What a beautiful weekend to celebrate the return of the Autumn season. We welcomed guests for the 3rd annual Urban Homestead Tour sponsored by Buckley’s Homestead Supply and Colorado Springs Urban Homesteading. There was an obvious change in this year’s conversation compared to the first tour. Whether it be chickens or gardens or goats, almost everyone that came through already had a piece of something or other going on in their neck of the woods. Urban homesteading and backyard farming are no longer anomalies. What a beautiful thing! I didn’t get any pictures from the tour this year but I’d like to thank everyone that came out. It was a joy and we can’t wait to see what you’re up to next year!
Meanwhile, another season is upon us and though the sun still shines down brightly, I am loving the cooler mornings and the signs of fall at my door. Though our food harvest is not large this year, we’ve gratefully lived and learned through yet another Colorado gardening season. We produced the most beautiful and tasty carrots I’ve ever experienced and eaten enough mustard greens to make even the toughest palette weep. Our hives are strong and I have good faith that they’ll make it through Winter and our goats and chicken are happy and healthy. Mostly in this time of harvest I am grateful for the community of family and friends that have been gathered. We are truly and beautifully coming together to create the Village. I love you. Thank you for your awesomeness.
Who knows where we’ll be this time next year. You might see us on the 4th annual Homestead Tour or visit us for a cob workshop on a bit more land. But what I do know is this: We’ll be working harder. We’ll be growing wiser. We will be waking everyday with gratitude and loving each other the best we can.
Happy Fall, Y’all.
Dig Deep. Share Joy. Live Inspired.
Niko was away this weekend, sharing his expertise on a cob cottage a few hours away. That left the girls and I to tend the home and farm. Daisy stuck around for the mornings so I didn’t have to take the littles to the barn for milking. Leelu is fine to wander in and out but I don’t like Clara having to breathe in all the hay and dust.
I’m continuously learning about being a parent. It’s truly an every day ~no, scratch that~ an every moment journey. Lessons of simplicity and the real juice of what matters. When it comes down to it, there isn’t much to really choose from in the tasks of living. There is feeding- humans and animals. There is sleeping. Everything else comes in as it can (even bathing, yep). Playing outside wins over inside during any sort of tolerable weather. Dishes, vacuuming, etc. all are moved to the back burner, to be done when there is time for “other”, which there is not much of. Household chores are attempted to be brought into family activity, as they should be. My littles will learn alongside me, I hope, and with joy not drudgery.
That’s one thing I’m working on. If I cannot have a positive attitude toward the task at hand, I must stop and move on to something else until my outlook has changed. I want to be that better, gracious person for my family.
Niko and I have talked about certain projects we’d like to take on in our homesteading life. Some are simple and straightforward. Others, more difficult. Eliminating packaging is a big one. Even buying in bulk comes with plastic most times. We’re working towards our own glass containers, and sewing my own cloth grain bags, all doable. Just need to set aside the time to get it in order.
A task I’ve set for myself is to re-establish my connection and relationship with healing herbs, starting with the ones in my own front yard. For the next couple weeks I’ll be focusing on Plantain, one of my favorites for its wild and unruly nature. This beautiful healer was known as “white man’s foot” by the first people, because it seemed to pop up where their feet disturbed the earth, which was practically everywhere. My friend Jen is going to take me on my first field trip to Costco tomorrow so I can buy a bulk amount of organic olive oil. I want to make a strong oil infusion of Plantain leaves before they disappear so we can benefit from her magic through the year. I’ll chronicle that journey as it unfolds. I see liniments and salves in our future.
Today is Monday and Niko and I have decided to try and give me this time every week without the kids for whatever it is that I need. One of the things I’d like to commit to is this. Folkways. Just a little touch in. No guarantee or pressure. But I’m going to try my best.
It still baffles me how people keep up with blogs. Parents especially. How. Do. You. Do. It? Seriously. There are those with more kids than I, more chores, more every day tasks of living that still manage to hold their own in cyberspace.
