welcome, fall.

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.

 

plain plantain

Susun Weed, herbalist and wise woman extraordinaire, refers to Plantain as “Plain Amazing”, though says that this humble plant prefers to be known as just “Plain Plantain”.

Plantago Lanceolata

Plantago Lanceolata

Recently I’ve been finding my path back to herbalism a joyful one. I take a walkabout and greet familiar herbs as old friends. Truly, it seems that once you establish a relationship with these plants (plants that most of my neighbors would deem noxious weeds), they become pieces of beauty and sources of hope in my everyday. Plantain has been that for me these last few weeks.

Known to many Native tribes as “White Man’s Foot” or “Englishman’s Foot” because it seemed to spring up wherever the early white settlers traveled, it was used to treat wounds of the skin like inflammation, cuts, and bruising, as well as for drawing out splinters and poison. They also used it internally to treat coughs, colds and bronchitis. The Navajo said Plantain is one of the life medicines. I like that. They would also use it in ceremony for protection.

Plantain is literally everywhere. Just look down. You can generally find one kind or another growing somewhere nearby. Here in Colorado it shows up early May and generally continues to spring up until August or later. We have two varieties in my yard. Broadleaf, which dominates, and a few Ribwort. The latter of which I wish we had more of because its thin leaves are useful band-aids. Most experts say either variety can be used for soothing irritated skin, (i.e. bug bites, rashes) and healing cuts and scrapes, among many other things.

plantain bandageThe easiest way to utilize this amazing herb is as a “spit” poultice, which is just like it sounds. Grab a couple leaves, chew them slightly and apply to affected area. Wrap with a cloth or bandage, (or use the Ribwort leaf and the very stingy fiber to tie it on) and reapply every few hours. Plantain is awesome because it heals from the inside out. It will actually keep the wound open until all of the harmful matter inside is gone.

Misc Google Images

Misc Google Images, a bit blurry.

Dried Plantain will work as well, but fresh is best. I’m currently preparing an infusion for an ointment out of olive oil and fresh picked leaves. I started it on July’s full Thunder moon and will let it infuse until August’s new moon, allowing approximately 6 weeks to extract its magic. I’ll either keep it as an oil or add some beeswax to make a salve. It should keep for about a year. I’ll use it for skin conditions like diaper rash on the baby, itchy rashes or bites, cuts and scrapes, and for drawing out stingers or splinters.

This “plain plantain” is no slouch. She’s kinda the Goddess of wild plants in my book. Again, I’d say that fresh is best, but drying the leaves to keep around for winter colds and coughs could be wise. Plantain is taken internally to treat respiratory illnesses, bronchial infections and pneumonia. John Gallagher considers Plantain on of the “big 3″ for easily found healers, along with Dandelion and Chickweed. He spins a quote that says, “The laying on of leaves is very powerful medicine.” I love that. Another herbalist, Jim McDonald, says that Plantain is great for digestive health and when combined with Slippery Elm is good for leaky gut. He also suggests it for UTI especially when used with Cornsilk.

On the folklore side of things (we are Folkways Farm, after all) Plantain is an herb of Venus and was an important element in numerous charms and love divinations. In old German lore, Plantain embodied the souls who still sought the light after entering the Underworld. It’s hung in the home and car as an herb of protection.

“Plantain has a compassionate stability that finds opportunity for growth in every situation.” Hmm… we should all strive to live like Plantain.

In short: Plantain should be your go to first aid herb. If you’re outside in nature (as you should be), there is always a possibility for some kind of scratch, sting or sunburn. Use Plantain. That’s what she’s there for. And please, get to know her other healing properties. She’s got dozens, and is a safe herb in general that can be taken regularly.

