on. Then painting and shingling. We had some great assistance from our friend Toby. Nice trade. A days work for homemade cheddar biscuit egg sandwiches for breakfast and chili for lunch. I love love love feeding folks.

The shed, my garden shed, will be a great addition. The entrance faces the garden and keeps my tools close by instead of an acre away. There will be windows in both the shed part and the coop. Two to the south, framing the mountains, and two to the north facing the house and driveway.

The chicks have become unruly and gangly teenagers. And as teens they are anxious to spread their wings and check out the world. It will take a few more feathers in this cold before they can do that. It has been cold and snowing. Welcome to March. They will feel like they are living in the Taj Mahal after their early stint in a reclaimed dog kennel.

We had some losses. Two of the little Egyptian chicks got trampled by their two week older counterparts. Then, our hens killed one of the hens from our friends. They are bunking here until they move into their new home. Introducing new hens doesn't always go over big. While the picture books show docile and quaint visions of hens, they can be brutal stone cold killers. All our efforts for making the incorporation go smoothly didn't work out so well once we went to work for the day and couldn't keep an eye on the prison yard. I may have mentioned before that J uses gangland and prison terms when describing the hen yard. Amusing typically. But not when one of your guests gets shanked.
The final loss was my favorite guinea. She was out exploring the yard when J let the dogs out. We had their training collars, but that was futile. J had to put the bird down and walked it across the field to a hedgerow ditch to complete the circle of life with the coyotes. Needless to say by Sunday eve I was a little over the whole animal kingdom drama. But, this is life on the farm. Not always pastoral and peaceful. Sometimes it is dirty and raw. And even so, would not change a second of it. I only hope I get better at preventing the mishaps I can.

Also in the news, I am the new blogger for A regional blog that explores growers and producers and markets for the area. I am thrilled. And happy for the experience this blog has given me. I will continue to do both. As this is my personal journey and the other blog I will be observer and sharer of information. Huge step toward building the life I want to. Which is all farm all the time. Whether mine or working with others in some form or fashion.

Now, time to check the status on today's launch post. Go FOCO!

Monday, March 11, 2013

Lighter Days Ahead...

I am thankful for the instant gratification of longer days. Yesterday it was still light some at 7 o'clock. P.M. that is. I know the hens are thankful too. They have been cackling alongside the guinea's all day. I am getting more eggs more frequently too. All signs of longer days.
J and I have been talking more about working less. We both have some pretty heavy jobs. They tend to take up more room than a standard workweek calls for. And while we are grateful for the financial security and the dreams it has allowed us to reach for, our sanity and health are calling for some balance. A little less working and a little more living.
I don't necessarily see what we do in building the farm up as work. J might disagree. He is the heavy hitter of the two of us. But there is a certain grace and peace working around the farm and watching it morph from our shared vision. The longer days come with unbounded inspiration. Over the weekend we drew up plans for the new coop/garden shed and created the shopping list for it. Building will start soon, as the chicks are feathering out fast and will outgrow their brooder quickly.
Speaking of chicks, we had a bit of drama this week, resulting in a couple (5) losses. Monday night I came home and took care of the dogs, made dinner, and went to put the hens away and check on the little bits in the barn. J came home as I was outside. He went in to check on dinner after an extra long day. I came in with quivering lip and crocodile tears exclaiming that all the chicks were dead. The bulb in the heat lamp burned out sometime during the day. While the barn is insulated, it is not heated. They were all lumped in a pile. And of course, the lock to the shed with all my supplies was broken and we couldn't get it open. Luckily my flair for the dramatic proved false. The chicks on the bottom of the pile didn't fair so well. So out of 28 small chicks and keets, four didn't make it. One more casualty was found in the am. J, who was also very sick, got up in the morning to check before I woke and to remove the poor little thing. Again, the hardest thing is when something suffers from my learning curve or error. Definitely a teaching moment to keep track of the hours of use with the bulbs.