Obviously I am not one of them.
I’m not giving up, though. I’ve got something to contribute and eventually this little online hub of Folkways will have its rhythm. Until then, I’ll do what I can. Right now, this little check in (while the kids are napping) is what I can.
Summer is in full bloom here and we all find it hard to stay inside and in front of any kind of screen. Nature is too glorious to befriend and the sun on our skin feels like heaven. We’ll soak in what we can until the seasons change once again. Change is a key word around here, as it always seems to be. Change and contentment. Daisy has graduated and will soon move on to grand Daisy things. Leelu is a force to be reckoned with as she grows into daddy’s best sidekick and her own perfect little version of herself (almost 4 now). Clara just hit the 6 month mark and is beyond adorable. This may be my favorite baby stage. All smiles and grabby hands. She’s teething right now though so we’re not sleeping so great. Niko is beautiful and brilliant. As always. He’s spending the summer focused on the dirt (www.coloradocob.org) and away from the computer. That’s good for me because having him outside means things actually happen out there. I’m not so productive these days. I have 15 minutes here 15 minutes there. It’s an amazing thing what that man can accomplish. I’m thankful.
We just took a much needed road trip to my hometown in Florida. We are lucky to have some pretty awesome farmer friends, because when you live the farm life, even the urban style, vacations are few and far between. This wasn’t a vacation per say, as much as a quick visit to love on my grandparents. I love them so. It’s been 5 years + since we’ve been home so it was a first meeting for the little ones. It was a very special trip and I will cherish it.
It’s time to refocus on life now. There’s much to do. We’ll see how well I can touch in here. Thanks for hanging in with me.
It’s time to find my way back, with more drive and more purpose than I’ve ever shown before. With my workshop behind me it is now time to put my focus into this farm. Our future. There is a great deal of lesson to be found in living in the now. It is a meaningful practice and one that, as a yoga teacher I often employ. It is a path to be respected, but lately I have learned a new way to honor both being present while still looking forward. I heard recently said, “We cannot fully live in the now if we do not know what we are living for.” Right now I am basking in some long awaited sunshine which calls me to express enormous gratitude in the now, but also allows me to sing forth praises to the coming of spring.
With Imbolc just behind us (that day of fire that has been relegated to the groundhog), it becomes easier to set your sights on the sun with the growing light and the waxing year. Seed catalogs are arriving in the mailbox, and although the earth is still too cold to plant, the spark of inspiration has been ignited. You start to dream wistfully for warmer days and dirt in your fingernails. The Sun is a promise. The wheel turns.
For Folkways, the blossoms in our visions are not only from those hard shelled seeds waiting for the earth to ripen, but exist in a not so far off reality we have designated as home. We have found the future of Folkways in an 80 acre parcel of land 6 hours west from where we are now. It is a piece of earth that has found its way deep into our hearts. It is right. We are on a forward path and will work hard everyday to make our dream come true.
It’s a big dream. But life is big. Too big to dream small.
You’re going to be hearing a lot from me these days. I’m going to be working diligently to turn this blog into a presence of its own. I want people to know about us and our dream. I want to inspire helping hands that will help us manifest our vision, and in turn, inspire other big dreams to happen. If your dream is to live in a Manhattan highrise, a villa on the Mediterranean, or to become a sustainable farmer like me, I want us all to know we will do it.
So from here on out, expect big things from Folkways Farm. We are here. And we will grow.
The first item on my agenda is to increase readership of the blog and to fan out the Facebook page. So I will be offering giveaways. I was inspired to do this from one of my favorite authors, Jenna at Cold Antler Farm. She is a force to be reckoned with and continues to inspire me with her joy and perseverance. Thank you, Jenna.
Our first giveaway will be a $30 gift certificate to our Farm Store. Here you’ll find handcrafted items from my bloom daisy shop, homemade goat milk soap or goat milk/cheese shares, books on farming, natural building, and sustainable living, cob workshops, sewing and crocheting lessons, as well as private yoga classes and spiritual programs from One Rhythm, and much more!
