happy new year

Happy New Year! I’m still allowed to say that, right? I can’t believe January is almost over. And furthermore, I have not posted on here in a very long time. I am planning to change that and try to post more regularly. I’m shooting for twice a month for the whole year – that’s 24 posts. That shouldn’t be too hard, right? Right.

We are in the thick of winter around here. We’ve had fresh snow every week since winter started, and we even got a blizzard a few days ago. Right now I can’t get out of the driveway, but I have been promised that it will be shoveled for me this evening. Perhaps we should invest in a snow blower for next year. Some of the drifts in the yard are a couple of feet high!

Even with crazy snow and wind, I love Colorado in the winter. After the snow clouds roll away, the sun comes out and casts everything in a dazzling glow. The trees wear snow like frosting. Walking through the woods feels like being in Narnia; it is magical and slightly eerie.

We are getting ready to take our pig in for processing. We got a hampshire piglet last summer and have been raising her for meat ever since. This is the first time I have ever tried my hand at this and it has been a great experience. We bought the pig at 40 lbs, and she is now around 300 lbs, and ready to be delivered to the processor. It is a little bittersweet – my husband has grown quite fond of her, and she is rather cute and pretty smart. However, this has activated a certain amount of respect for where our pork comes from that otherwise would have lain dormant, had we continued to only buy our meat at the grocery store. I feel connected to my food in a new way, and to the lengthy and sobering process of raising an animal and caring for it and feeding it well so that it can, in turn, feed us well.

One of my goals for this year is to go on 20 family hikes. Our first one was to Castlewood Canyon State Park. It is a beautiful place, with a deep canyon, an old dam, a waterfall, and lots of scenic hiking. This was our second time visiting this park, and each time, I have left wanting to come back and explore some more. We did a 4 mile hike along the creek bottom. Everything was covered in a blanket of snow. We threw snowballs, ate snow, and goofed off as we hiked. I was attacked with snow several times and later found a handful of snow leftover in my coat pocket. We found a side trail that went over a little bridge and up a small mountain. There were only a handful of people there, probably because of the snow. It was a lovely afternoon.

I am beginning to plan out my garden for this spring. When I say “beginning” I mean that I have ordered a catalog from Botanical Interests. Ha. But there is plenty of time. I probably won’t start my seeds indoors until April, since we can’t plant outside safely until after Mother’s Day. I am also perusing chicken catalogs and tossing around the idea of getting a baby lamb or goat. We shall see. I will somehow have to organize my animals this year to coincide with several trips we are planning on taking. I will need to find someone to come and care for the animals while we are gone.

I hope your year is off to a great start!

busy june

June has been quite busy so far. I keep thinking I must write a post for the blog, but then I get carried off again to put out another (metaphorical) fire, or tend to something that needs tending.

We have traveled a bit recently, to Santa Fe for vacation. I do love the high desert, and all those juniper trees. We did a lot of yummy eating (they have amazing restaurants there, tons of them!), some hiking and adventuring and sight-seeing, but boy, after a week, I was ready to come home to my quiet prairie, chickens, garden, and long, thinking walks through the countryside.

I did not grow all those roma tomatoes. My tomato plants are only just starting to flower. I belong to a food co-op and was able to get a 25 lb box of tomatoes for some canning. I actually put up a lot more cans than the picture shows – that seems to be the only pic I took of the fruit of my labors – silly me! I canned about a dozen jars of pizza sauce, and about a dozen of salsa. Both came out deliciously. My family raved and we are almost out of the salsa already. I plan to get two boxes next time, unless my garden is producing enough, and get ahead of the salsa addiction my people seem to have. Would any of you like those recipes?

The garden is fully planted, and now I am engaged in a daily battle against insects, rodents, deer, and wind. It does not rain much here. I am told that it hails quite mercilessly. We have had one good drenching so far, and a few sprinklings. That is something I miss about gardening in Florida: the daily summer rain storms. I took it for granted. Here on the high prairie in Colorado, rain is precious. I find myself praying for it, asking for it, daily.

The wildflowers here are beautiful. That orange one is Indian Paintbrush. It is so vibrant. I often stop on my long walks, and get down on the ground to take pictures of insects and flowers. I just cannot seem to get used to the beauty of all the tiny, lovely, living things. Maybe that is a good thing.

