Sunday, December 25, 2011

Coming together...

J and I have had the last three days, and one more tomorrow, to work on the farm. The holiday has come and gone and made a small impression, but all in all has felt like any other day, only less traffic.

Things are really coming together. The house is beginning to look like home. Like the combination of J and I. The bathroom is close to being finished. The tile looks amazing so far. Just as I pictured it. J has managed to transform it in just two days. Tomorrow J will grout the tile and and trim the new window so we can finish the tile around it. Today we put in three windows. The two large ones in the bedroom, which have been covered with plywood for several weeks. The view and the light is amazing. And, we put in the new window in the bathroom.

I finally feel like I am in my element. Finishing work. I painted the bathroom, the living room ceiling and the living room walls. They are quickly becoming rooms. I can already see where we will hang photos and our art. Mostly the art is from our friends. It is a plus to have such talented friends. Tomorrow I will likely paint the bedroom, as it is the least cluttered right now. The kitchen is in too much use, and the dining room is full of windows waiting to be hung. The mechanical/laundry room is filled with a makeshift table and tiling tools.

My parents will be visiting next Saturday and staying for the week. They are looking forward to seeing the farm, as they do not have Internet and rarely see the blog or any pictures. My dad has already told me he plans on bringing working clothes so he can help. Well, there is plenty left to do. It will be nice to have them here.

J always asks if I have pictures of everything so we can see the before and after. It is my plan to document the progression and make a picture book. I've made them for trips and one day will actually make one from our wedding photos. Everything in due time. But, here is a sneak peak of the bathroom and the exterior.

In transition. Need to expand for claw foot tub.
Tiling the walls
Love the tile floor

Almost finished.
The exterior has also gone through quite a change.

The original house

Nice and toasty now.
Siding done. Painting in the Spring.
And the best part so far, the view from my bedroom (minus the scaffold).
Okay. Actually the best part, the honey ham/goat cheese/fresh eggs from the girls omelet J made me tonight along with a side of sliced honeycrisp apple. Best meal ever. Usually I am cooking breakfast/lunch and dinner. Tonight, J cooked. Like I said, best meal ever!

Now, it's rest for the weary bones and sore hands. That is after a couple more chapters of book 2 of the Hunger Games (totally hooked).

Monday, December 12, 2011

Not so fast...

OK, so the siding was completed. The soffets were hung with the fascia on the north and south sides. With a lot of cussing and grumpiness. We are tired and getting cranky.

The windows, they will be hung another weekend. This weekend was two very long days, 9 and 12 hours, just the working part. Inside, we finished pulling down the drywall, cleaning the mess and fixing some of the headers and last night at 8pm finished putting in the new insulation.

We had to get the insulation finished so the drywall guys can come do their magic. It will feel like a lot was accomplished when that is finished. Then we can look to finishing the inside. Moving time keeps changing. January, then March then... I did pick up some hardwood samples for the living room floor. Looks like we will probably go with wide plank red oak. The white oak was a little too brown/beige when finished, and I like the warmth of the red and gold in the red oak. Truly, the hand scraped tobacco road acacia (?) was the pick, but way out of our price range (more than double the red oak).

Working long hours, commuting three hours a day, and working on the farm are becoming a bit draining. I hit the pillow and I am out. Which, if you know me is pretty normal. The abnormal piece is it happens at 7pm instead of 10.

Work has been stressful for both J and I. This is the part they don't always show on the DIY channel. And by the way, how in the world do they redo an entire house in a week??

But, I am totally counting my blessings and even the Christmas carols aren't bugging me, quite so bad. However, I am opting for bed instead of going to meditation. I need a few more z's to feel normal.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

New Light, New View

The windows are here. Most of the new electric wires are run with the new lights hung. Saturday the siding will be complete with the help of friends and the windows will be hung. We are also having professionals come finish the drywall. I like smooth walls, not popcorn bumpy weirdness. So, that is not so easy. Hence, the professionals.

Life is good.

And the best part, I get to start buying paint. Another good part, the siding we thought wasn't primed, is. So instead of 90 days to paint the house, we have 180. It is all coming together. And hopefully this confident moment will not end in an opportunity for the universe to send a lesson in humility and throw a wrench in the works.

As for the windows, I am so excited to see the view out of the bedroom when they are hung. The original windows were small. These new ones are nearly floor to ceiling and the view outside is of the front range in all it's purple majesty. Nice!

But now, we sleep, as we are still not feeling so hot and the weekend is coming and won't stop for a measly cold.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

I. Am. Beat.

I'm home sick today. Not homesick, but in bed and not at work sick. What I thought was allergies and a pound of drywall dust up my nose is actually a cold and the beginning of sinus chaos. Going non-stop will do that to a girl. This girl anyway.