In response we brought the brooder into the house and put a 100 watt bulb on them. The remaining birds did great and are thriving. The dogs however, became somewhat obsessed with this large peeping box in the living room. Other than the bedroom, where the dogs co-reside with us, we do not have a door in the house that totally closes shut. Therefore, the brooder in the house 100% of the time doesn't work so well. Especially for the dogs. Who like to pounce on anything that moves.

So, I spent the week hovering and getting new bulbs and putting the chicks back in the barn and then, went to the store and got six more. Egyptian Fayoumis and Blue Laced Red Wyandottes.

Now, it is my turn to be sick. J and I also made a deal to eat for 30 days only what we make ourselves in an effort to cut down on fast food or restaurant food and get healthier for the months (and years) ahead.

I started by making one of my favorite breakfast foods. Kasha pudding, from a recipe from one of my all-time favorite restaurants (sadly closed for many years now) back east, Curtis and Schwartz Cafe. I love warm and spicy so I adapted the recipe some from their cookbook. It is a hearty bread like pudding with fruit and nuts. Perfect topped with greek yogurt (honey flavored or drizzled in is the best). The restaurant used to add a dollop of creme fraiche on top. Mmmm.

I can't follow a recipe truly to save my life. I always have to mix it up. So I added my additions in the recipe below.

4 1/2 C. milk - I warmed the milk with dried chai spices first to add more warmth
3/4 C. Kasha (buckwheat groats) - I always add a touch more
2 tbl. brown sugar
1 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground ginger - I also add 3-4 diced cubes of crystallized ginger
3/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp. salt - I always cook with sea salt
2 Granny Smith apples - I mix this up often. This week I used a honeycrisp apple and an asian pear
3/4 C. dark raisins - I prefer dried cranberries or cherries
3 tbl. unsalted butter
3 eggs beaten

For the topping:
2 C. chopped walnuts (or pecans or other yummy nuts)
1/4 C. brown sugar

I don't have a picture of the final cooked version. We dove into this bad boy way too quick when it was done.
  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  • If using chai spices, warm on low/medium heat first and then strain milk before adding other ingredients. Don't let the milk boil. We just want to infuse it with the chai spices. Using store bought chai to replace the milk would be too strong a flavor.
  • After milk is strained, return it to the pot and add the kasha, sugar, spices and salt.
  • Stir occasionally and bring to a soft boil over medium heat and simmer for one minute. Then remove from heat. Keep close watch. I have boiled over the milk turning my attention away for a minute. Not good and a wicked mess to clean.
  • Add diced fruit and butter to the pudding.
  • Temper the eggs. Do this by whisking a cup of the pudding to the beaten eggs. Then slowly whisk the egg mix back into the rest of the pudding.
  • Pour the pudding into a buttered two quart casserole.
  • Combine the nuts and remaining brown sugar and sprinkle on the top.
  • Bake for about 45 minutes, or until the top is firm. If the nuts are browning too much cover loosely with a piece of aluminum foil.
  • Serve warm with a dollop of yogurt or creme fraiche.
Way better than oatmeal.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Chick time...

Big day today. The chicks are here. I had plans to order from the hatchery. Really I did. But then this morning I had mentioned to J how I wanted to head up to Cheyenne to Murdoch's farm and ranch. Looking to get ready for chicks and stock up on some supplies. Well. We went. They had all the brooders set up, but no chicks. J wanted to get chicks (I am becoming more and more surprised at this man's transition to this life.)

It wasn't exactly a harmonious trip. I tend to wander when I am in a store. Like really wander and can't be found easily. I truly believe I will be right in this spot when you get back. But then something catches my eye, for just a second, and then all bets are off. It's a curse. And typically drives those of the spousal persuasion a tad mental.

So, we came home. Chickless.

But then, in an extension of the olive branch, J asked me if I wanted to go to the Feeders Supply store, and of course Jax farm and ranch store after. Well, twist my arm (the right one is the yes arm). So we went to the Feeders Supply and purchased 13 chicks. Then we went to Jax and purchased 12 more. And 3 guineas. Because I love my guineas.

