understanding surrender. part 1

My children are sleeping and I am awake. An occasion I’d like to say was common but as of late~ it’s not. Both I and my youngest have nasty colds which makes for long nights of uncomfortable sore throats and coughing. Honestly I’m surprised I’m up before them today.

So hey~ hello. I know it’s been awhile. 2+ years to be exact. You might be interested to know that we’ve “landed” and that it looks differently than the last time we talked. It’s amazing what the universe throws at you when it knows you can handle it. Also perhaps, when it knows the change you need is not one you will purposefully walk through fire to get to.

girls home


I’m going to summarize quite a bit, and throw in random photos to make it interesting.

The land we so loved that inspired our “Feed the Dream” campaign fell through. (Will have to do some updating on the site~ patience, please.) We just could not make it work as the owner had acquired a partner that wasn’t on board with our vision. I cannot hold it against them. It was a beautiful spot of earth and he wanted more than we could offer. So we let go and surrendered (<— pay attention to that word~ it’s a big one.) We decided to dig in to our little urban homestead and community and thrive. And oh, we did! Through the quirks and obstacles, we fell in love again with our little west side cottage and our village of inspirers. Both of our work thrived as well. We found contentment. And then one morning, as it happens, Niko looked out the kitchen window and started dreaming again. I offered~ what if we just begin to look again with no expectations, just for fun. Within the hour, like magic, we stumbled on a property that made our mouths water. Closer this time~ a mere 2 hour drive as opposed to the 6 hour drive of Cedaredge. We made an appointment to see it and we were awe-struck. It wasn’t 100% perfect, of course. But the water! A rushing creek right behind the tiny house. Decent acreage to play and explore. Dreamy possibilities indeed. We met the owner and were a bit put off energetically, but we made an offer and then a counter offer. And just like that~ here we go again.

the process

Preparing the house for sale, wild goats, and Clara after a hard days work.

From here we went through the taxing work of preparing our beloved little west side home for sale. It was bittersweet. The day we put her on the market we had 3 offers. We also got wind that the mountain edging the new property had caught fire.

We were not strangers to fire. Colorado Springs had seen its share of drought and heat and flame. Still does. We didn’t panic, but we watched. Our house sold to a lovely young woman within a week of putting it up for sale. We had one month until closing. The mountain still burned.

toward the end

Just before the house emptied and Leelu’s last hoorah in her hometown~ her 5th birthday party.

We had to consider the “what ifs”. Our house was sold. If anything, this was all a very clear sign it was time to move on. Our destination, however… My sister in law offered her home as temporary housing should things not go as planned. What is that saying? When you make a plan, god has another one. Totally botched that, but you get it. In a rush all our belongings went to storage. We’d hoped to be a bit discriminatory in our purging process but with the stress of the unknown and the back and forth with the owner of the property, it was put on the wayside.

The Hayden Pass fire was finally out after burning over 16,000 acres. It went right to the edge of the property. Though our relief may have been expected, we knew that the danger was not over. We had seen firsthand the aftermath of mountain fires in the way of devastating floods from springs and fall rains. We knew what was coming. The owner refused to believe floods were coming and once again, though we worked so hard~ almost as if (forgive the expression) beating a dead horse). We kept refusing to give up. We struggled with flood insurance and our lenders, fighting for this “dream” until just as expected~ the floods came.

Images from the Denver Post

Images from the Denver Post

You would think this would be it, right? We’d see the light and surrender and move on. But no. My husband, forever the optimist and visionary saw through the destruction and we continued to press on. However, the vision was no longer idyllic. We had fields of dangerous debris, flooded outbuildings, a creek that had completely changed its course, and years of prospective flash floods until the mountainside recovered.

Even after all this though, we attempted to negotiate a new deal. The owner refused to budge on the original sale price and once again we let go of a particular version of the dream.

And so, temporarily displaced and void of course~ we moved in with my sister in law. We had no idea what to do. This time SURRENDER was in full caps and screaming to be understood.

Little did we know this was all part of the plan.

(to be continued)


Good morning.

folkways farmDo you know those moments when something touches you so deeply that you cry? It’s usually the silent kind. Head above watery eyes that never quite spill over. A tightness in the belly that moves its way up, up, filling your heart with emotion. Making its way into the muscles of your throat. Tiptoeing into the recesses of pathways where mind meets body. That’s happened to me twice already today and it’s only 11:30.

The causes of the tears are simple things. An energy that wouldn’t necessarily measure on the Richter Scale of emotion. But that’s the beautiful thing about us humans, right? It’s the simple things that keep us. Grounded. Real. Humble. Loved.