This weekend was cold. Really cold. So J and I quickly sheathed the front of the house where the electric company moved the meter. Then we went inside.

J put on another layer of mud on the bathroom walls. We decided to get someone who knows what they are doing to complete the finish work on the drywall. Maybe use a skip trowel technique to match the plaster in the original part of the house. Then we ripped out the base of the drywall in the living room and I painted kilz around the bottom. I think that was this weekend.

Friday night was a home depot run to get plywood to lay in the living room to strengthen the subfloor. Then we will lay hardwood. We go back and forth about what we should get. I like wide plank and love the hickory we laid in our house in town. The rest of the house is a thin width red stained wood. We have talked about eventually going over all the old wood with new wood, as there is no subfloor under the old wood and in some places is looking a little thin and moving. (Not good that your floor dips when you walk on it.) So, new style or match the old wood. That is the question and cost will probably have something to do with the answer.

We started ripping down the drywall in the living room. While disgusting, there is a certain charm and joy in putting a hammer through the wall, grabbing an edge and pulling it down. I think we all enjoy demo. Some of us a bit too much. A girl has to have some fun right?

We also had a visit from our neighbor across the road. He explained that he sees us here all day on the weekends and thought we might need a little something to help us through and he needed a little something to do the day before. He made us a banana bread and brought it over. Now, that is a neighbor. And bonus, it was really good, especially during a break with fresh coffee. We gave him a tour and he couldn't believe the work we were doing and what we've done so far, He isn't alone in that. I am constantly amazed at what we have accomplished. Again, I so can't wait to be there full-time.

There was a short break in there somewhere on Sunday. J made a homemade target and we went to the mound in our field and set it up. Sunday was the first day I shot my new rifle. Again, I have never been much for guns. I don't play many video games or anything like that. I must say though, I am a pretty good shot. First one I missed the whole target, then set my aim again and hit it every time in the circle in the middle. I tend to move ever so slightly down and to the right. After two rounds I was done. Too cold. Numbness was setting in and the dogs needed to come back outside more than I needed to shoot at wood. But, guilty pleasure, it was fun.

The agenda for the rest of the week, windows get delivered tomorrow. Call the tree guy to place an order for the spring, place my seed order (yesterday, best day of winter...Baker Creek seed catalog arrived!!), and get all the little nails out of the framing in the living room so we can hang the new drywall Saturday. Unless Saturday is above arctic chill, then we finish the last bit of siding and hang the soffets.

Yeah, we can sleep next year.

Oh, and I finished reading Barnheart. It came in the mail Thursday. Awesome. Loved it.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011


I may or may not plug things here, but this book I just have to. Jenna is amazing and I have been reading her blog daily since I found it a couple years ago. She is definitely part of the fire that moved me toward a farm. Her first book Made from Scratch was great too. When that came out is about the time I started reading her blog Cold Antler Farm. If anyone is interested signed copies (signed by her and her dog Gibson) are available at Battenkill Books, a local bookstore in her part of New England.

She mentioned in her blog today that she was writing an article of how farming changed her in ways she didn't anticipate, like what she wore to work. I keep thinking of the saying don't dress for the job you have (I'm an executive) dress for the job you want (farmer). Somehow, when I enter my office in my carhart vest and cowboy boots, something feels amiss, but then that is kinda normal for the Rocky Mountains. But, I can't wait to take off my suit (or what I have recently got to telling myself passes as a suit) and put on jeans, work boots and go out and check on the chickens while drooling over tree catalogs from the division of forestry and mapping out how to set up rotational grazing pens on the property for the goats. I have a feeling if someone checked my Internet cruising at work it would surprise them. Do you think reading about goat breeding counts as porn?? Let's hope not.

Things continue to move along. The roof was completed last week. Right after I blogged about how long it was taking. Do you think they read the blog? Tomorrow the electric company comes to move the meter off the house so we can finish the siding. Tomorrow night also calls for 20 degrees and snow.

Saturday was pretty windy and we were pretty much done with what we could accomplish outside, so we moved inside. Mudding new drywall and prepping the living room. I was not in my best form on Saturday, once again scrapping at little hard circles of paneling glue off the old drywall thinking to myself do I really want to spend all this time preserving this disgusting, cat stained drywall. That would be a resounding "NO". Luckily before I voiced my opinion, not to sound cranky and all, J came in and said this is gross. Let's replace it. (Hurray!)