And, because I am not always prepared for such things, we needed to come up with a brooder. Fast. We had planned on building one. Sometimes, decisions do not allow for planning. We had an extra large dog crate and J got busy. In less than an hour he transformed it into a brooder in the barn.
I love birds. All kinds. I chose approximately 10 varieties. I am looking forward to seeing how they fare and which acclimate to the farm the best. So far my favorite layers out of our older girls (Rhode Island Reds, Barred Rock and Buff Orpingtons) have been the Buffs. I have two and today they gave me three eggs. Either that or the guinea that keeps hanging out with them started laying. I haven't yet seen that happen so I can't be sure.

A couple weeks ago I had quite the experience shutting up the coop and collecting eggs. I reached in and thought I grabbed a mouse. I reached again and grabbed something quite squishy. It was an egg laid without the shell. The membrane was there, with something that looked almost like an umbilical cord, and no hard shell. I came in and told J he had to come touch it. I do notice a certain look of WTH and exactly what are you asking me to do. Especially when you describe something as freaky and cool. It tends to raise a bit of apprehension. But, J was game. We even lit a flashlight behind it to look inside. Then it was off to the compost pile with it. No shell means no barrier to bacteria.

With the arrival of the chicks, it really feels like spring is around the corner. I am completely stir crazy from our winter siesta and can't wait to get my hands in the dirt. I also can't wait to build their new coop and get them outside when they feather. J has also been getting antsy with the planning. We have fences to build and livestock to consider. He has been looking at Craig's list daily (as do I) to see what is becoming available. It is sad to see how many animals are being given away for a song or for free because folks can't feed them. I really hope we can get some moisture out here in this high desert to offset this horrible drought and hay/feed shortage.
But, as always with spring, there is hope. Hope that the failures in last years garden will not repeat themselves. Hope that the orchard will blossom and the trees will establish themselves well. Hope that the strawberries will be sweeter, if that is even possible, than I remember. Hope that my garden is not overcome with weeds or grasshoppers (hence the guineas). And hope unattached to anything or any idea. Just hope.

Casa de gatos muertos...

We were thinking this could be the name of the farm. "House of dead cats" (has a certain ring in Spanish) since we have had so much luck with trying to introduce barn cats to the property. Four out of four. Not good odds, for us or the cats. The last cat just showed up. A scrappy black and white fella that started eating the food I was leaving for that ghost Frankie Blue Eyes. When I saw the dogs go straight for the cat house one day I thought, finally, Frankie decided to settle in and get neighborly. It wasn't him. It was the black and white barn cat drawn in by the vittles I left.

The cat didn't seem to bothered by the dogs and was there for about a week. We had begun to think maybe he was not a he and was pregnant looking for a place to birth her kittens. Actually, I think it was sick and looking for a place to "go".

J came home from work and Jagger, the new boxer was bloody as an Irish scrapper at a rugby match. J found the cat, or a stiff version of the cat, in the dog pen. It had been there quite a while, likely before J put the dogs in the pen before heading to work. Anyway, Jagger got in a match with our other boxer Ananda. You know, those high value dog toys.

I am not really as cavalier as I may sound. We have come to accept that barn cats, right now, are not for us. We will settle for the chickens, guineas, boxers, hawks and owl for now. And one day, Jagger and Ananda will make peace and stop acting like rowdy brothers. Right? It will happen, won't it?

Tuesday, January 15, 2013


Last weekend I got a little crazy with the juicer. It was awesome, Carrots, beets, oranges and more. Recently I have had some health issues. One of them being horrible stomach aches. Sad to say, I think it is my regression back to being a carnivore after a very long time as a vegetarian. I am in my 40's. I began eating meat again in the last few years. The last year I started eating beef and pork. I had neither since I was 19.

Well, I fell off that wagon hard. When I ate it angels sang. After that it was serious iron induced cravings. Then came the stomach aches. After torturing myself for sometime trying to figure it out I remembered. I quit eating meat so long ago due to....drumroll...meat. So, I went on a little cleanse of all things hoofed and took a big dose of juice and voila - no pain.

