Thursday, April 28, 2011


I really did see them. At least, I think I did. Twice.

How often does one see a flock of Pelicans in southern Colorado? Crazy.....but there they were. On my drive back from picking up hay from our farmer friend and organic chicken food from the feed store a couple of days ago, I saw a whole mess of birds circling in the air above the prison farm. White birds. Seagulls, I thought. Well, that's unusual, but not unheard of. I'd seen seagulls often enough in Colorado, and in some odd places too. But, as I got closer to the birds in flight, I noticed they seemed strange, not like seagulls at all, and that big yellow bill was way too long. Do seagulls have yellow bills?

Now, I'm super curious, being a fan of the bird world and all, and I roll down the window (or push the button) and stick my head out, trying to get a better look while not running into the occasional oncoming car or farm truck. I should have pulled over, but life on our little farm called me back, and I decided I was either very lucky indeed to have seen such exciting birds, or just plain crazy, suffering some warp in reality that allowed me to hallucinate about thirty pelicans in the high desert of Colorado. Yeah, there were two groups of them and they were over a lake near the river, so there was water.

So I get home and forget about it in the midst of  my new job as farm manager and farm laborer and my old job as mother, housekeeper and cook. And as has been my way as of late, my Ego begins to grumble about the unfairness of life's circumstances and my mood gets sore with my aching muscles from digging post holes and potato trenches, from unloading hay and heavy wood posts for the fence I'm trying to get up to keep the guineas in. I don't want to be a farmer. I want it to be all done so I can wander through the gardens and admire my birds and flowers and growing things. Without Richard, I realize, I'm it, and it's way too much. I want to flee into the desert of NM and study the sagebrush.

Now that I'm on the new farm weight loss plan of constant work, I'm feeling pretty trapped and resentful. When was the last time I got to be sick? When you become a mother, you don't get to have down days. Even when you have the flu, you gotta pull it together long enough to feed and dress the kids. Life keeps on going and there is so much to do. Never a break. Work it off. There is no one else.

Yeah, I can't milk the goats like Richard, because I've milked them maybe five times in the year and a half that we've had them. It takes me about a half hour per goat, hands cramping, as I try to keep the agitated mama from putting her foot in the milk pail. When I get done with the morning chores, I'm in a state of agitation myself, and there are still kids to feed and backs to rub and laundry to do and floors to clean and meals to make and eggs to fetch and on and on it goes. I'd like to sit down. I don't want to haul another bale of hay. I broke the post hole diggers trying to get the holes dug for my pallet fence. My guineas are in the neighbors yard yelling and screeching. Do they like birds, I wonder? I had a man come out to give me an estimate on finishing the perimeter fence. Ha! There's a reason why we are doing it all ourselves. But, he did help me chase the guineas back into my yard. Nice of him.

Yeah, I've been in the clutches of an angry and resentful Ego that spits out rude words to anyone who dares speak to me. Not a good time. I fantasize about an old adobe in the desert where I could live...alone.  I walk by my living room windows and see the panorama of the mountains with the mesas in the foreground and think how I'd love to just take my easel outside and paint. Break out the forbidden oils and set the muse free.
That's on my way to something else, and forgotten as soon as I leave the room.

I think of selling the goats, the llamas, the millions of chickens and packing up the remainder of my herd and running to the desert, to my fantasy house that doesn't exist. Not to be. Here I am, back in my life, with screaming kids and a husband parked on the floor.

When I find my book on animal totems ( Animal-Speak by Ted Andrews) I learn that Pelicans represent "renewed buoyancy and unselfishness."
Now that's something. That can't be right. Is this a message on how I should be behaving rather than what's currently happening? I sure feel like a selfish witch who is being drug down to the murky depths of a hateful out of control Ego.
The Pelican is about self-sacrifice and how to rise above difficult life circumstances. But, how do you do that with grace and dignity while scraping the chicken poop off your boot?

So today I see them again. Pelicans. On the way back from taking Richard to a chiropractor, I see a mass of birds on the lake and pull into the parking lot of the old cement plant (?) or whatever it used to be. The gates are locked and I can't get a good view, so the old me, the wild and crazy adventurous me, hops out of the car. "Do you think I'll get arrested?" I ask Richard as I duck under the gate with phone in hand (the only camera I have with me...still dreaming of that SLR with telephoto lens). The yelling kids and Richard's constant pain and immobility vanish as I head across private property to find my birds. And there they are...they look like swans, they are so big. Was I mistaken?

I can't get close enough to really tell for sure, but it looks like one is standing with his huge bill swinging down to his chest. Yes! I try to snap a picture with our new phone camera (later I learned I shot a photo of the shoreline and no birds) and contemplate getting closer. But there is a mess of broken concrete rubble and it looks like some kind of old drainage into the lake... is this a toxic zone? And, I should not be here... trespassing. So I head back and even run the last 30 feet. I feel elevated, elated and there is a surge of energy running through my veins. I want to run. I want to fly. I want to get in the car and drive to Santa Fe.

But reality is a family and a farm and animals to take care of and kids to feed. Richard has to go to work in the afternoon. My moment of bliss has flown away with the four birds who seem to follow the car as we head out. "Did you see them?" I ask Richard. "Were they real?"

"I don't know. I can't really turn my head."

Back into the mundane I fall, plummeting into a different dimension, one where wild goose chases (or Pelican) are not only uncommon but waste precious time needed to dig holes for trees.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Guardian dog

We got a new puppy last Friday!!


My guardian dog, in training, is a female 9 week old Great Pyrenees pup with badger markings. We call her Honey because she is so sweet, and after her first bath, she smelled sweet too.