Well, as you may or may not know, decisions like these can open a whole can of worms. So as we were discussing it I asked, can we replace the drywall and not get sucked into any additional projects replacing everything. It is an old house. Not everything is all shiny and new. The temptation to make it that way can be strong. We both firmly agreed that we could. So, as we would be making a mess, we decided to roll up the new carpet the previous owner had put in so as not to ruin it. And then, we saw the disintegrating particle board, cat stained and soiled, under the carpet pad. carpet pad gets tossed, new carpet goes into the grain silo for storage and we commence to spend the next two hours ripping out the most appalling sub-floor ever. Note to readers, never use particle board as a sub-floor. It absorbs everything, gets musty and smelly and then turns to gross dust. The bright side to this, there was not so gross plywood sub-floor under a layer of tar paper. As a result, we did not tear down to the frame, and I spent Sunday putting Kilz on the plywood to protect it from any moisture coming from underneath. We will add another layer of tar paper and plywood and then lay hardwood. No side projects, I swear, pinky promise and everything.

Sunday I spent the day at the farm by myself. It was lovely, warm and I spent most of it outside and in the barn. I scraped the barn doors and framing and put on a coat of primer. We will be replacing them, but I wanted to give it a protective coat until the spring. I painted the feet of the claw foot and the outside of the tub. The tub is now a nice misty/smoky blue to match the tile accents and the feet are oil rubbed bronze to match the fixtures. Once we finish the bathroom and can put in the tub/sink/toilet, we will probably move the spare bed up there and stay all weekend. We have owned the house for two months today and have yet to spend the night. Seems strange.

I also met with John from prairie range land services. Awesome guy. Would love his job. We basically spent an hour walking the property and talking about what I need to do to grow grazing grass, prep the fields, plant the trees, how and where to plant the orchard, a new product called bio char that rocks in the growth department, and healing some of the field that was a parking lot for tractors. He went back to his office and sent me that same day a huge packet of articles, catalogs and how to's for the grass farmer. I don't mind so much paying taxes when I get a host of "free" farm consultants. So, I am almost ready to place my tree order for the windbreaks, and also ask his colleague Mike for a quote on them doing the planting. The tree order will likely be 200+ baby trees and shrubs for approx. $250.00. Gotta love the tree people.

Well, off to wind down. Dream of berries and pies (of which the Thanksgiving pie was not so great, as J enjoyed, repeatedly, pointing out. Totally humbled.) and grazing goats.

new roof and siding (to be painted)

Thursday, November 24, 2011


Today there is a lot to be thankful for. Family, friends, folks who show up in whipping wind to help you "raise a barn", loving pups, fresh eggs, sunshine in November, and the list goes on.

J is up at the farm. It is amazingly in the 60's today and he wanted to get some work done. I will bring him lunch later. I am at home making a Thanksgiving dinner. I bought a big enough turkey to make potpies after. Totally in the list of favorite foods. Next year we will be preparing a turkey we raised alongside vegetables we grew. This year was Whole Foods mayhem the day before and wonderful pie making at Dana's house. Hopefully her pies came out, as I realized I screwed up the crust ingredients on the first two (one mine, one hers).

Lately I have been obsessed with winter squash. The seed catalogs should be arriving any time now for January ordering. We are trying to decide what kind of heirloom squash to grow, so I have been trying every variety I can find. Cooking them in the best way, stuffed with apples, dried cherries or cranberries, walnuts or pecans and honey or maple syrup and a little butter. MMMMMM. It's like dessert only good for you. At least that is what I tell myself. Guess that depends on the butter and sweet added.

Today the menu is, smashed baby red potatoes, roasted brussel sprouts, sauteed spinach and mushrooms, orange cranberry chutney, apple pie and of course, turkey. All that for two people, unless we find some folks along the way today.

I was recently astounded that for all my years as a vegetarian I never ate a tofurkey. I think I might be glad about that.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Cookin' with gas...

I can't believe it is Sunday evening and I am almost ready for bed, to begin another week. Albeit a short week.

Yesterday morning J woke up before the alarm and found that it snowed. Not much. A dusting really, but we were worried what that meant just north of us at the farm where the weather is always a bit more extreme. We were very lucky to have not had enough to delay starting work on the siding.
Any weather typically means one thing on the farm. You guessed it...wind. It was so gusty that the roofers tarp blew off the south side and was blowing over the top of the roof. We finally got hold of them in the late morning so they could come fix it and not leave the roof totally exposed. I think it is taking them so long because of the wind. I anticipated the job to be completed by now. That is me giving them the benefit of the doubt.

Due to the wind, it has been an ongoing project picking up old shingles, tar paper and nails that have blown all over the yard. Hoping we don't get a roofing nail in a tire. Not fun.

Even though it was windy, Dave and J's friend from work Mike arrived to help start the siding.

The nice thing is the sun actually did come out and the snow was gone rather quickly. We were able to finish siding almost the whole south side.

