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.

 

homestead how-to {bread-a-licious}

I love me some homemade bread. Mmmm, warm and soft, fresh from the oven… just try not to eat the whole loaf. No, seriously. I don’t know what it is about homemade bread, but the guilt factor goes away. I will eat the Whole Thing. Because it’s just that good. Oooops, didn’t get to share with the family. Oh well, I guess I’ll have to make another loaf tomorrow!

Join the yum factor! When making your own bread you have full control. So take it. If you want a sweet bread, add sugar to the mix. If you want seeds and nuts, get to it! This particular posting is about good ol’ yeasty gluteny dough. So if you have any intolerances, folks, we’ll have to wait for the next round to address those. Until then, get out your favorite apron and let’s get baking!

folkways farmSupplies: A large bowl, a liquid measuring jar, a small 1/2 cup measuring cup, measuring spoons, a whisk or fork.
3+ cups of Flour (your choice, but make sure at least half of it is some sort of wheat or else it won’t rise as well), 1 tsp yeast (I buy mine at Mtn. Mamas. They keep it in the fridge.) 1 tbsp honey or sugar. 1 cup hot water (hot to your touch but not so hot that it burns you), butter, any seeds or herbs or spices you want.

1. Place 1 tsp of yeast in your bowl, cover it with your 1 tbsp honey or sugar and then cover that with your 1 cup of hot water. Whisk it well and leave it to sit for about 10 minutes or until it forms a “head”, which is just a sort of bubbly mass on the surface.

2. If you’re adding herbs and spices to your bread, go ahead and mix that into your flour before you add it to your starter. Then add the flour 1/2 cup at a time until your whisk can’t get though the mix anymore. Using your hands now, continue to add flour 1/2 cup at a time until your dough sticks together more than it sticks to your fingers. Then really get in there and knead it. Kneading is not scary. Just mix it up. It’s quite fun, actually. After about 5 minutes give or take, set your bowl aside and cover it with a warm wet dishtowel. Let sit for about 1-2 hours, or until it has doubled in size. Do your laundry. Read a favorite book. Take the kids to the park. Whatever.

3. This time, cover your hands in butter. Yum! About a tbsp should do it. Knead your bread again until it’s back down to the original size, getting into all the little hidden places with your buttery hands. Place it into a buttered bread pan or a small baking dish and cover again with the warm wet towel for another hour or 2. Finish your laundry. Take a walk. Go get the kids from school…

4. Preheat your oven to 360 degrees and put your loaf in the center rack. Bake for about 20-25 minutes or until your bread is golden. Let it sit for about 10 minutes to cool, then invert it onto a wire rack.

folkways farm5. Eat it! And then do it all over again!

homestead how-to {quilt making}

I don’t know why, but I’ve always been totally intimidated by quilters. I mean, I’m a mad sewer and seamstress extraordinaire if I do say so myself, but there is something about the little intricacies of bits and pieces of quilting fabric. This goes here, this goes there, wait, what do I do with this piece? And how do I make it match up with that one?! I signed up for a quilting class with my awesome neighbor (Leelu’s bff) that I am super excited to take. But in the meantime…

One of my best friends is having a baby. I really wanted to make her new little addition a special baby blanket. One that was almost Charlie Brown-ish. (think Linus’ security blanket that he takes everywhere) I wanted it to be that special. I knew I didn’t want to crochet it, and I knew that I wanted it to be warm and cushiony so that she could lay him on it on the floor if she wanted to. I had some great leftover linen from making her a baby sling, so I looked around for other complementary fabric that I could match with it. I found some great stuff. As not to make myself super overwhelmed, I figured, how hard could a bunch of squares be? Also, with it only being a baby blanket, the size wouldn’t be overwhelming either. Here’s what went down:

quiltmaking folkways farmI used a c.d. case as a template for my squares, which are actually more rectangular, because of the c.d. case shape, but it worked perfect. I cut out 36 total, from 4 different fabrics. My quilt would be 6×6 blocks. I then laid them on the living room floor so I could arrange them the way I wanted to. Keeping aware of the seam lines, I knew I would lose quite a bit of fabric, so make sure when you estimate a good size for yourself, you remember that you will lose inches when sewing. Arrange your blocks in whatever pattern appeals to you.

