Sunday, December 23, 2012

Holidays...or not.

So, it's that time of year again...that time I love to hate. And this year we aren't even pretending to celebrate any of the traditional consumerist holidays. They are all tainted with lies and consumerism. We decided not to participate, but to make our own traditions and celebrations instead.

This year when everyone was spending their Thanksgiving stuffing themselves, we decided to go out into the woods to search for sticks. I read about a Native American custom of making prayer/spirit sticks, which then would be planted in the ground on the Winter Solstice by the head of the family. We thought we would give it a try.

Into the woods.

While most of the nation was inside watching football and eating turkey, we spent the day hiking through the pristine, quiet woods (no hunters out) looking for our perfect sticks to transform into objects of power.

Looking for sticks.

The next day, which Americans celebrate as Black Friday, the biggest day of greed, we cooked our organic, free- range turkey, which we bought locally from a turkey farm down in the river valley. The turkey was delicious, and expensive, but a nice treat. We never did get around to raising turkeys this year. I also made the kids a homemade and handmade gift to show my gratitude for being their mom.

Car bridge over the Rio the turkey farm. One car wide and a little scary.

Homemade dinosaurs from scrap material.

The prayer sticks turned out great. We worked on them December 20th, in celebration of the Winter Solstice--a big one this year. Residents in our town of Taos have been working toward raising money to install a pyramid on their land. There is a lot of talk about pyramids working with the energy during this Winter Solstice to bring in good things. Pyramids. Hmm...

So, we decided to build one. At first we were going to build one out on our land (with pallets) and then anchor our spirit sticks to the directional corners. But, it began snowing here around December 14, and hasn't really stopped, or at least the dirt roads haven't cleared, and it is so cold. We haven't been out to our place for a while. So, with time growing short and the Solstice fast approaching, Richard decided to build the pyramid out of conduit from his hoop house projects and put it in the house. The only place it would fit was in the kids' room. So, that's where it is, with the prayer sticks anchored to each corner. It looks cool. We meditated in the pyramid on the Solstice, and yesterday when I had a stomach upset, I sat in the pyramid for a half hour and felt energized and my stomach issue cleared up.

Pyramids are said to have healing properties. No, it doesn't seem to matter if it has solid sides or not, only that it is angled correctly, in direction and in how it is built. Richard spent a lot of time figuring out the dimensions and angles so it would be correctly energized. We added distilled water and crystals, plus the prayer sticks that have copper wire...all to pull the beneficial energy in.


Prayer /spirit sticks on the pyramid.

Duck and chickens in the snow.

Before the snow and the freezing temperatures came, we did manage to get some mudding done on our pallet shed out on our land. That was great fun. We hooked up the mixer to the generator, which made it go a little faster. I really enjoy the "flow" of putting the mud plaster on the walls.

Doesn't look like a pallet shed anymore.

We also decided to insulate the shed with a light straw and mud insulation, which we packed into the spaces in the pallet walls. This is still ongoing. We had to clear out a rat's nest and cover the floor with a few inches of gravel, which we also filled inside the first few inches of the pallet walls. We hope this will keep the critters out of our shed. We did get all of the outside walls plastered with the first layer of mud before the snow came. And it all dried. Lucky.

Light straw and mud insulation.

Richard has also been building chicken coops out of disassembled pallets and selling them on Craiglist to raise money for hay for our llama herd. The girls and boys are all doing great, but they sure do eat a lot (well, not as much as goats, or horses, or a cow).

Richard's pallet chicken coops.

Big bale of oat hay.

We have made several trips around the area to find hay. One to the San Luis Valley for alfalfa, one to Espanola for oat hay, and then another to Espanola for some wonderful grass hay. Richard has been building chicken coops like mad....until the snow came.

Llama smorgasbord.

The pallet feeder works great. It is between the girls and the boys on the fence line so they can all get to it. The little llamas reach up from underneath and the rest dig into the hay from above. So many of them are now spitting at each other, to try to scare off the competition. It doesn't work--the spitting, but it is funny to watch the llama antics at feeding time.. Everyone gets their share and everyone seems happy enough.