The down side is when we arrived this morning we had no heat. The thermostat read a chilly 46 degrees. Not so good when you come into the house to warm up and it feels colder inside. When we were finally able to get hold of someone from the heating company they told us it was probably related to the roofers. J went on the roof (no wind today...hear that..angels singing hallelujah). The roofers had covered the vent when they came to fix the tarps. As a result, the heat kicked off, otherwise carbon monoxide city, or something like that. Luckily by lunchtime, totally toasty.

Today we had additional help. While we didn't have Mike again, our friends Josh and Lisa came to help. It was awesome having a couple extra hands today. Unfortunately they came later in the morning. Which meant I had to climb three stories of scaffolding to help J finish the peak on the south side. Does anyone out there know how afraid of heights I am. Think complete white terror. I actually burst into tears for a moment trying to make it to the third level. Then I told myself a lovely little saying a dear friend used to say, "Buck up and be a woman". Apparently it worked and I was able to assist finishing the peak. Now for the north side, I am hoping to time it in line with our helpers. One magnificent moment of overcoming absolute terror at a time please.

So as a result of all this assistance (thank you thank you thank you) we finished two sides this weekend. The downside is that we ordered primed siding and didn't get it. Too much hassle to fix the error. However, that doesn't leave us a very big window to paint and painting when it is cold is not exactly ideal. We may just prime and wait it out until warmer weather. In Colorado that could be next week. Maybe.

At the end of the day, after all the tools are put away and we played a game of nail sweep in the driveway, it was very satisfying. J and I took the dogs for a walk along the cornfield and talked about windbreaks. We picked dried corn cobs left over from the harvest on the edge of the fields behind the house. These will go to the chickens. The rest of the field is headed to Connecticut to be made into organic livestock feed (probably the one I buy!).

I spent most of this past week studying trees for windbreaks and coming up with an order for CSU's nursery. They provide modestly priced trees in bulk for windbreaks and creating forested areas. Most of our choices will not only provide the break, but also fruit for preserving and food to attract wildlike and birds, acorns for the pigs (future plans) and cover for the animals. They will come to us very small, but it always seems like you plant your own roots and plans for the future when you plant trees. No instant gratification with trees. But now, it is time to plant my weary butt in bed. It's almost 7:30 for crying out loud.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011


The roofing has begun.

Siding delivered.

This weekend is gonna be big.

Anyone feeling the urge to do some labor for adoration and a home cooked lunch is welcome.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

What a difference a day makes...or two

Wow. I can't believe what J and I accomplished yesterday and half of today with our friends Dave and Bryan. And get this, during wind advisory and winter warnings. It has been beyond blustery.

The majority of the house is sheathed as of noon today. Yesterday morning it was covered in the foam and 2x4's. It made you think, what the heck are they doing??

Let me just say, it is so much quieter than the house in town. Last night the wind was rattling the house and windows. When we were at the farm, shut the door and...silence.

So, Dave was the cutter, and I was the runner and numbers gal. For the most part we set up shop in the barn, which was nice since the door faces east. No wind. Today we moved out to the yard east of the house. Again, the house was a nice wind break for cutting. We borrowed some steel scaffolding and it made all the difference in the world. Once we got to the high spots it went smooth, since the scaffold went across almost the length of the house. We skipped some areas, as we are cutting out for larger windows in the bedroom, but want to wait until they are in, and we are waiting for the electric company to relocate the meter off the face of the house.

Even with the wind, I loved working outside. No matter what the elements (I think) it sure beats an office. And the dogs were well behaved. We just had a small injury yesterday. Ananda, the smallest pup, got a little hung up running through some line fencing. He scraped the inside of his back leg. Like a trooper, he didn't miss a beat and played all day. We didn't notice the injury until we all settled down for dinner. Right now the dogs are passed out on the bed. They played real hard these past couple days. Life is rough.

One of the best parts about the work we are doing has been feeding the crew. It's like family meal at a restaurant. Homemade breakfast burritos in the morning is a nice way to start the day. Yesterday I made chicken fajitas for lunch and had pulled pork going all day in the slow cooker. When we all cleaned up the site yesterday, we sat down for a dinner of pulled pork sandwiches. Yum.

I love the new peak now that we took off the extra roof coming down from the original peak. I can almost see what it is going to look like finished. We will start siding next weekend, weather permitting. So, if anyone is up for providing a little neighborly help, we could use it!!

J tells me I haven't quite told the whole story. Everything sounds so wonderful. We work hard, the house is coming along, building a dream together. Sweet right? It is true. I did edit a little, as I am not one to focus on the negative. We did want to kick each other to the curb for a bit this weekend. It passed around 10ish yesterday morning. You see, fear settles in, usually around the money stuff, like oh my god we just wrote a check for how much and we have how many more to go. And, winter is on it's way and we have how many things to accomplish that we will never get to in time. And, where the heck is my x and the y and did you bring the dog food and enough to eat for six meals... Yah, so, like I said the fear settles in and so does the testiness. Lucky for J, I can't hold a grudge and stuff usually rolls off, after a good cuss or two. Lucky for me, once J gets fed and I tell him it's going to be great after the fiftieth time he asks why did I sign up for this, he is usually quite happy with where we are headed.

