Sunday, July 31, 2011

More paintings

Still painting. Hiding inside from the hot summer sun.

We have had some rain though, which is wonderful. The gardens are all doing great, except for the plants that have been lost to the rabbits and our good old  friend the pack rat (I think there must be about ten of them).

Bailing out the bath water and hiking it to the various trees in the yard...saves the septic, a little bit. Trying to work out a plan for the washing machine to drain into the a deep pile of mulch. I'm thinking of creating a rose garden for the gray water infiltration.

The Earthbag barn is starting to fall down...well the top two layers of bags that never got covered in stucco undercoat.  There just isn't any  extra money to finish it. The dirt is being recycled into the tire berm wall in front of the house. Maybe I can talk Richard into leaving the rest of the barn up and putting more gray coat on it. Haven't had many volunteers to help out around the farm, unfortunately. It is what it is.

Back view
front hills
Front mesa with rain clouds

Front hills with color
front mesa, sun shining
mesa, mountain and sky

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Painting again!

Now, it's fianally getting far as the painting goes.


Mountains and Mesas

Mesas and Mountains

I'm having fun and finding my old self somewhere in there.

As far as the house refinance...they said no. Our house is now worth about what we owe on it...dropped about 50K in two years. So, there is no money to fix the septic, the truck, or to move to New Mexico for grad school (still haven't heard from the University). There is, in fact, no money to pay the truck payment or any more doctor copays. I'm looking through the want ads for a mundane job that fits the hours Richard is not working. Nothing yet.

But hey, at least I have my paint.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Brooding and hatching

Haven't been keeping up with the old farm blog as I should, but my heart just hasn't been in it. So much going on with Richard applying to grad school in NM and our septic leachfield needing to be replaced, and the truck needing $3000 worth of work, and of course with Richard's back injury he hasn't been working as much, not to mention the pay cut of $500 a month his company imposed last month, so now I'm having anxiety attacks in addition to the joys of regular life. Welcome to America!!! It seems we have, or are about to, join the ranks of most of America these days with bills we cannot pay, medical care we cannot afford--all while we stand here, scratching our heads wondering where it all fell apart.

But life does go on, and we continue to labor away on our little farm, although I'm not sure we can continue to water our gardens with the water bill so high. Where is the rain?

2 homemade baby chicks
A few weeks ago I decided to try to hatch some chicks under one of our broody hens, so I saved four, marked them with a penciled red star to keep them separated from the rest, and let the old girl have them. Well, not even quite 21 days later I find a chick under broody hen, and another egg cracking. How exciting is that? I hoped, but didn't really think it would work. Turns out we only got the two chicks out of the four eggs...I waited another twenty four hours before I threw the dud eggs away. But the two tiny ones are cute as can be, and they are now living in the good old Rubbermaid "brooder" in Richard's office.

4 month old Honey
And my sweet Honey girl is growing like crazy. Took her to the vet to get spade (the responsible choice for pet owners) last week and at four months, she's weighing in at 48 pounds! Of course with everything going on, I'm wondering which of our animals we can afford to keep for the long haul. I'm thinking of selling the llamas and the guineas...or at least trying to find them good homes.

This little experiment in sustainability didn't turn out very well, did it? Two years in and we are losing the battle. Never even made it to producing enough food to can for the winter. I have to wonder what the Universe has in store for us next, because this is getting downright ridiculous with all of our failed attempts at the good life in this place or that. What gives?

Siding and a window on goat barn
Richard is feeling good enough to get some farm work in and we spent a few days putting the siding we bought a year or more ago off of Craigslist on the goat (or llama) barn. It looks good. Doesn't match the color of our house, and it'll be even better when we put up the beige pieces. It was supposed to be for a garden shed that hasn't been built yet, but as we think of moving and renting or selling our house here, we have to finish some of the projects. We even used two of the old windows we've been collecting for a greenhouse in the llama barn siding project.

Dark red siding on goat barn
We are trying to refinance the house in the hopes we can come up with the $3500 to put in a new leach field. We'd like to give the truck back to the bank, but would be $7000 in the hole, so we have been thinking of trying to trade it in on an economical commuter car. Last year when we tried to trade in the truck, they laughed us out of the dealerships. Not sure we can afford another car payment anyway. If anyone wants to buy a 2004 Ford 250, crew cab, 4x4 for 21K, let me know right away!

Tire retaining wall in front of house
Also have been working on my little project of berming up the driveway with tires. Essentially, I'm building a retaining wall out of the millions of tires we have collected over the two years (to build an Earthship style greenhouse, which the town won't let us build). And, except for running out of dirt, it's coming along nicely. When it is finished and stacked three tires high, I'll paint it and plant something in the tires. Or someone will, maybe, if we are not here.
Perhaps we should demolish the Earthbag barn to get dirt for the retaining wall, since it seems unlikely we will come up with enough revenue to have someone finish that project. Or, when they come to dig a new leach field, I can use all that dirt for my tire wall.

So now we are in a holding pattern, just waiting, like good old broody hen. Will Richard get accepted into Highland University? Will our refinance go through so we can fix the septic? Can we find another place to live in NM that allows us to bring the farm? I have even been looking at travel trailers, wondering if we bought one with some of the house money, could we find a piece of land to park it on in NM?

The kids have their first evaluation tomorrow at some place here in town that can do mental evaluations to see if they think the kids need further evaluations. Whatever. We've got appointments a month out and I'm not even sure we will still be here. I guess with how hard these appointments are to get, we better drive up for them. Grad school starts August 21. Yeah, cutting it close. Nothing like being prepared, is there? Who'd of thought going to Taos for a party would throw our lives into such chaos. But then, that's the power of Taos, isn't it, and I was hoping for something meaningful from our trip to the Land of Enchantment.