I found her through the Thrifty Nickle ads, which is okay, but I can't really be assured of the quality of this pups genes. Is she full blooded? She seems kind of miniature right now, but maybe that's all we need for our micro farm! She does have the two dew claws, which I read the Great Pyrs usually have, and she has the face, and it really doesn't much matter  because I love her anyway.

It seems I have a special fondness for white fluffy animals.

My little fuzzball girl does the rounds with me every day as I collect eggs, water the gardens and eventually close up the animals for the night. She helps me herd the chickens into the coop. She doesn't chase them, but her presence sends them into a tizzy and they all run inside, just like that. Handy.

It is my job to teach her the farm and she has become my much so I lose her sometimes, and turn around fast and there she is, right behind me, turning with me. She's great fun, and except for the puppy training (housebreaking and chewing), which always gets old, she is a constant delight.
Jealous Quinton

My chihuahuas, the male in particular, is extremely jealous and shows his disapproval by attacking Honey when I'm not looking. He's getting better now that we are almost a week along, but for a few days there I was carrying my Great Pyrenees around to protect her from my chihuahua. The irony. Maybe the tiny chihuahua will always be the "big dog" in the house.

We also visited Paul and Tammy at Wren's Nest Farm in Pueblo last Friday when we went to meet the dog seller at Big R. We delivered our "Lucky" horse trailer to them so they could go pick up their new Jersey milk cow in Walsenburg. How exciting is that? I wish we had the space to have a cow here...there was another for sale, reasonably priced, where they found theirs. I love visiting their farm. They inspire me to just do it...get out there and farm!

And now our little farm, the Green Desert Eco Farm has a farm dog to protect the livestock and chase off the a few months. We've also sold some more CSA shares which leaves us with only TWO left. The goats are in milk and Richard has a cheese-making class for the Canon Food Co-op this Sunday down at the Rockvale Community Center. We are planting...lettuces, radishes, spinach and transplanting raspberries. There are many shelves of plant starts in Richard's office and the gardens are being prepared. There are plans for another greenhouse in the upper garden and we have ordered our first flock of meat chickens. Things are moving along. Spring is definitely here.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Sunshine, birthdays and time at the farm

Spring time is so much fun, and one of my favorite seasons. I just have to learn to ignore the fifty mile an hour wind gusts and get on with the day. I've decided that the nice days tend to have the most wind, but if we stayed inside, nothing would ever get done. Learn to live with it, brace yourself and remember it'll probably get worse as global warming continues.

Today we built a trellis in the lower garden and planted some sweet peas.
pea trellis, lower garden
Our pallet fence has been improved with electric tape that rises to about eight feet...high enough to keep the deer out. Bambi and his relatives have been nibbling at my lilies and irises directly in front of the house, so Richard has put up make shift fences here and there to keep them out. I'm thinking of getting a big dog to scare them off--one that won't be carried off by a hawk like my chihuahuas. Been researching the giant guardian breeds like the Great Pyrenees. Might as well have a dog that will protect the livestock instead of hunt it.

Richard planted some spinach in the greenhouse and in his new cold frames. The planting has begun. There has been a lot of interest in tomato and pepper starts this year. It looks like more people are gardening this season. That's great! Good for them. We all have to be backyard farmers if we want clean, healthy and reasonably priced produce.
Free Birds

The fence in the upper garden is finished too, which means, the guineas are finally free. And what did they do but head straight for the llama pen, which they couldn't get into, so they opted for the goat pen. I chased them out and Richard stapled up some netting over the gate they walked through. Good thinking, because the goat kids would've walked through that gate too.

With the warm air today, I let the baby goats out to frolic in the yard, but Amelia's little ones decided to stay in the shade of the barn instead.



All the goats are doing well. The babies are all healthy and active and looking pretty darn cute.They jump and play and butt heads. I could watch them for hours.

The llamas were gelded this past Friday. They don't seem to be mad anymore and are just trying to figure out who or what their new neighbors are. They stood and stared over the fence as long as the goat babies were out playing today. They are such inquisitive creatures.

Our son had a birthday this weekend too, so we took the kids to the Pueblo Zoo, which was great fun. We bought a season pass so we can drop by any time we are in town. Handy, and cheaper in the long run than even two trips to the zoo with two adults and two kids. 

We tried the cloth gift wrapping idea. and it worked really well, but I would advise everyone to have plenty of ribbons on hand to tie up the gifts. I was not prepared and had to rummage through my sewing boxes to find something suitable.

Festive cloth wrapping
The material to wrap the gifts cost less than wrapping paper would have, was a lot more fun and we can use it again for wrapping, or use it to make something else, like a birthday quilt at the end of so many years. Great idea put into practice. So, save a tree and dig out that old material you've been holding onto.Wrap some gifts. If I were the recipient of such interesting and thoughtful gift wrap, I would be thrilled. Think of the things you could make if all of your gifts came wrapped in material! A crafter's dream come true.

I also found an antique treadle Singer locally
Sewing, off the grid!
for less than I anticipated.

I am so excited. I'm still trying to find extra accessories for it, and I have yet to learn how to use it, but I can't wait to make those birthhday quilts without electricity. Can you imagine? What a wonderful thing.

Makes me wonder if the modern conveniences are really such a great thing? This machine is about 100 years old and still going strong because it was made to last.

Also this past Sunday, one of the guys from our local feed store came out to help Richard work on the Earthbag barn. Progress is being made. We picked up the cutest miniature scaffold in Pueblo, and it seems to work just perfect for hoisting those buckets of dirt up to the top of the Earthbag wall. Before you know it it will be time to put the roof on. Can't wait. Unfortunately, the tamper broke, so it's going back to the store we purchased it from less than two months ago. Apparently it was not built to last.