All you have to do to enter is this: Sign up to follow this blog (in the upper right corner of this page), “like” us on Facebook and share our story with one other person. Whether that’s through word of mouth, or passing along our link on Facebook, or any other method of your choosing. Then come back here and leave a comment on this post that you’ve done so. That’s it! You’re entered! I’ll announce the winner on the New Moon, March 1st.
Thank you for your love and support and as always, DREAM BIG.
This little bit of land, this first incarnation of Folkways Farm, has been an experiment for us in so many different ways. When we first bought the house, we had visions of doing much renovation to the now 104 year old structure. We managed to get the living room done before realizing doing much more than that while living in the house would cause a perceived inconvenience far greater than the idealized reward. So we went on living in the house and started to work the land.
A few things happened at the same time that sent us into the whirlwind that often happens when folks get bit by the farming bug. I left my stable job of six years, sent my construction energies into an exploration of alternative building methods, and we ordered our first batch of chicks.
Chickens, we have learned, are a gateway farm animal. And building with Earth easily becomes an insatiable obsession.
(This is Niko writing, for our regular Blog visitors seeking Brandi’s inspiring prose.)
Cob and chickens arriving in our lives together turned out to be a good pairing, for it saved us nearly seven hundred dollars on the stick-frame coop I had sketched out. Building their coop out of cob, an old dead apple tree, and other people’s leftovers was a challenge indeed and consumed plenty of my time. Luckily, that was a time when I had plenty of time. I’ve seen plenty of fine coops built from good ole dimensional lumber, and lots of creativity in those but I just love seeing our little hobbit house coop every time I step out back and am so very grateful we chose to tread down that muddy path.
Wheels started turning, we had so much to learn to fulfill our need for more farm in our life. By then I had already started dabbling with this strange idea of compost and managed one fantastic failure of attempting to compost within the shell of an old incinerator by the back fence. With the addition of that magical and ubiquitous substance commonly known as chicken poop, those compost piles caught fire – in the internal sense. Before we knew it, we had a factory for making good food for the garden beds.
We’ve spent a lot of time failing at growing a decent garden. I experimented with building a Hugelkultur, which was with much disapproval from my beloved. Though many experiments failed, we were moving toward the real goal of building good soil. This year we gave a shot at straw bale gardening – and failed yet again. However, that failure provided and auxiliary success, for the bales protected the plants in the ground, and we had a beautiful garden. Unfortunately, we neglected to develop decent harvesting habits and so lost plenty. Some to freezing, some to over-ripeness, some to neglect. My batch of cucumbers saved from the frost was set aside too long and rotted before it could ferment into a fine batch of pickles. The chickens, however, were grateful for the bounty thrown their way. We now have a passable solar thermal mass greenhouse where seedlings happily flourish, we have a number of growing beds all around the property that have begun to show their worth, we’ve developed discipline in watering and weeding and worked with the rain to send it where it’s most needed. Next year, I tell myself, we’ll work with all that still, yet my goal shall be to better reap the fruits of our labor. (Oh, and I don’t imagine I’ll ever again plant amaranth as a food crop. Harvesting is a hassle and I discovered I don’t much care for eating those quasi-grains beyond the form of flour.)
A wonderful new job came along that lets me work at home and allowed me to retire from the knee-busting work of a tile contractor. With the need for half a garage worth of tool and material storage gone from my life, the notion of transforming the garage into a goat barn seemed a natural and logical thing to do.
Now, three and a half years after bringing home a box full of fluffy egg-sized gateway farm animals, we have lost all sense of being city dwellers and became what folks might call urban farmers, or urban homesteaders.