As soon as we got back, I started reading the Georgia O'Keeffe biographies that have been sitting in my bookshelf. I thought if I can't paint, then I can read about someone who did. Of course, that pulled me deeper into the fantasies of New Mexico, and the urge to paint was too overwhelming to resist. After several days of trying to think on how exactly I could paint (where and what medium), I came up with the kitchen table and watercolors.

Watercolors at the kitchen table
I never learned how to paint with watercolors. I read a book once that I checked out from the library and could never find again. But, I've got nothing to lose except empty paper and tubes of paint that are drying up. I took it to heart when I read that O'Keeffe painted the same scene over and over until she felt she had achieved what she was looking for, and since my view is limited to the one out my kitchen door, I've been painting the Wet Mountains behind the llama barn every night after I get the kids to bed. I'm not happy with anything yet, but I sure am having fun with it. It makes me long for the oils, but I know that's too toxic for the kids (fumes) and oils are harder to drop and run when something comes up. So, for now, it's just me and my watercolors...learning how they work and what I can do with them.

I'm loving my evenings of painting, and I started adding a morning painting too. This morning I even dared to take my watercolor pencils and paper into the living room to look out another window at Pikes peak and the mesas in the foreground. Wonderful!

And because readers want to know, Richard has been going to physical therapy here in town and finally found someone who does the "McKenzie method." It has been doing wonders for him. The first thing that has really worked since he began this back pain journey last April. We keep going to doctors, and keep paying our $50 copays for nothing. No one can do anything. The drugs don't relieve the pain. And, we are running out of copay money. I hope we can continue with the physical therapist for as long as it takes, but if not, we can find the books that Robin McKenzie wrote about this method to relieve back and neck pain. If you have back issues, check it out. Cheaper than surgery and better for you too.

So, that's an update on life at the farm. Hopefully we can relocate the farm to NM and continue on our path of sustainability. Richard wants to study scientific, sustainable, farming practices in grad school and be a farmer who uses his brain instead of his brawn. That's a good plan, considering all of the doctors did tell him he has the back of a fifty year old man and no one sees how it'll get better. Although, I suspect if he stays out of the typical doctor's office his back will get better on its own time. Yoga, yoga, yoga. Flexibility will keep you healthy and vivacious. (I should get back onto my exercise program.)

Now, on to painting and a new biography...Paul Cezanne! Color, color, is everything.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Crazy, hazy days of summer

Wild days of summer, with so much to do, so many plans and smoke from the surrounding fires in the air, it's definitely harder than you  might think to just stop and breathe. The west is on fire it seems, and no matter where we go, the smoke is there to great us.
Susan's Skybus

We spent the weekend of the fourth in Taos, incredibly enough, visiting our fellow Earthbagger Susan for her "Bus warming." The place is great. An old school bus in the sage, out on the Mesa, in the foreground of Two Peaks. It was an adventure, as most trips to NM usually are, and we met several interesting people at the party, some I'd like to get to know better in the future maybe. It was hot out there under the New Mexican sun without any shade, but not as hot as our little homestead in Southern Colorado, which I nicknamed upon arrival here two years ago, "The Surface of the Sun."
Two Peaks

The sagebrush soothed my soul and standing out there in the midst of it, staring at the Taos Mountain, I felt very much at peace, although I did have to silently ask said mountain why she decided I could not live there? I never got an answer, but as Richard, the kids and I spent a morning driving around town, remembering it all, I realized it was no longer a place I wanted to live, that it felt commercialized, somehow, but more importantly, it held too many lost dreams and tainted memories of things that went bad.
Little boy in sage

Still, I was so glad we went and even the two almost sleepless nights in strange places were worth the few moments of bliss I experienced standing in that good old beloved New Mexican sagebrush. Even the smoke couldn't dampen my feelings of euphoria, nor could my son, running off into the sage so I had to sprint my fat self after him for about two hundred yards. Overall, the kids had a delightful time, playing with their little friend, Susan's young daughter, and for the most part, the tantrums and strange OCD behaviors stopped. New Mexico is good medicine.
Our makeshift camper

Strangely enough, or maybe not, the morning after we got back home, the tantrums and spacey behavior started up in earnest, full blown, and Richard and I began to wonder if it is this place that is causing it? The house, the town, the geographical region? Do the surrounding prisons create a vortex of negative energy like the vortex of positive energy that exists in such places as Taos, Manitou, and Crestone? Something to think on.

Several of our new acquaintances spent time talking to Richard about life, the future and spiritual paths, and perhaps it made some impact upon him, because after we got home, he decided he was interested in returning to college to pursue his Masters, and he began researching NM.

The trip was wonderful and I long to return to the Land of Enchantment, where my spirit belongs.

Back here at the farm, everything stays the same, for the most part. Before our trip we took the llama boys up the mountain to the Stage Stop Llama Ranch to get them sheared, and Vader looks foolish now, parading around as a giant poodle.

So, new plans are in the works which may involve relocating the farm to some quaint little burg in the NM landscape. Hope it works out, but at the same time, there is so much unfinished here, and so much to do just to get ourselves prepared for such a jump into the glorious unknown. I will simply allow the Universe to do as it will, riding the waves of change as they come, and who knows, maybe next summer I will be back in the New Mexican sage, on a more permanent basis.