Yesterday we went to a Solstice ceremony at the New Buffalo Center, and to see the pyramid they brought up from central Mexico. It seems more like an art piece to me, but was still designed to capture the energies. We participated in another labyrinth ceremony, but this time my little girl was a little bothered by the crowd moving in for a group hug (of about 50 people) and the humming (Ohm...) so we snuck out and missed the talk around the pyramid. Too bad.

But, we have our very own pyramid at home in our warm and sunny Earthship. I love this house. I hardly even notice how cold the temperatures are outside. Except when we brought the chickens into the spare room for a night with temps around -11. That was a bad idea. The roosters started crowing at 3am. It was a night of little sleep and I found myself eagerly awaiting the rise of the sun so the flock could go back out to the coop. Now we put heat lights in the coop. The downside is the power drain. Being on solar, the lights suck up the power over night, and we usually lose power in the morning sometime, before the sun comes up. This morning we hooked the generator up to the house. This is only going to work while Richard is on vacation for the week. When he goes back to running his computer for eight hours, we won't have enough power for the lights.

How we took our on grid lifestyle for granted, with heat lamps and electric water de-icers for the livestock. Life is more interesting and more challenging now for sure. But, we love it and we are doing great figuring it all out. And, it's kind of fun.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Adding llamas to the farmstead

This week has been about llamas. Getting more llamas. Having them delivered. Setting up more fence, and thinking about what to do next.

We have been in the process of acquiring four female llamas. There were seven available, but I decided if we were going to have to buy feed, it should be for the younger ones who are at reproductive age. We settled on three young girls under a year and one mama to one of the crias who is seven months old.

Richard built a hay feeder out of pallets that will hold a bale of hay.

pallet hay feeder

And, while we waited for the girls to arrive, he put a new trailer hitch on the van that also showed up via UPS. We ordered the hitch online, and it came just in time for us to get a load of water before our cisterns run dry. We have not had any moisture in this desert land, ironically, while we watch the northeast United States recover from Hurricane Sandy and the over abundance of moisture they have received. I would not want that kind of flooding, nor that kind of damage to deal with. I am glad we chose to stay in the Rocky Mountains when we decided to move. I wish everyone the best of luck in recovering.

hitch on van

The new llama ladies arrived in a big fancy horse trailer. I could see it ambling across the dusty road, heading towards our place, and I yelled at Richard, "The llamas are coming!"  The kids and I could hardly contain our excitement. It is always so much fun to have new animals come to the farm.

Arrival of new llamas.

It was quite a challenge to get the llama girls out of the trailer and into their new yard. They had never been in a trailer, and weren't real fond of the harnesses, which unfortunately didn't fit real well. We only have large harnesses here on our little farm, and no access to a store with llama gear. But, we got the harnesses (adjusted as small as they would go) and leads on and proceeded to pull and push the frightened critters into their new yard, taking breaks now and them to let them (and us) adjust and relax for a minute.

Meet and greet.

The boys were very curious about the new ladies, and all came running to introduce themselves over the fence that now separates them. After the girls were released, they quickly found the hay bucket and got to eating. There wasn't too much nervous humming that went on, and overall, I think everyone handled the arrival pretty well. We've got our work cut out, with training these girls to lead and load into the trailer, not to mention just get used to human handling so we can brush them and trim their nails, and one day milk them.

Llama girls.

Paddie the cria.

So today, I find myself researching how to clean and card llama wool. This past week I also found a set of carders on Craigslist for really cheap, and a friend picked them up in Santa Fe on her monthly shopping trip to the "big" city. (Thank you Susan!)

Hand carders.

I am almost ready to get out the bags of stored wool I have been hauling around, and deal with it. And, I'm not so afraid of it, having watched countless videos on You tube on how to clean the wool and card it. So happy for the internet.

Bags of llama wool.

I am so looking forward to the day when we can be on our own land, with a barn for the animals and places to do all of the things we want to do.

Haven't had much interest from other parents about helping out with the cost of the "llama dairy." I guess we will proceed ahead by ourselves and hope at some point other people will want to join in. In any case, our kids will benefit from this little experiment, I hope. I am eager to get these girls bred and get on with it, but we can't really breed them until Spring, when the weather is warm enough to support baby llamas. The girls will be in gestation for one year, and all of them will be at a healthy breeding age come Spring. That also gives up time to find an intact male to breed them with.