The work we are doing now does make for some long weeks, and regular work has been stressful for us both. This physical work actually feels like a nice break. For me anyway. But the weekends come and it is another 10-20 hours of labor only to be Monday again.

When we started I told J we had to make time for the recharge stuff too. Which is why when we finished the sheathing around noon we were done for the day. J made it back to the house in time to change and head to sweat lodge with his crew. Every other Sunday he goes to sweat lodge. Most often he is the fire starter, getting the Grandfathers (the heated stones) ready for lodge. It lasts about two to three hours total, consisting of four rounds of praying, drumming and sweating. He'll be exhausted in a good way when he is done.

My friend Mo and her husband Will are coming up to see the farm with their little one Ronan. I can't wait. Mo was my roommate when I moved to Colorado. When I moved in with J, she moved onto her own farm. They now raise sheep, ducks, turkeys, chickens and have several horses, dogs, cats, etc. Great spread. I'm ciked to show Mo the new place.

And then, relax. It does happen. Sometimes.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

And so the story goes...

This weekend was a flurry of activity.

With help, we drywalled the bathroom walls and ceiling, prepped the floor and laid down new subfloor for the tile. We also drywalled the exposed living room wall. I am going to miss the wood wall, but it is a total superhighway for mice, so it had to be done.

Sunday was gorgeous. We had a slow morning and went to my favorite farm and ranch store. I had to swap my new carhart overalls for a different size. (My legs are just a tad longer than J thought). While we were there we decided to start fencing. Our inaugural pen is for the dogs, off the west side of the barn. So we got t-posts, fencing, a post setter and a jack to lift posts out. T-posts don't look like much, but they are pricey. We have a ton of them bordering the property. The fences could sure use a facelift. We will use the remover to pull them out as we replace the fencing and re-use them when we divide up the pastures for rotational grazing or new babies (animals, not small children).

Yesterday we received a call that the insulation was finished. We now have what looks like a smurf house, all covered in blue. This means this weekend we can start the sheathing and prepare the house for the new siding. I can't wait to be there full-time. The whole patience thing is a bit of a struggle. This week I have Friday off. (Thank you Veterans). I hope to paint the outside of the bathtub and take care of some of the smaller things that need to wrap up, because Saturday morning it is game on if the weather permits.

I also bought a new book this week that is really bringing on the green thumb jones. The Heirloom Life Gardener by Jere and Emilee Gettle. They are a bit on the eccentric side, which I love about them, and have done an amazing job preserving and re-discovering heirloom seed varieties. They own the Baker Creek Seed Company. Other than the fact that their seed catalogs are an ag geeks winter porn, this new book discusses a lot about the care and growing of the various varieties, especially if you want to save your own seeds. J is getting excited about growing veggies he actually likes. He is not the same fan of zucchini that I am.

He just finished The Dirty Life. I think it has really inspired him, however, I don't think he will sign up to farm 500 acres anytime soon. (Working on him though). I also ordered the documentary Small Farm Rising. One of the farms showcased is Essex Farm, which is the farm of the author of The Dirty Life. As a former New York upper-state short-timer, I am curious to see what's happening in the Adirondack farm world. New York state is one of my favorite places, along with the majority of rural New England. I long for windy back roads and hot apple cider. Mmmm.

Well, off to dream again of orange eggplants and baby goats.

Friday, November 4, 2011

New weekend

I'm not much of a girlie girl. Not a big shopper or anything like that. But man, give me an allowance for building supplies and it is sheer heaven. Last week we bought lighting for the house. I am totally in love with the lights for the kitchen. Vintage bronze finish with old school glass with the warps and bubbles.

Tonight was tile night. White subway tiles, black and white mosaic tile for the floor. It will be totally vintage. I cannot wait to soak in the tub in that bathroom. It's the simple pleasures right?

J continued the birthday gifts last night, and the farm theme, with a shopping trip to our local Jax Outdoor store. Jax is the bomb-diggety. Their ranch store is even better, for me anyway. I am now the surreal owner of a firearm. For those of you who know me, total twilight zone right? I am not a gun girl in the least. But, and this is an important but, if you plan to raise livestock, and live in an area with predators who have a hankering for small livestock, it becomes a necessity. Putting down a sick, injured, dying animal or your dinner comes with the territory. So, safety course here I come. I must admit, they all were pretty bland and my attitude was whatever, not really interested but I will entertain your desire to arm this pacifist. Until I picked up the Henry Repeating rifle (which is now mine). I think I may need an intervention shortly.