And of course, Plantain is an excellent edible, best when the leaves are picked young. Chocked full of usefuls (B, C, Folic Acid, Calcium, Iron and Potassium), it’s a must add if you’re out picking yard greens.

honey-do lists

My husband and I are makers of things. Give me a sewing machine and some fabric and I can make you anything you want. Pretty much :) My husband is the same with a pile of wood and a jigsaw. Or a pile of clay and sand for that matter. (www.coloradocob.org) Even granite and a tile saw. You get the point. :)

He can do anything.

This works out quite well for me.

We have a list of tasks that are underway in this teeny home of ours. Many projects lie in our future, for even when we move on to the big farm, this little homestead will serve someone else quite well. We are constantly trying to make it better and more liveable for our growing family. The kitchen is ALWAYS undergoing some change. My next kitchen will be the heart of my home. I will sleep in it. No, really.

This is our most recent undertaking:

folkways farmThese shelves have gone through many incarnations. They used to be this bulky hutch type thing that we tore apart when we gutted the living room. This new phase is my favorite yet, and I believe will make a huge difference in our food storage system. This was their destiny, in fact. I’m sure of it. They so perfectly fit 1/2 gallon, quart, and pint mason jars. From the living room side I can see the contents of all of our grains, beans, herbs, flours, etc. I can see how full things are and when I need to refill. From the kitchen side I plan on chalkboard painting all of the lids so I can switch them up when I need to. I’ll label them all and organize them just so, easy peasy grab and go. I am crazy excited to get going on this.

It will take awhile to empty out the drawers and cabinets of dried food and herbs that will fill the shelves, but eventually it will happen. That will open up those spaces for dishes and such. Sigh, I can almost breathe again. This is all a part of the decluttering process. It’s a welcome addition to this little place.

A big fat thank you to my awesome hubby. Bulk storage shelves~ Check.

On to the next item on the honey-do list!

Joy not Drudgery.

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.

Hi.

Hi.

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.

Folkways FarmThat’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.

Summer is here.

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.

Welcome 2015.

The last day of 2014. I look back upon this year and know exactly where it went. Though time seemed to travel at warp speed, I know that it was just the same as any other year, just lived differently.

If I was to sum up the year passing in one word I would use “Strength”. It started out with strength as I was empowered as a woman and a teacher through other amazing women and truly saw into the power of sisterhood. I experienced the most difficult pregnancy of my 3 and witnessed a new strength in my husband, and grew stronger through the support of friends and family. I brought forth a strength that grew from release both due to the child I carried and the expectation of a dream that Niko and I mourned when that particular vision of it fell away, and strength of trust that all was as it should be for our future. And finally the strength in motherhood, as I delivered this sweet little girl into the hands of her father and aunt, while witnessing their own as they had full trust in receiving her.

I am excited about the turn of this calendar year as we have beautiful yet simple adventures on our horizon. I am grateful for the passing of one chapter to the next and grateful for the opportunities that this past year has brought me to learn from and grow.

I’ve never been one for resolutions at the new year. Perhaps because I recognize it passing with the end of the Harvest Season and the Solstice, and those bring with them their own traditions. But this year my sister Carrie Jo inspired me by her intention to leave things behind. She said instead of going into 2015 with expectations of goals, she would choose things not to take with her. I found this brilliant and very symbolic of the Solstice season we just past. And I thought I would do something similar that combined a bit of both.

What I’m leaving behind:

Fear. Anger. Expectations.

What I will bring in more of:

Love. Compassion. Trust. Courage. Patience. Joy.

I will welcome each day with this question:

“What will I do with this opportunity to love, trust, etc….?”

I will respond to challenges in the same way:

“What will I do with this opportunity for compassion, patience, etc…?”

I also saw an idea on Facebook (of course) that I shared with Daisy, and I think I’ll try for this because it stirs up gobs of gratitude, of which I’m a big fan. Throughout the new year, write down little things that happen that make you happy and put them in a jar. At the end of the 2015, take them out and review them to remind yourself of the beauty that unfolded in your year, no matter how simple… Things like your husband scraping your windshield, your neighbor bringing you food when your family was sick, your child’s first step, the turning of the leaves… sweet and simple things can remind us of the joys of being human and alive.