A couple of recent Colorado family day-adventures: we drove to the top of Pikes Peak on a foggy, rainy day. Driving up through the fog and aspens was eerie, wintry, cold. Then, suddenly, we were above it, and the sun was shining again. Up on the Peak, you could look all around at the valley enshrouded in a thick layer of fog, with the sun shining down above it, unable to penetrate. There was snow up there too! In late May. I suppose it is not that unusual. But I am a Florida girl, so snow still seems like a miracle, always.

And the other adventure was an afternoon hike at Castlewood Canyon State Park, which is gorgeous. We saw rattlesnakes! This was a pair of Western Rattlesnakes, entwined round each other, right on the trail, mating, I think. We decided to leave them alone and call it a day, as we’d already hiked a few miles by this time. But I would like to go back there and explore some more. There is an old, crumbling dam, some waterfalls, and of course, the canyon is lovely.

P.S. That is an airsoft gun that my son is holding. Our boys like to shoot at targets and such with them, around the property, but we are careful to teach respect for any sort of weapon, and also, for life. The best hunters are those who deeply revere life. Killing is not a sport. Just to clarify.

all the little secrets of the prairie

One of my favorite things about the prairie is all of its little secrets. You can look out at its panorama and fail to really see it. At first glance, it can seem kind of boring and not as lush as other places. But if you look closely, and even get down on the ground on your hands and knees and really look, it is amazing to realize the prairie is teeming with life.

Tiny wildflowers and succulents, a myriad of birds calling and singing and flying from tree to tree, trees slowly coming into bloom, rabbits and coyotes and beetles and worms. There is so much happening here, and so many lessons to learn about life, seasons, diversity, and the interconnectedness of everything. There is so much beauty here, some of it huge, much of it tiny.

My life is like that too. Sometimes I can look at a season or relationship and see with eyes of not enough. I can rush through the day without stopping to cultivate gratitude, hope, wisdom, or joy. It’s when I slow down and actually savor the moments and notice the details that I find a symphony of loveliness everywhere I look.

This weekend we planted raspberry canes, tomatoes, spinach, peppers, onions, cosmos and globe flowers. I still have so much to plant. We will be out in the garden working all week, every spare minute that we can. We started tearing the privacy fence down, and clearing out the overgrown raised beds.

The apple trees are blossoming. I have been watering them, and I top-dressed both with a bag of compost each, for a slow nitrogen drip all season. I noticed some big, fat bumblebees buzzing around today when I was out for a walk. Maybe they will come and visit my apple trees soon, and pollinate their blossoms.

The hens are laying daily now, and they love foraging for bugs in the afternoons. We have a couple of retaining walls on the property, built of big stones. I walked outside yesterday just in time to see a hen jump off of the wall onto the ground several feet below. She sort of flapped her wings, gave a panicked squawk mid-fall, and landed in a flurry of feathers, almost tipping over as she fought for balance. Then she stood up very tall, looked around to see if any of the other girls had noticed, flapped her wings a few times, and marched off into a tall shrub to scratch and hunt for bugs.

yarn along and planting time

Well, Ginny inspired me and I am also knitting the South Bay Sweater, in a dark fuschia wool. I’m thankful for yarn along, which offers such inspiration that keeps me motivated to knit and share my new projects. I’m still reading At Home in Mitford. I read so slow these days. I used to blow through a book or two a week, but I am busy with so many other things in this season that I don’t have nearly as much time to read.

I found a solution for my chickens. You will remember they were in the barn after we lost one to a predator in the small yard around their coop. The barn was safe, but they could not have regular sunshine or fresh air. I had another coop with a run that I brought from the old house. I spent a few hours last weekend, me and Hubby, and we spruced it up, cleaned it out, built a quick little ramp, and set it up in a nice level place out of the wind. It is weathered and a little rickety, so I am planning to reinforce it and also, paint it in order to seal the wood from any more exposure to the crazy elements of Colorado sunshine and elevation. The run is not big enough for my flock, so I have been letting them out each day for a few hours to range while I am out there to watch them. But at least they can see the sun and breathe fresh air each day! It really is only a temporary solution, but I feel so much better. They seem happier too.

I finished the purple baby cardigan and only need to sew a button on before wrapping it up as a baby gift for a friend expecting her first baby.

I have been spotting wildflowers everywhere. My apple trees have tiny leaves and blossoms on them, some tall shrubs near the garage that I have not yet identified have sprouted, and the peas are up. It is planting time. This weekend I will be planting some perennial flowers along the front walk, berry bushes, lettuce, spinach, and kale.