As a result, J and I had a conversation about how we have absorbed things from each other. He never in a million thought he would be buying a farm. I, little miss handgun control, well, never thought I would touch let alone own a rifle. At the same time, it seems to be the natural evolution in this agrarian life.

That said, still very surreal. If I start quoting Sarah Palin, someone send in the troops quick!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Birthday blessings

Today is my birthday. It has been a hectic day at work. I have a little john deere tractor on my shelf near my desk to remind me daily why I put up with some things. Mostly, I love what I do. It's other things that take a lot of patience. The best part of the day was that I had Colorado Legal Services Migrant Farm Workers Division come speak to my staff. They are wonderful and do an amazing service to those invisible folks who bring us our food in not so amazing conditions. They are hands down my favorite group to collaborate with.

As for my day of wonderful celebration, my gifts have thus far been farm themed. J was great and nailed it. The best part, channelock fence pliers (bring on the baby goats!). These came with bog mud boots, of a purple paisley/flowery persuasion (still a hippie), carhart overalls, another little john deere tractor for the nightstand, and a book on raising small livestock. I am geared and ready to go. Making plans for the land has been fun. I can't wait until January, sitting inside on a cold day with a pile of seed catalogs and a huge dose of hope for the spring.

But for the rest of tonight. Dinner and a movie. Life is good.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Name that farm!

J and I have been going round about naming the farmstead. I think every place needs a name. We were trying to pick out distinguishing features in the landscape. Using our names. Old stories or childrens books and taking a name from there. Something that captures the essence of the existing place and also the hope for the place. So far, blank. Or at the very least, we can't agree. Hence, J said, put it out on the blog. So... if there's anybody out there, please help us name the farmstead.

One source of consistency has been a hawk that watches us through the window from his perch in the lone tree bordering the corn field. Another is the fox that I followed down the county road for about a quarter mile. Apparently the road was his too. Fine by me. Sharing works (except for the chickens. no sharing sir).

Another is the wind and the amazing views.

So please, spread the word, post ideas in the comments or email us at


Sunday, October 30, 2011

It was a blustery day...

The tree in our sideyard does not typically look like something out of Dr. Suess. However, yesterday we had those lovely Northern Colorado winds for a good part of the afternoon. Luckily, we were putting in insulation in the bathroom wall and drywalling. It cut down on the drafts considerably, with the exception of the nice gaps around the windows. New windows are on order and should arrive around Thanksgiving. While we would love to wait to put up the siding until the windows arrive, it does not appear that mother nature is feeling cooperative this year. The large storm this past week will be followed by another snow on Tuesday.

So, this week we get a new roof (weather permitting), a septic system, and electric and gas to the heater. We are on the look out for a nice used woodstove for the house. It's back to Craig's List for me.

In the local Fence Post, a rural publication for farmers and ranchers, I did find a good price on metal roof panels for the barn. Right now it has a lovely hole in it. The metal has been pieced together over the years and could use some help. The barn also leans. Really leans. So much so there is a gap in one of the sliding doors of several inches (I would estimate around 6 inches). Not so good. J will be calling our friend George to figure out how to square it up again so we can reinforce the walls. George is amazing and has built the coolest tree house ever. Ever! If anyone can figure out how to fix the barn it is probably him.

Friday night J asked me what I wanted to do. Friday night is typically date night. Dinner at Ingredient, salad and brick oven pizza, and then a walk through Old Town and then coffee at my favorite cafe and indie book store. Instead, I said "farm", so we went up and unloaded a truck full of drywall. Note again the incessant moving of large heavy materials. I am now a drywall humper. Or is it one who humps drywall. Anyway, I obtained this new title by moving over a dozen sheets through the snow into the house, with J's help of course. Since the plumber roughed in our new plumbing, we probably won't have a toilet until the floor is tiled. (And, power tools really rock. The power chisel totally worked on the floors!) During the day we hit the portapotty in the fields across the street. In the evening, it is number 1 in the dark behind the barn (note to self if you decide to sit on the ground back there). The portapotty's do have their own hazard. We saw several on their sides as a result of yesterday's wind. Not so good if you happen to be occupying one during an unreasonably large gust.

J went out back Friday night and got quite the surprise. A large shadow was looming in the darkness. At first he thought a prayer had been answered. It was a huge John Deere. But no, it was not a gift. It was next to a huge, yes huge, gaping whole in the ground. J met the septic guy out there on Friday morning. He was raring to go. As a result, our yard was now a very large trench connected to an extremely large pit for the new leach field.
Did I say the dogs love their new sand box? I believe they think it is just for them.