I, for one, have no regrets. I adore what we have created here. I love coming out and milking goats at the frigid crack of dawn. I love all the growing things. I even love this old house. But my soul hungers for more. More land to work, more space to grow, more animals, more useful structures built from the Earth herself. More farm. All we’ve created here, we’ve created so we can walk away from it, pass it on to another aspiring urban farmer, and go out to the “Big Farm” where we can start the whole process all over again. I’ll be a few years from forty when we go, but the thought of taking it all to the next level invigorates my soul and gives me new life. We welcome the opportunity with open arms.
We’ve failed plenty here, but the experiments have taught us much, reconnected us with the natural cycle of life, death, and rebirth, and given us hope and longing to experiment more and fail again on a grander scale. It seems to me that a life without failure indicates a failure to take a chance at life. Let us fail, let us live, for all the while, things are growing.
Here are a few photos of Niko’s latest Cob project at Ed and Alison Buckley’s place. It took the whole summer and a lot of helping hands and foot stomping to make it happen. It is AH-MAZING and these photos barely do it justice. Visit Niko’s Cob site to keep informed about projects coming up next year.
Well I do believe I’ve finally been converted. 3 months later and I can happily and honestly say I will not buy cream for my coffee at the grocery store anymore.
All hail the goat milk latte. And of course, the stove top espresso maker. Yee haw.
As I refocus my energies back into the space of the farm, the struggles seem to land in front of my feet, threatening to trip me up if I don’t keep my eyes open. Niko is unhappy with his job and I don’t blame him. His place is not in front of a computer screen, dealing with companies that mostly make him cringe. But unfortunately, the job means paid bills and a little extra sometimes to set aside. And between time spend working and time spent cobbing, his time on our little farm is extra precious. He has had the entire load, too. Even before the accident, he was helping me with milking and since that fateful day he’s been taking it on alone. I’m getting there, slowly, though I do fear my elbow may have some permanent damage from the crash.
As if this wasn’t enough on my sweet husband’s plate, he is also embarking on a new cleansing diet to build his adrenal health. This means no wheat, yeast, dairy, sugar, caffeine and then some. For beer, coffee and bread lovers, this is no simple feat, folks. But of course, Niko is nothing short of amazing so he is doing well. And while the girls and I are not joining him, now that I’m well enough to cook again I am making sure our dinners at least adhere to his diet so that we can all still share a meal. It’s not too difficult. Since our oven is broken I don’t do casseroles or bread. Or pies So it’s lots of veggies and grains. And goat cheese. He’s allowed that in small quantities.
Since our sweet six chicks were killed by 3 rampaging racoons, the chicken load is down for now. So I guess I can call a gratitude card for that. Less work I guess. But it’s still sad and anger inducing at times. Lessons learned.
The barn is being plagued by flies and the goats are suffering for it. I know they are highly irritated. We’re still contemplating what to do about it. I’m considering ordering Fly Predators from Hoegger. It’s a monthly fee but I’ve read some reviews and it seems like it might be a good choice and worth the cost.
Also, I think the goats miss me a little bit.
We have some new neighbors behind us that we met through the goats. They heard them in the alley and Niko invited them by. She’s a goat lover, thank goodness. And they have a little girl a year older than Leelu that is precious. Bob and Rose still don’t hear the goats. I can’t believe it but it’s true. Daisy and I were out back just today talking to Bob. About 10 minutes prior Sara was making a hella racket and when Bob came out he asked if we still had the girls because he never hears them! So while they may drive Niko though the roof with their ridiculously loud bleating, they seem to still agree with the neighbors.
Daisy is going to Florida to visit family at the end of the month. I will miss the heck out of her. I’ve been putting her to work with her photog skills helping me get bloom daisy going. She’s been a huge help.
The straw-bale garden seems to be going decently. Pumpkins don’t like it. But it’s working as a nice shelter for other things and it’s pretty to look at. I honestly can’t tell you much about the growing things because I’ve been so uninvolved this season. Maybe Niko will pop on one of these days.
So there’s a wee bit o’ updates for ya. I think by next week I should be back to regularly scheduled programming.