While I don't see this experience returning me back to vegetarianism again (I am not such a healthy veg head), it will bring about that lovely concept of moderation.

This experience did have me rethink the garden in a major way. Love love love beets, and kale, and carrots. So, a big juicing section will be necessary, as will a tea garden.

And, what to do with all that veggie mash? Well, the chickens were very pleased with their mid-winter treat of vitamins. I also made the most delish carrot cake with cream cheese frosting (really, is there any other frosting to be had?)

We've also been cooking a lot. For the week making dishes that we can take to work and have each evening. Again, this makes me think of the garden and how we can work this through the winter. And, with our boatload of potatoes and winter squash this year, makes me think we really need to work out a storage area. The laundry room also has the heater and hot water heater. Not very conducive to doing double time as a cold cellar. And, since we don't have a cellar, we are going to have to be innovative this summer to solve the issue.

This past week also brought on what may be a new addition to the farm. Our luck has been lacking in bringing a barn cat to the property. We are at three strikes with that one. Instead, the food I put out for Frankie Blue Eyes, who apparently hasn't been the one eating it, has brought a little black and white beauty to our stead. He/she has been sleeping in the cat house I built. Problem is my over excitable boxers can't help but mess with it. But, it keeps coming back. And the house is probably welcome as it has dipped into the major freeze digits.

And, it is seed catalog week. I went overboard and ordered a lot of catalogs and tool catalogs, hatchery catalogs. Winter dreaming time is hear. I love planning the garden. Not that I am great at sticking to that plan, but I love the process and unlimited possibilities. Tonight I got back to my park and ride for the rest of the ride home from work and there was still sunlight. Not much, but enough to lift that feeling that spring is a million miles away. A lifting of the dark. Love it.

Now, to test those brownies I just pulled out of the oven. That new cookbook is getting a workout here.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Holidays past...

The holiday season is nearly past. I had a lovely little tree. Which surprises some since I am Buddhist. But the tree, white lights and natural ornaments of birds and such is something I need every year. A little light to get through the darkest days of the year. I guess my tree is more solstice than Christmas.

Our plan had been to spend a few quiet days at the farm. Maybe get a project or two completed and then total down time. That was part of it. Then we decided since it is way too easy to become recluses in our little part of the world, we took up an invitation to have Christmas day dinner at my friends small farm. It was friends and family. She harvested two ducks and two turkeys for the dinner and a friend of her from Longshadow farm brought some amazing homemade cinnamon ice cream. Great meal, great folks. As I always do when I visit, no matter how brisk the air, I take a little farm tour to see what's happening. Mo, with a day job and two kids, and her husband Will, also with a day job, raise duck, turkey, chickens, lambs, bees and now have three milk cows and a beef cow, along with horses, dogs and cats. They do this on 2 1/2 acres. It is amazing. We left with a half gallon of raw milk which is amazing in coffee I must say.

Now it is New Years weekend. Another weekend of friends and quiet time. I am definitely in a place where friendships are very important to cultivate and maintain. I begin the new year very grateful and anxious to see what is in store for this year.

J and I usually spend New Years day, or some time shortly after, writing a list of accomplishments from the year. We are always amazed at what we can do/see/experience in a year. It keeps us humbled and of course grateful. It's easy to get shortsighted and not remember everything when we need a reminder of our bliss.

I look forward to building a new coop, expanding my poultry brood, adding some bees and seeing the fruit trees in their first blossom. I am starting my winter seed catalog review and deciding where J should put his part of the garden. His first.

Now, we are heading out to take the dogs for a walk through the fields. We still have snow cover and the view of the mountains is amazing. Walking more is definitely on the agenda for the new year. As is living life, more and more.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Snow falls...

It's snowing. Like really snowing. Like tap the brakes and still slide by your dirt road snowing. I am in love with this type of snow. Even if it meant spending double time in the dark getting the girls ready and putting some Vaseline on their combs to prevent frostbite, adding more bedding and shutting them up tight for the night. Chores were, well not a chore. More like a meditation.