That photo is a series of (overgrown) raised beds outside the privacy fence that we are removing this weekend. Once we remove the dilapidated fence, all of the raised beds will be together and we plan to fence them in with something simple for the growing season this year, and do something nicer and more permanent next year. I find it fulfilling to have projects for now, and plans for later projects too.

I have been going for long walks, listening to the birds singing in the warming air, noticing the plants that are waking up everywhere, and finding so much joy and beauty in the slowly greening prairie hills.

a season of homestead projects

I found that sign in the barn, face down and caked with mud. I decided to hang it in the laundry room. Isn’t it great?

Speaking of which, we stacked the washer and dryer, and it is so much better. There was even room for a tall shelf to store our shoes and extra household supplies. It is such a tiny room that I was racking my brain. Problem solved.

I sat in my living room last night and watched the sun go down behind the Rockies, outside the windows, in a gentle fading of light. Blue to lavender to pink to orange to dusk to night. It was better entertainment than most of the things we call entertainment these days. Truly refreshing and contemplative. I started out on the front porch. It was peaceful and cold and quiet, save for a little breeze blowing through the still-bare branches of the birch tree. The dogs were running around, occasionally barking at various things, and I was wrapped up in a thick ratty old cardigan that I can’t seem to get rid of, but I still got too cold and had to go in to watch the show from the window. It is important to watch the sunset from time to time, the whole process of it’s setting, and allow our hearts to steep a while in the evening’s lessons.

It has still been cold off and on, though the days are warming up. I am so antsy to get out there in the garden and dig in the dirt. Not yet.

We got our fence! It is exactly the thing. Now the whole perimeter is fenced securely and the dogs cannot get out. Also, all the cross fencing is gone and it feels more unified out there. A whole piece of land, reconnected. We had the fence guys take the corral down too. Our next project will be to take down the rickety old privacy fence in the back that fences off part of the yard right outside the back door, and fence the vegetable garden in properly. We plan to do that ourselves, though I am still thinking the various budget-friendly fencing options through. We have bunnies and deer to think about, and I’d like to incorporate a garden shed and chicken run into my plan somehow, which may or may not work. It just seems like it would be good to keep the chickens fairly close to the garden for manure access and insect control.

I am working on a baby cardigan right now from the book 60 Quick Baby Knits. I am knitting it in lavender Cascade 220 Superwash. This is my first time using that yarn. Usually I use just regular old 220 which cannot be machine washed or it will felt, but as this is babywear, it only seemed right to give my friends at church a washable gift, especially since this is their first child. They are very young. I remember when I was their age and already had two babies and another on the way. Now my three are teenagers and I will be celebrating the big 4-0 next year, yikes. I don’t mind getting older though. I enjoy the wisdom that comes with the years, and every year I appreciate more my husband and children, my memories, my time and abilities, the love and mercy of God, my dear kindred spirit friends who I seem to collect slowly in life, like pearls, and my many, beautiful, ordinary, extraordinary blessings. I even appreciate the hard seasons I have been through. I know that life can be painful and lean and tragic and frustrating. But it is also very beautiful. Even the hard stuff can be lovely, when you look at it differently, or after some time has passed and your heart has healed a little.

I kept seeing those birds everywhere, on walks and even hikes up in the mountains. Black-billed magpies. They’re big, over a foot and a half tall, and very striking with the black and white and blue. Finally I looked them up. They can mimic dogs and cats and even people. They are smart. Reminds me of that genetically engineered bird in the Hunger Games books. Mockingjay?

Now we just need to go on a bird hike soon to try to spot and sketch one. I love the bright, dark blue on their black and white wings. Gives me good ideas for quilt designs 🙂

To homestead is to embrace stewardship of the land, and to really see a house for all it can become, a home, and to tend and build and hope and pray. To acknowledge that a home can have a soul, a story, a voice.

We women give it that soul and voice, and take seriously that story. It is an honor to fill a house with its truest sense of home. To love and warm and care for it as an expression of our hearts. One could even say that it is a calling.

In my next post I am going to give you a healthy and yummy stew recipe I have made several times this winter and spring.

I hope you are having a lovely spring, or “sprinter” as my friend Stefanie calls it. When winter ever so slowly becomes spring.