Leelu will be 2 years old next month, and we’re working through the weaning process. She is very attached to nursing, and honestly so am I. It is a bond like no other, as I’m sure every mama could tell you. On top of recent traumatic events I’ve no doubt that this is making me a little extra sensitive. She’s with her daddy today. They took a drive to Grandma’s house, which Leelu was very excited about. She had barely opened her eyes this morning, and with just a mention of their destination, she whispered, “Shoes… on.” No telling her twice.

folkways farm

With my deadlines over for the festival, this “free” day will mostly be spent catching up here. I’ve got Daisy working on an editing project for bloom daisy, and we have some house cleaning and farming to do, of course. But mostly, this is where my time will be focused. If you are subscribed to this blog and your inbox is filled with Folkways this week and next, just know that things will mellow down soon. But hopefully, if you are subscribed, it means you actually enjoy reading what I write, so thanks. I appreciate you.

I’ll be catching up on some back story. There is the last half of June to record as well as the first week-ish of July. This blog serves as somewhat of a journal for our family’s story, so I need to keep up with it. In today’s ever progressing world of technology I’m sure this is where Leelu will be able to look back and see what we were doing when she was two.

I am ever happy to be here.

Of names, tried and true.

We started out as simply a blog attached to New Dawn Energy, my husbands ‘parent’ business and called it “Our Sustainability Project” which it certainly still is. I then changed the title to “The Woolf Family Farm”, because again, that is what it was. But then we started talking about the future of our farm. Names came up, because at one point when Niko was at the homesteading fair, he was asked if we kept a website or blog. It was tricky to say, “sure, we’re at new dawn energy (slash) sustainability project (slash) blah blah blah.” So we started to think about what we “were” per say, and what we wanted to be identified as.

Original image found on "Vintage Flip" on Etsy. Click on the picture to visit her site.

Original image found on “Vintage Flip” on Etsy. Click on the picture to visit her site.

We considered many before deciding on StoryBrook. We both liked it a lot, and definitely identified with it. We are a fairytale, after all. We were even married in a castle. Niko writes fantasy novels. He builds structures that belong in storybooks. And we thought by playing on the word with brook, it might help to manifest water on our future land. Daisy thought it was funny because I guess there is a Snow White-esqe television series in a land called Storybrook. When we googled, we found that there was a bed and breakfast that shared the name out East. Tennessee, maybe. But otherwise, it seemed to be ours.

So we made the change. And the commitment. Niko did a lot of work switching over the blog and I finally got the email subscription to work.

But true to my nature, there was something else brewing and I just couldn’t let it go. I tried. I really did. You made a decision, Brandi. Now stick to it. But I just couldn’t get Folkways out of my head. I mentioned it to Niko in passing. He liked it too, but again, the commitment was made.

A few days ago I came in from milking, and having turned it over and over in my head, brought it up to Niko again. It turned out he’d been thinking about it too. It just seemed to make sense. It resonated. It is what we love and what we are. Folk tales. Folk medicine. Folk music. Folk magic. Folklore. Folk, folks. And it feels permanent. There is no second guessing at all. There is no thinking on it. It just is.

So, Folkways Farm is born. One more online move. But this one will stick, I promise.

Death, Life and Soul Friends

Take a Peak Chicken Coop TourThe Take a Peak Chicken Coop Tour this weekend was a success. It’s such a joy talking to people about this life. That said from someone that much prefers solitude and quiet time, I thoroughly enjoyed the bustle of the event. We probably had close to 250 visitors pass through in 2 days. Wow.

It was a little disconcerting that the events were preceded by a dead chicken.

Niko was talking to Gail over the fence, cleaning out the gifts her grand kids had thrown to the girls. Gail was asking him how long a chicken can live, when they both looked down to find our sweet little Araucana, “Little Bird” dead on the ground. She had been fine moments earlier and then, just like that, gone. It was unexpected and sad. Our best guess is that perhaps she was egg-bound. None of our girls have shown any sign of ill health.

God speed, Little Bird.

God speed, Little Bird.

The Grapevine.

The Grapevine.

So as with previous passings, we bought a tree, (in this case, a Grapevine) and buried Little Bird beneath it. She was a good girl and I hope we were able to give her some contentment in her days as a chicken. God speed to her next journey. I hope it’s a good one.

Despite the ill beginning, the Tour was fabulous. We met such amazing people and Niko made some great cob connections. I think some Soul Friendships began. I really like being a stop on the tour. I think next year I’d like to take part in the actual wandering though. I’d like to see what others are doing with their coops.

So thank you to Jon, for putting together such a great network and bringing the community together in such a wholesome and simple way. That is a goodness to be admired and respected. I think you’re awesome.

Thanks to all the folks who opened their chicken coop doors. You are paving the way to more intelligent and mindful food choices.

And thanks to all the families and individuals who chose to spend a part of their weekend with us. I hope you were inspired to go and start your own flock!