There is something almost cathedral like when the snow falls and the air is crisp and the sky is dark with bright edges. All you hear is the crunching of your boots and your breath. The world feels big and magical. Like it's all okay.

The picture above is last year during the start of the snow. We were siding the house and trying not to break the lengths of concrete siding in the wind. I am awestruck with the home we have made.

Now, it's time to snuggle down with the pups. And to pray for a snow day tomorrow. It could happen.

Monday, December 17, 2012

The Wants....

I've got the wants today. Lot's of sadness and insecurity in the air. Gives me a glimpse into preppers and hoarders, not that they have anything in common. Other than maybe the desire to be protected and feel secure.

My wants come in the form of hatchery catalogs, seed catalogs and websites on pasture raised pigs. In the form of beehives and rabbit hutches and chicken coops. Fencing and pasture grass and tomatoes the size of my fist.

When I take a breath, I still want these things. They are part of my dream. I just don't need them so desperately. Well, except maybe the chickens. I love my girls.

Things are settling for the winter, though it doesn't quite feel like winter yet. Some snow or moisture would be nice. It is a cold task watering all the trees. The cold we have. But that is it.

My live tree is lit up outside. Apparently you shouldn't host a live tree in your home for more than 5-7 days, or less. Little cramp in the yuletide spirit, but a happy healthy tree to plant come spring is worth it. This tree, if it thrives, will be my annual light up tree outdoors. While I am not especially connected to certain holidays I do believe we need to celebrate things. Often. It keeps special things from becoming mundane and inconsequential. Birthdays, friends, family. All things to cherish and celebrate. Even if it is a celebration of two, J and I. And nothing gets me through the darkness of the season like white lights. I drive through town sometimes in the eve on my way home from work just to get that little lift from the twinkling white lights.

Our new addition, Jagger, has settled into his new pack just fine, albeit there is a lot less room in the family bed. We were a bit worried as we quickly discovered he could leap tall fences in a single bound. Well, I see your leap and raise you an electric fence! Our little rescue weekend turned in to two more projects. Picketing the gate so it is as tall as the fence. That didn't work. So on to project two, hot wiring the perimeter at the top. That worked. So, now they are all safe and happy in their own private dog park.

This week is a short week that will flow nicely into a long weekend. As usual, projects are filling my thoughts. Though these are of the in house variety. I am also working on an idea of how to build a large square bale shelter for my girls come next year. It would be insulated to create the perfect cool/warm conditions they would need without having to rely on dangerous heat lamps. It would also fit a good size flock, which our current coops don't.

I am planning to move one coop with the guineas into the garden. They can wander by day and eat the garden pests.

That is one thing I like about winter. It allows for time to let the mind roam a bit with the possibilities. And provides the right amount of reigns to work those thoughts through a bit before solidifying them with action. I love the introspective time of winter. Envisioning my garden, which is of course perfect in these moments. Looking into the future of what two people can build together. It's nurturing. Taking some time away from all the doing.

I look forward to the solstice. Where we move toward the sun once again.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Black Friday...

Yesterday was a nice quiet day. J went goose hunting in the morning (still no luck). I cooked a small turkey dinner complete with apple pie. The bird was not my own, but that will come in time. I did peruse through the hatchery catalogs picking out next years home grown turkey. The herbs and the onions and the acorn squash were from our garden. A nice start.

I watched Brave from pixar while the bird was in the oven. Then we rented Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter for later. That was surprisingly good. Go Tim Burton. We don't have tv cable service here (by choice), so we do the best we can with what we can download or stream online. Most days are too busy for tv watching anyway.

Today is black friday. I usually pass on shopping but this year I couldn't help myself. I saw this online and we knew we had to get it. So this morning after breakfast in town with a friend I went to pick it up.
How could anyone resist that mug. This is Rocky (name soon to be changed) and he is a boxer. A scrawny little bit that was dropped of last week at the humane society. He will fit in just fine with our other two boxers. He is goofy and gangly and quite a lover. So, black friday shopping it is. Go local and go for making a difference. They also had some roosters and goats and a $5 adoption fee today only for cats. But I was proud of myself. The chick order will be going in to the hatchery sometime soon and we will likely get a rooster out of that, the goats were sadly all male, and the cats were house cats not barn cats. So, all that helped in the restraint department.