FolkwaysFarm


Happy 2015, Friends. There is so much love.

of sunshine and snowdays.

Yesterday the sun was shining. The temperatures were glorious. It was a perfect day for working outside and Spring dreaming. Unfortunately I was inside all day on the phone with insurance companies and one medical provider after another dealing with the financial leftovers of the car accident. I understand now why it is so important to have an attorney. Unfortunately (again) I do not. This car accident has caused nothing but pain, stress and grief for my family. The stress of it is truly exhausting. Sigh… And breathe.

folkways chickens

This morning we met some new neighbors. A nice young couple that wanted to meet the goats. They kept goats in Hawaii, among other things, and were happy to see urban farming happening just doors down from them. We were happy to meet possible future goat sitters. I hope to go out to the land with Niko come Solstice time. Finding someone to mind the chickens has not been an issue so far, but milking goats comes with a whole new set of difficulties, which is why I haven’t spent a night away in almost a years time.

colorado folkways farmIn typical Colorado fashion, on the heels of a warm, bright and shiny yesterday came a cold and snowy today. We made the best of it with blueberry chocolate chip pancakes for breakfast and an afternoon family movie; the latter of which never happens. It was nice.

And now to catch up on some writing with a hot cup of tea, snuggle time with the little one, and dreams of Spring from the inside out. You just gotta roll with it. :)

Pancake time

Blueberries! Yum!

saturday.

folkways farmIt’s a brilliant day. You’d never know that just two days ago we woke up to a winter wonderland. Again. Colorado is a great place to live if you’re working on being present. I am simultaneously crocheting a scarf while writing this post. I write on scrap paper, outside with the chickens. You gotta take advantage of the sunshine at all costs. So I write a paragraph, crochet a row, write a paragraph, etc…

I’m enjoying a solitary moment right now. Niko took the baby on errands, Daisy’s inside doing homework, and I am here in the sunshine, with you. I’ve been reflecting a lot lately. So much is happening so fast. And we have to keep riding that momentum because the next year is going to count for a lot.

folkways farmMy best friend came to visit last week. She of my gypsy days when we lived by the road and the wind. We sat outside in this same spot and talked about life, age, everything we have done, and everything we’ve yet to do. We are both so grateful. We know we have been blessed. Our friendship alone is evidence of that. While she was here I shared with her the dream of our future farm. She of course is behind us 100%. I had a nice little day and a half vaca during her visit and then it was quickly back to the grind of living. It’s a good grind though. Like fresh coffee.

My nose is stuck in gardening books and the library hold shelf is overflowing. I can’t help it. I never get through them all but I always end up inspired by what I do manage to get through. Though our sights are set on that future farm our feet are still planted on this one. There are garden plans to be made. Seeds to be started, and as always, new tips to learn for growing better. Every year we get a better hang of things. I’m really excited about what this season will bring to my kitchen.

Last year was good. This year will be better.

winter is here.

winter at folkways farmIt’s times like these (when this cold rolls in) that I always step into a deeper part of my gratitude. I remember all of the forces that came together to provide my home with heat. 2 years ago, we did not have any. Our windows froze up effectively creating an ice box out of our house. Our outside winter wardrobe was worn inside these walls. But because of the love and generosity of good friends, I write to you warmly, holding my baby that refuses to wear socks (I try, she pulls them off. Over and over again.) They are calling for lows of – 6. Winter is upon us. Snuggle up your loved ones, folks. Warm blessings, to you all.

the tale thus far…

Folkways FarmThis 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.

Folkways Farm

Chickens, we have learned, are a gateway farm animal. And building with Earth easily becomes an insatiable obsession.

Colorado Cob Folkways Farm

(This is Niko writing, for our regular Blog visitors seeking Brandi’s inspiring prose.)

Colorado Cob chicken coopCob 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.)

Folkways Farm

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.

folkways farm

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.

folkwaysWe’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.