The New Girls.

So excited to see these sweet little faces! Even Daisy (who is so adamantly anti farm) cannot help herself. Their tiny chirps are music in the background and Leelu loves them. They’re hanging out in the office presently and soon will go to meet the old gals outside. We got 2 new breeds, but I’m terrible at remembering. I’ll have to have Niko write them down for me. So girls, welcome to Story Brook!west side chickens

Book Club.

I must admit I was a little skeptical at first. I’m not too good at meeting new people. My daughter uses the term “socially awkward” and I’d say that about sums it up. But my good friend and neighbor talked it up to me and I finally consented. The meetings were only every 2 months so that was doable. With the baby I have to be very choosy with my outings. I’ve been to 4 or 5 now and I’m finally feeling comfortable and smiley. It’s nice to take myself to dinner and talk adult with intelligent women.

Ol' Joel (photo from Polyface Farms)

So this last meeting it was my turn to pick our book. We don’t have rules or themes. We’d last read “The Night Circus” which was awesome. I could have picked any number of books but I chose to go with “The Sheer Ecstasy of Being a Lunatic Farmer”. We do love our Mr. Salatin around here. I had a feeling it could be a great discussion about local food politics and normal food in general. I’d read it already of course. Joel is close to sainthood in this house. But I wanted to read it again so I’d be fresh for discussion.

Everything read so far in book club has had topic questions attached. The person that chooses the book also leads the discussion. I thought I’d find questions easy for this book. Nope. Nothing. I scoured the internet and came up with zilch. So about half hour before dinner (a bit last minute) I just wrote down some questions that popped into my head. I’ll include them here just in case someone else decides they need to discuss this book (or any of his books really). Maybe they’ll stumble this way and let out a sigh of relief. I know I would have.

Read it!

The dinner was great. We went to Adams Mountain Cafe, a brilliant staple of yumminess in our community. Not one person (out of 6, save me) finished the book. However, everyone had read some of it, mostly skipping around but still getting a lot from it. It wasn’t one of those books that you just can’t put down, I guess, and I totally get that. Unless you are living this lifestyle, it’s more of a book to pick up here and there and peruse. Either way, everything they read got them thinking. We had a wonderful discussion. And though I was grateful to have such an aware and intelligent group of women in my community, I also wished that they weren’t such foodies so we could have argued a bit :)

So I left happy and content that I could share some of Joel Salatin’s wisdom. They all said they would eventually read the whole thing. But even if they never do, the choice was a winner for all.

Here are the questions if you ever need them:

1. Do you believe we are what we eat? Do you think this extends to the well being of the animal?
2. Do you find Joel’s views too extreme?
3. How much food is in your pantry? If shut down, how long would your food and water last?
4. What do you think we as consumers could do to have more control of the food system? What change would make a most noticeable difference?
5. How do you feel about CAFO? Are you in favor? Compare to Free-Range open farming method.
6. How do you feel about the cost of normal food? Too high? Affordable? What would you give up to eat better?
7. How many meals out of ten do you make from scratch?
8. Have you ever thought about what actually lies behind your food? (The animal/farmer behind it)
9. What’s your take on GMO’s?
10. How important does food factor in your life?
11. How much role do you think the government should have in our food system?
12. Do you agree with his statement about the world having enough food?
13. “With knowledge comes responsibility.” What does this mean to you in relation to food?
14. Was this an easy read or a hard read? And has it changed your views on how you eat?

ode to pot pie

Enveloped in your flaky crust and steaming fresh from the oven,
your scent melts my taste buds open…

Oh, yes, y’all. I am under the decision of late that this scrumptious wonder may indeed be the perfect meal. I mean, you can make a Pot Pie out of anything! I am reminded at this moment of the scene from The Cat in the Hat movie where they’re in the kitchen making cupcakes. If you’ve seen it, the words are playing over in your mind (anything? anything!).

Anyway, :) the key to an awesome pie, is an awesome pie crust. Am I right, or am I right? I’ll toss in my recipe at the bottom of this post, in case you’re interested. Once you have your crust, let the fun begin. It’s the perfect opportunity to use up those veggies that are almost chicken food, or that leftover chicken and rice from dinner a few nights ago. Oh, yeah! Throw it all in. Of course, you’re welcome to start from scratch with an idea or a recipe and buy fresh ingredients to suit your needs. But let’s face it, we’re all looking for ways to use the produce that we forgot about in the crisper.

Once you have your veggies (and meat if desired) in your pie dish, pour in a can of cream soup mixed up with a cup of broth. Anything will do. I like to use cream of mushroom or celery because I’m a vegetarian. If you don’t have a can of soup on hand, you can always mix up some creamy gravy with milk, flour, butter and maybe some onions and herbs for flavoring.