Start with the first line and sew all the pieces together, the way they’re set up on the floor. I laid each one back down on the ground after sewing so that I wouldn’t get backwards with my pattern. It’s easy to do, trust me. Better being overly cautious than having to grab your seam ripper. Once you finish that row, lay it back on the ground in the right pattern and move on to the next row. Finish each row the same. Now moving back to the first line, iron the seams down in one direction. This will make it easier to sew together. Make sure that each rows’ seams all lie in the same direction. Now it’s time to join the rows together. Start with rows 1 and 2. Sew together in the direction that your ironed seams will lay flat. Continue with the rest of your rows. At this point, I like to iron down the new longer seams and stitch them flat. It will make it easier to stitch in the ditch later on. It does for me anyway. But remember, this is my first quilt, and I’m only relaying what works best for me.

Have a piece of fleece or cotton batting handy that is slightly larger than your sewn quilt blocks. Lay your quilt on the fleece right side up and pin each square in the center to the material. This helps hold your cloth in place so that it doesn’t shift or stretch too much, though it still might do so. That’s why you want your fleece to be bigger than your quilt blocks. It doesn’t matter what you use for batting, as long as it’s breathable, washable, and thick enough to give you the cushion you want. You won’t be able to see it in your finished quilt. Take the whole thing back to your machine, or if you’re hand sewing, work where you’re comfortable, and start sewing in the ditch. Just follow each seam line with your needle, creating the raised quilt affect. I’m sure this has a technical name, but I don’t know what it is. I make up my own words anyway. :) Stitch around the whole outside of the quilt as well, with about 1/4 inch of allowance, attaching the edges to the fleece.

Take the time now to clip any loose strings so that you are not overwhelmed in the end. Lay your quilt down (right side up) on a larger solid piece of fabric, preferably similar to that of your top for washing convenience. The edges of your bottom piece should extend 2 inches from your quilt blocks. I used a solid dark brown to match my quilt. I’ll just use the word brown to talk about that piece of fabric. Using your pins, fold the edge of the brown fabric inward to match the edge of the quilt. Do this all the way around. Coming back to the beginning, remove your pins one at a time, and fold the brown fabric inward again, this time overlapping your quilt. Pin it down again. Repeat this step all the way around, turning in the corners if you like before folding in. Sew down your edging in whatever way you like. You can use any fancy stitch that appeals to you, or just straight stitch it all the way around. I used a double straight stitch close to the inner edges.

If you like, you can stitch in the ditch again, or you can do what I did, which is just to thread a needle with embroidery thread and stitch down from the top and up through the bottom in a few corner blocks and then tie the edges of the thread together in a double knot. This helps to hold the quilt together to keep it from bunching. If you’re really crafty, you can embroider something bigger in the quilt as a whole, or use your machine to freehand stitch it in curves and angles or other fun shapes.

All done! This makes a great new baby gift. It could also be a great seasonal gift if you used fabrics to match holidays and such. Or even a family heirloom using special garments that mean something to those you love! Be creative and use your heart and imagination! Happy sewing!

Quiltmaking colorado springs


 

i need this.

themerrythought.com


themerrythought.com

No, really. I do. I mean, don’t YOU?

I was looking for a simple rope swing tutorial and this image popped up. I SO have a date with this pallet hammock porch swing thingy (as soon as my hubby helps me build it, that is).

Visit the Creatrix of this small piece of heaven right here. Good grief, I really, really want one.

fall at my window.

This morning when I woke, Fall was whispering in my window. She was subtle and teasing. Niko was milking and Leelu and I were lingering in the overcast light of post dawn. Daisy must have heard her too, because she came and crawled into bed with us not long after. The high heat of these early September days are still stifling. But you know it’s coming. That time in the Circle where the world around you seems to exhale…

 

thieves in the night.

folkways farm

So we have 7 munched on butternuts, and counting. Between squirrels, racoons and skunks I may go on a rampage. I was really excited about these squashes. Any advice on how to keep them from ravaging the rest?

sewing tutorials.

 a tutorial sample from bloom daisy.


a tutorial sample from bloom daisy.

Occasionally I write up a tutorial for a local mama website, My719moms. When it’s food, I inevitably share it here. But when it’s sewing, they tend to be pretty lengthy so I haven’t posted any of them on Folkways. At first, it was because I told myself it didn’t belong; but I’ve thought better of it. This is a story about my journey into farming, self reliant living, etc., and making your own clothing and such is definitely an act of self sufficiency. So with that conclusion, I decided that I would share the shorter, more relevant tutorials here, and the others I would post to bloom daisy with a short excerpt and link, that way you could check them out if you so desire.

Here’s one I did awhile back on making a homemade gift for baby. And here’s a more recent one, on making a pair of little girls pants. Enjoy!

Oh, and if you’re not already, you should totally become a fan of bloom daisy on facebook. Just sayin’!