homesteading


Meet Hannah!

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This is Beatrice Hannah. She was originally named Beatrice, but we kept calling her Hannah because she reminds us of our former neighbor, who is super cool and has a similar mohawk.

She’s a brabanter, which is a somewhat rare breed of chicken. We were lucky to find her (we got her at Wardle Feed) because she is the cutest, nicest chicken I’ve ever met. She really likes people and even “talks” to us. (Brabanters get great reviews on backyardchickens.com!)

Sylvia is the blurry chicken in the background. She’s a red star (also referred to as red sex link, the “sex link” part meaning you can tell the boys from the girls as soon as they hatch, which is great if you don’t want the risk of roosters). We already have another red star (Josephine), who’s super nice and a great layer of gigantic brown eggs. I didn’t mean to get a duplicate chicken, but the feed store had her labeled as “gold star” and it didn’t occur to me that red stars and gold stars are apparently the same thing. It’s cool, though, because they’re both great, and if you’re going to have two of anything, red/gold stars are the best ones to have.


Farm Fantasy

I haven’t even told you where we moved in Denver (I have to build a little suspense!) but I should admit I’ve already been thinking about moving again. It’s not that I enjoy moving (I don’t, and would like to never do it again) but. . . .

I have this dream of moving out to the country and living off the land. Especially when I’m bored at work1 I like to search real estate listings in small Colorado towns. Would it be possible for us to buy a place with some land and have low enough expenses that we wouldn’t have to work traditional jobs?2 Instead of going to the office, we’d be tending chickens3 and growing almost all of our produce.4 I’d can stuff for winter. Maybe we’d even homeschool! Of course we’d have solar power and as many other environmentally friendly features as possible.

I mean, I’ve always been a city person. But there’s a part of me that wants to just go hard-core rural hippie.

Today’s featured farm is in Paonia and you can see it here.5 I don’t love the house (low ceilings!!) (this one is much better), but it’s on 35 acres near town (I google mapped and it’s just 1.4 miles to the local brewery) and it’s an operational lavender farm. How cool is that?! So we could live off the land and sell lavender and lavender-related products. Of course we’d have to have bees with all the lavender. Oh, and you know what else? Hemp. You can grow hemp in Colorado now and the market for hemp is fantastic. We wouldn’t be rolling in money or anything, but we might be able to get by. Maybe we could rent out the guest house in exchange for a reasonable fee or help with the crops.

I’ve been looking at the Western Slope because it’s good for farming. And if you’re going to live in a small town, Paonia sounds just about perfect. I’ve never been there but from all the photos of local events it appears to be inhabited by hippies, so we’d fit right in. It’s also home to High Country News, which is super cool. It’s farther from Denver than I’d want to be, but man, it sounds awesome.

Fortunately, when I start thinking about crazy stuff like saying fuck it all and moving to a farm, Ben is the voice of reason. That said, the voice of reason started by saying, “um, no” but now says “maybe in a couple years.”

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Notes
1. I’m approaching my 10-year anniversary at my job and frankly I’m kind of over it. I’ve been dreaming of various exit strategies to try to figure out what might be possible that doesn’t involve working for someone else. Don’t worry! These strategies don’t involve monetizing the blog.
2. We have rental income! I have to tell you about this soon.
3. I owe you a chicken update, too! We moved the coop from our old house to our new house but I haven’t shown you yet because it would’ve spoiled the house hunt.
4. I might sign up for a class on how to build a greenhouse to grow produce year-round even in the mountains.
5. “Today’s featured farm” leaves open the possibility that there will be more in the future.


Yard Work

So much for being more interesting last week! We were super busy doing yard work. Our garden beds are officially ready for business and I even direct sowed some seeds yesterday (cabbage, arugula, lettuce, spinach, bok choy, kale, a few onions to even out the row where last year’s onions have come back).

I’ve gone maybe a little overboard with planning the garden this year, but I think it’s going to turn out really well. As I’ve mentioned before, I plotted everything out using the Mother Earth News garden planner. The main benefit of this is that I know how many of each plant I should put where. Because I’m not good with spatial stuff, Ben set up our garden beds like so to help me out:

Our back garden bed

The twine down the middle of this bed shows the path that will be covered with living mulch and in theory should be, in addition to a little strip by the gate, the only place where we step after planting everything. The random wood and metal things indicate how much space I have in each row for each type of plant. After everything is planted and starts to grow, we’ll take these out.
Our front garden bed

The front bed has rows that go all the way across, so these are marked by twine or little fences Ben made with random stuff we had lying around. The fences are for climbing plants — zucchini, cucumbers, peas. I assume peas climb? I’ve never grown them before.
garlic!

I planted some garlic last year or the year before and forgot about it. It’s back!
Our pear tree
Our pear tree
Our pear tree

Our little pear tree that doesn’t make pears does produce some lovely little flowers.
LOL

This picture made me LOL. Josephine says “‘Sup.”


Yard & Garden Updates

Since we’ve lived in this house, we’ve done the following two or three times: Go to Target, buy four of the cheapest outdoor chairs we can find that aren’t hideous, use them in our yard until the intense Colorado sun destroys them, throw them out when they become unusable because they are exceptionally unlikely to be repurposed into anything else.

This year, we figured we should try something different. We were tired of buying new chairs every few years and it’s not good for the environment to buy relatively disposable shit like that. (Plus the last ones we bought were kind of retro cute and colorful but they were wobbly and that’s not a good idea when there might on occasion be small children and/or drunk people around.)

The new chairs had to be metal because that’s probably the only thing that can stand up to the sun. They had to go with our retro patio table and umbrella. I’m sure you’re already picturing the chairs we got.

Chairs!!

We scored four of them in pristine condition with a matching metal and glass table (temporarily in the greenhouse) and cushions (which are kind of ugly but we’ll be loving in the summer when they act as oven mitts for our butts when we sit on these hot chairs) on Craigslist for $200. That’s way more than we usually spend, but these should last forever and they’re my favorite style of outdoor chairs ever. So cute! And nobody will wipe out on them. (Although we do have another chair that’s like these but a rocker and Ben totally wiped out on it the first night we had it.)

As for the garden, I planted two kinds of lettuce (freckles and something called “gourmet mix), arugula, and spinach in containers, which are on a shelf in the greenhouse. I could probably plant all the stuff in the ground at this point, but we’re planning to buy some additional soil for our garden beds and haven’t prepped the soil or gotten any mulch yet. So it’s greens in containers for now and in the ground later.

(If you’re wondering about this, everything we do in the garden is organic and natural. We don’t use any chemicals and haven’t (so far) even used fertilizer. I’m interested in fertilizer, but I was reading about natural, organic fertilizer the other day and so much of it is gross and not vegetarian — fish emulsion! — so I probably won’t bother. We use our own compost and this year we’ll be mulching with cardboard, straw, and living mulch (clover).)

containers for now

I also started a bunch more seeds: bok choy, broccoli, brussel sprouts, marigolds, peas, peppers (jalapeno, Hungarian hot wax, King Crimson sweet bell), sage, tomatillos, tomatoes (Rutgers, Cherokee purple, yellow pear, sweetie cherry). I got most of the seeds from High Mowing Organic Seeds and some from Southern Exposure Seed Exchange. (This year, I’m going to try saving seeds for the first time. I spend a shitton of money on seeds.)

Starting seeds

The other cool thing is that on Monday, it was warm enough for me to lift weights outside. I don’t even run outside, but I love lifting weights outside and it’s one of the great benefits of working out at home. This was my view from the bench.

My view while working out today