All that’s left is to cover it with a top layer of crust, pinch the edges, and throw it in the oven! Presto! Awesome homemade goodness that your family will salivate over. Heck, I just made one 2 nights ago, and I already want another!

My Favorite Pie Crust Recipe (adapted from Mother Earth News):
(Cold is key! The colder the better so put your flour, water, mixing bowl and whisk in the freezer about 15-30 minutes prior to mixing.)

2 cups COLD flour
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp crushed rosemary (optional, but SO worth it)
6 oz COLD chopped butter (a stick and a half)
1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
1/4 to 1/2 cup ICE water, as needed

*Whisk flour, rosemary and salt in a large bowl. Using your hands, begin to cut in butter until your mixture begins to look like coarse sand or at least until there are no butter pieces larger than peas left.
*Sprinkle in vinegar and 1/2 the water. Form the dough into a thick ball that barely holds together. Add a tbsp of water at a time just enough for it to stick together and then press into a circle flattened to about 3/4 inch thick. Wrap in plastic wrap and chill at least an hour.
*Unwrap dough and roll out on a lightly floured surface to 1/4 inch thick. You may need to let it thaw for 5-10 minutes first. Ease pressure as you come to the edges. Butter the pie pan and line with the dough. Trim off the excess and roll out again to use as the pie cover.

Bake at 350 for 45 minutes or until golden brown.

as the days grow shorter…

Lately it seems that everyone is a little extra groggy as the days grow shorter. Those small pieces of missing daylight can make a big impact on some of us. Even my furry friends seem to have trouble getting out of bed in the morning. And today, the chickens who are usually clucking their hearts out way before dawn, were oddly quiet until way after the sun rose.

I for one, am definitely effected by the changing seasons, both mentally and physically. It takes a little more effort to both warm up and wake up in the morning. The transitioning season coaxes me to make my own changes. For example: I set my coffee maker before bed now for easier press the button prep come sun up. :) And because the daylight is getting shorter I find myself wanting to go to sleep even earlier. I have to make sure I take good care of myself this time of year, allowing for a little extra relaxation and “me” time because the lack of sunshine makes me cranky. I need to be at my best to take care of my family. You know, like when you’re flying and the flight attendant instructs you to put your own safety mask on first.

I suppose this is just my body adapting to the changes the same way the earth does. As the trees prepare for the long winter by losing their leaves, so do I by spending more time resting, even if it’s just inwardly. I also find myself craving more substantial foods. Hot and hearty stews for dinner. Heat inducing gingery oats for breakfast. I bake more. I eat more. I sleep more. No wonder we tend to put on weight this time of year. Perhaps it’s what we’re meant to do. (Hey, whatever I have to tell myself, right?)

Are you effected by seasonal changes? Positively or negatively? Do you do anything special to prepare or pamper yourself in any extra way?

into the land of canning.

My friend Sam and I have started an adventure into canning. Although she grew up in an active farming community where canning and preserving were commonplace, neither one of us had tackled the process as adults. Before we decided to make our effort teamwork, both of us had small runs with a couple jars of jam and apple butter. Excited about the process of preserving, we decided to jump in with tomatoes.

The fruit on our home tomato plants wanted to stay green this year so we opted to purchase from our local farmer’s market. I found a great booth that offered organic tomatoes at less than a dollar a pound. With a box purchased and our canning supplies at the ready, we began our journey into the wonderful (and long) world of canning!

She has a great kitchen and WAY more room than I to let our babies run around. They’re only 6 weeks apart so it is an ideal situation where mamas can chat while we work and the babies can play together. Everyone is happy. Both she and I are crafty mamas. We like to get our hands dirty and see the beautiful completion of a fine dinner or well worked project. Though we love just hanging out for coffee, we also find that it’s a great excuse to get some fun work done!

That first 26 lb box took us almost 8 hours. Needless to say, it was a learning process. Of course we’re also taking into fact that we both have 14 month old toddlers running at our feet who need attention, which we’re happy to give. So who knows how the time would work out if we had only the canning to do. The water bath itself took up to 55 minutes per process. It didn’t matter though. Time passed smoothly and we had a great time. We got 12 pint jars of diced tomatoes out of that first attempt. We lost over half our weight from beginning to end.
Our second go round was a bit more productive and much quicker. The farmer said the tomatoes were twos, which I guess means, ‘ripe and ready to eat’. So instead of being able to wait a few days for our normal weekly date, we had to process them that very day. After some advice from Sam’s mama, we decided this time to go with stewed rather than diced. We lost much less meat that way, and the whole peel and prepare work took less than half the time! We ended up with 14 jars.
We are giddy with excitement. Next on the list is beans, and then applesauce. We may become canning junkies. Not a bad habit to start, I’d say.

*photos by Samantha DeNaray