My mother-in-law sent me a book for my upcoming birthday. (Best mother-in-law ever).  She sent me The Dirty Life. It is one of my favorite books, and I didn't have a copy. Love it. J has been reading it. Someone told him about it recently and he asked if I read it. I told him it was one of my favorites. He started reading it and loves it so far. He also said does this mean in 10 years we will be farming full time and selling shares of veggies and such to folks? In my mind I said "hell yeah". In reality it was more like, "mmmm, could be". It is amazing to see a dream start coming into fruition.

Today we also met two of our neighbors. One farms the land behind us for the owner, the other was making cabinets when we walked up to his shop. Both seem like great guys. I look forward to meeting the rest of their families. There are only four houses on the road. It will be important to know your your neighbors, as I am sure my friends and family on the east coast this weekend can attest. (Wicked blizzahd guys).

So now, it is winding down with a movie and the nightly ice cream. Mmmm.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Baby it's cold outside

Last night was the first snow of the season (the first real snow anyway). Boy, was it a doozy.

Many parts of the state got hit with 6-12 inches of heavy wet snow. Even more in the mountains. At the farmhouse yesterday evening the snow was well on the ground before it started near our house in town, just 12 miles south. Trees are down everywhere and branches are littering  the streets, roofs and folks yards. J went up to the farmhouse this evening to make sure everything was ok. The large farm south of us has no power. About 12,000 in Northern Colorado are out of power since last night.

It's days like this I want to be in the farmhouse with a woodstove, a hot cup of tea and a book. I am in the middle of three books right now. Four Kitchens, My Life Behind the Burner in New York, Hanoi, Tel Aviv and Paris; The Backyard Orchardist; and The Basics of Permaculture Design. The permaculture book is blowing my mind. There is so much to consider when looking at your property and developing all these micro-ecosystems in order to create a sustainable healthy growing system. Again, totally wishing I studied Ag in college.

The farmhouse is located in a very windy area. The closer you get to Wyoming, the more consistent the wind is. I believe it takes a certain measure of character to live in various parts of Wyoming. I personally do not have it. With that said, the farm is not in as bad a place as our northern neighbors, but a strong windbreak is in our future nonetheless. Picking trees is the big challenge. I would love some hearty maples or majestic oaks, but this is not New England. And here, something fast growing would be preferable. We will need three staggered rows of trees. Evergreens, taller deciduous and smaller bushes.

The windbreak will also keep the orchard trees and berry bushes from getting the tar beat out of them by the wind. I look forward to having my own little forest again. One thing I miss is the rich earthy smell of a deep forest. It is rare and disarming when I catch that smell here in Colorado. The red dirt here just doesn't have that organic scent. It holds more of a thin dusty note. But here the grass sings in the wind and the sound of the corn rustling is amazing. It is reminiscent of the ocean tide. When you walk our field at night, that sound is everywhere, subtle and constant.

I was discussing the orchard plans with someone today and told her that I think in some ways it is my attempt to create a little piece of back home here, where trees don't hold the same presence. I miss the canopy of them and can't wait to lie beneath the apple blossoms in spring watching the bees get busy.

I've spent so much time day dreaming about creating the perfect farmstead, I find myself impatient to get started. I am a little sad that winter has come so soon. All planting will have to wait until spring. Until then, I guess I am left with dreaming of dirt under my nails.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Go speed racer, go

Things are continuing to move along at quite the pace. We are only three weeks in to owning the farm and we have done so much in just a few evenings and three weekends. Heat is ready to go waiting on gas hookup from the plumber. This weekend we finished getting the outside ready for the insulation guy. Not sure what day he is coming, but we are ready. J also took the chimney down and put a temporary patch in place. All set for the roofer. And hopefully the patch is ready for snow. It's in the forecast for Tuesday.

We still have several feet of brick/chimney under the roof to take down. We cleaned the bricks that J took down so far and stacked them near the back fence. We will be re-purposing them as a fire pit. This past summer our meditation community went camping in Wyoming. The camping hosts' property had this amazing fire pit dug into the ground that you went down several steps to enter into (see below). It could hold about 40 people on 2 levels of seating. It was built that way because it is so windy in Wyoming. We were thinking of possibly doing something similar, though on a much smaller scale. As long as I have a view of the front range, I'm okay with however we decide to build it.

Several people commented this week on how lucky I am that J is so handy. Handy is truly an understatement. If there is something to be done, J will not only figure out how to do it, but how to do it perfectly. I am in awe and feel so grateful that he can help me manifest what I see. I recently read the book Shopclass as Soulcraft. Excellent book, and so reminded me of him. It spoke of the loss of craftsman and tradesman, and how the education system has moved so far toward intellectual trades, that we limit a huge population of people from finding their place in the world, as well as lose our ability to create solutions. We also find that sense of pride in our accomplishments elusive. It speaks to how when we create or repair things, the level of problem solving and the ability one needs for contemplation are at a much higher level of thought than we give credit or place value.