So, I am now going to go out and bond with my newest little pack member while J is goose hunting.

Saturday, November 10, 2012


It's that time of year where you have a 70 degree day of sun followed by a chilly snowy day. Today is the chilly snowy day. I went into town on errands. We still have some of the large trees to finish planting. We need to use the tractor to lift them into the holes they are so big. Wonderful score. I have become a craig's list junkie. Looking  for deals in the farm and garden section. I sent one to my friend Mo yesterday. $3.50 bales of straw. Because of the drought straw has cost as much as hay used to. And it has been hard to find.

J and I also built the new dog pen. It is beautiful. It has a wind break and is larger then it used to be. It will also have a shade structure for the summer. They will be happy and safer. And bonus, it looks great (and could hold several goats really well).

Today was an apple crisp kind of day. And movies. We so rarely get a quiet day of rest. This one is welcome after a busy and productive morning of errands and finishing the fence. I am already dreaming of planting in the spring. But, I should hold on and just soak in this day. Now, back to afternoon snoozing.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Hope springs...

There is something about planting a tree. Really something when it is many trees. Something about hope. A tree, while small and splendid, is not meant for those seeking instant gratification. When I had the range management folks out here they told me their saying. "When is the best time to plant a tree? Twenty years ago." Or, second best, last Saturday afternoon.

I am already lusting at the thought of picking a ripe honeycrisp and experiencing the universe in a bite (I really like those. A lot.) Oh, Eve, I get it. The temptation. Apples are so many things to me. Comfort, love, nourishment, fall in New England, cider, cider donuts, friends and leaves and cool nights and brisk air. The scent brings a flood of memories held and those to come. Not to mention the peaches and cherries I planted. I don't know when we will have fruit, but fruit we will have if I have to take a little heater out there come spring to ward off frost. A naysayer said I may not have any luck. I told him that may well be, but I got me a whole boatload of stubborn.

I finally got the orchard planted. They look lovely tall and straight. All ten fruit trees in a lovely pattern in the northeast corner of the farm. They are somewhat protected on two sides by other trees, to the south there are three large grain silos and to the east the neighbors outbuildings and treeline. I imagine in a few years it will be an enchanted place.

Growing up in New England apple orchards were everywhere. A couple people showed surprise recently that apple trees, or fruit trees in general, could grow there. I looked surprised myself and hope I didn't come across rudely when I stated of course. There is an amazing bounty there. I guess our reputation for harsh winters has something to do with the notion. But it isn't so much the deep freeze of winter that limits, but rather that Colorado has the undesirable habit of heavy frosts or hail storms at the most inconvenient of times. Like, all year, especially July if memory serves.

This weekend was especially busy. J went elk hunting in the mountains outside of Gunnison. I spent the weekend semi solo. Actually, I was surrounded by friends, so solo I was not. I went visiting friends, planted trees (thank you bobcat man for digging my holes!), introduced the guineas and chickens to each other, danced with the girls to a rockabilly band, hit a movie, and tackled the three tubs of once green heirloom tomatoes I had to pick suddenly because of our early fall frost.

I always have pioneer longings. Filling my pantry with food I canned. Filling my freezer with fresh pesto and veggies. Well, my job and commute don't exactly allow for that. Once a year I pull off a major endeavor but salsa and pasta sauce were not in the cards. Instead I pulled my favorite cheat. I halved and quartered them and then roasted them in olive oil, sea salt and pepper. 400 degrees for about an hour. Once some of the skin was caramelized or slightly blackened I let them cool, put them in freezer bags, and voila, heaven. I add them to everything and the roasting makes their flavor so much richer. It truly was quick and painless.
Green. Very green. And so many. They were really good sliced on homemade pizza.

About two weeks or so and they were ripe. We did loose some of them.
Sliced and ready to go.


Now, what to do about the two tubs of squash.