I told someone it was a dangerous book for me to read, as it would make me want to leave office life for a life of work creating something real, rather than cerebral. Not necessarily a bad thing, except the pay doesn't quite equal the value of the work. (2 mortgages right now doesn't exactly help.) I probably read way too many memoirs of folks who leave the big city life in search of an agrarian dream. In reading this book, it touched upon something I think many people long for. Living a simple life of value, where you can readily see the result of your labor, and know that what you did helped others. Like feeding people. What has more value, creativity and beauty than that. Nourish the body, nourish the soul.

I think J is one of those people of lost arts. His skill and soul run deep. I am very lucky.

Thursday, October 20, 2011


J asked me last night what is the first animal I want to get for the farm. I didn't hesitate. Bees. I am utterly in love with bees, and of course, honey. My most favorite class trip was going to the apiary to watch the bee whisperers do their magic. I could watch bees for hours.

In addition, when we plant the garden and when we plant the orchard, the bees will be a necessary partner in producing abundant healthy organic food. And, they will be in additional heaven being so near to the miles of organic farm fields that surround our property. I have been reading Storey's guide to beekeeping. What I thought might be a snooze is actually an interesting read. Bees are an amazing cooperative community.

When we bought the farm, it had been empty for quite sometime. The inspector indicated in his report that the farm had a wasp infestation. I think infestation is a bit dramatic. However...

This is what we pulled down. I wish I had the picture of it up. This wasp hive was incredible, and quite intimidating. The outer shell was layers upon layers of an ash like paper. Inside was several combs. While wasps, if that is what they were, do not inspire the same warm fuzzies in me as honey bees, I do find their industry and skill remarkable. It almost made me wish we had kept the hive up. Almost. When I was a house painter, many moons ago, I was regularly stung on my hands, as they love to make their homes behind shutters.

J said, bees aren't an animal, they are insects. So what animal would you get.

Well, since I am not yet up to the task of getting up any earlier than I do now (5am to get to work 65 miles away, 75 after we move), the milking animals (ie. goats) will have to wait. So, that brings me to one of my next choices. Heritage pigs. Namely, the Large Black.

Anyone who has known me, knows that I was pretty much a vegetarian most of my adult life. But, as is the downfall of many vegetarians (secretly or not so secretly), bacon is close to my favorite food, or at the very least a guilty pleasure. A chef friend of mine used to tell me stories about the vegetarian waitresses sneaking slices of bacon off the trays he was pre-cooking for the shift. They would beg him to keep their secret. Since falling from grace, I would love to actually raise my own meat, as does my friend Mo. She too was a meat abstainer.  We will trade, one pig for a lamb. Another delicacy I have gained a total flavor for.

One issue is, do you name your dinner? My vote is out for the time being. In theory, I think I could. In actuality, who knows. Pigs are intelligent creatures that mirror us in many ways. We shall see how the story goes come spring, and of course, appropriate fencing, as pigs are notorious escape artists. And, I don't believe I am quite up to wrestling a 200+ animal back to a pen.

Monday, October 17, 2011


This was one productive weekend. I never made it to the small acreage livestock workshop. I heard from my friend Mo that it was most excellent and she learned a lot that she can use in raising her sheep. Can't wait to take it next year. The local extension service has been great so far.

We paid a carpenter friend to help us get the furring strips up on the exterior so we could get ready for the insulation. We also had to cut the edges off of the original roof. They left the original roof and just added the sides on at later dates.

Again, most of construction is moving building supplies. Many 2x4's took a tour of the grounds in these hands. But, after sitting at a desk most days, it was welcome, no matter how much I felt the burn.

This is the before and after of the exterior so far..

We had to remove part of the original 2x12 boards in order to insulate on of the original walls and then covered it with plywood sheathing. I tried to save the boards that made it through the removal. I will be building an outdoor farmhouse table with them. I hope that works out.

We also framed in the new bathroom wall to prepare for the plumber.

The best part of Sunday was dinner. My friend Linda, chef extraordinaire, made Joe and I dinner as an anniversary present. She was chef on a small boat in Alaska when we were married and so she wanted to make us a special dinner for our anniversary. Luckily busy schedules pushed it out until yesterday, when a home cooked meal was much needed. We had pork tenderloin stuffed with spinach and goat cheese topped with a spicy pineapple salsa, grilled asparagus, roasted potatoes and balsamic plum and goat cheese over arugula. Divine! It was such a treat, as anyone who has experienced Linda's cooking could attest.

It was sad to go back to the office today. I would very much love to spend the next three months just working on the farm and the property. Will be swinging by tomorrow to see the progress.