One step at a time. One day at a time. It is taking shape.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Camel Dairy?

How the direction of our lives can change in such a short period of time. Life is truly amazing and unpredictable.

While we have not had much opportunity to get out and work on our land, due to our lack of funds, we have done a few things, like clear more sage for the other leg of the fencing on the west perimeter of the land, and Richard built and installed a door on the shed (out of disassembled pallets), and we had our first experimental try at making adobe bricks.

Richard fills the adobe brick form.
Adobe bricks.
Pallet shed door
Bus shopping center: General store and restaurant.

In other news, I have decided to start a church on our property, or more likely online, with some meetings and ceremonies at our place. This will utilize my minister ordination and allow us to connect with more folks in regard to creating a sustainable community and planet. I learned a new term this week, which aptly  describes my current position in life: Spiritual Activist. I seek to help awaken others in the hope that we can all spiritually evolve in an attempt to save the planet from the destruction that is running rampant with current policies and methodologies, especially in my own home country of the USA.

It is vitally important that we all set aside our differences and come together in order that we may evolve into a new humanity that supports the ideas of peace and equality for all and environmental responsibility. No, I don't support communism, just peace and love, and happiness or the pursuit of, for all people.

Life is full of lessons isn't it? And people who are bigger than me, in the sense that they are more open-minded and forgiving of different belief systems that go against everything they stand for. That is commendable and I am lucky to have made a new friend over the past few weeks who is just such a person. This woman came to my house to buy our extra roosters because we decided they were more than we wanted to take on in regard to processing. Richard's chicken processing classes have not been very popular, and in fact most of the classes we have offered have met with little interest in this community. Perhaps we need to rethink our audience.

It turns out this lovely soul is the mother of three beautiful little girls who all suffer in some form or another from allergies or ailments, including symptoms on the autism spectrum. My daughter was diagnosed with PDD- NOS last year and, although my son did not receive the diagnosis, his behavior mirrors his sisters so much, with a good bout of hyperactivity thrown in, that I have to wonder if his lack of diagnosis was correct. In any case, his allergies are beyond reasonable and he is also on the gluten, casein, soy free diet his sister is on. We also feed only organic, additive free, preservative free, nitrate free, dye free, non-processed foods. It is an expensive diet, but one that should be adopted by everyone concerned with their own good health, and a diet we hope will help to heal our children of the health issues that actually combine to cause the condition of autism.

So I met this wonderful mom who is on a crusade to heal her kids, as many parents of children with autism are, who asked me if I had ever heard of the benefits of camel's milk? Well, no, I had not. So she provided me with the beginning research that would lead me down an interesting path indeed. She had noticed my llamas, who are always eager to meet new people and stood hanging their curious faces over the gate.

Camel's milk is a fairly new to the world of autism, but researchers claim the benefits of drinking the milk have had profound positive effects on diminishing the symptoms of autism. Here is an article in Natural News that explains this amazing milk. Also their are claims that donkey's milk might just have similar positive effects. As I began doing my research, I was directed to a site that sells camel's milk, called Camel Milk USA, and a naturopathic doctor named Millie Hinkle, who has helped many people set up camel and/or donkey milk dairies. She in fact got a law passed that allows dairies to sell this milk in the US.  So, I called her.

Yes, she can help us find a dairy to buy the milk for our kids. The milk is incredibly expensive though, so I asked her about starting my own dairy. We have the land, and even some know how...with milking goats, but not camels. Camels are also incredibly expensive. As are Mammoth donkeys, which she recommended. But, we could start with regular donkeys and work our way up. On a whim, and because it has come up, I asked her about llamas. Well, llamas, being of the same family as camels, have milk that is just as beneficial, but milking a llama never produces enough milk to really make a dairy any profit. So what, I thought. Llamas are accessible and I know something about llamas, having three of my own. But, we never bred any of them and all three of our males are gelded. Too bad.

But then, 7 free female llamas show up on a Facebook site my new parent friend has recommended to me. Wow. Talk about miracles. Talk about life jumping in a new direction. Now, I am in the process of acquiring these seven llamas, and wondering how this whole thing can be pulled off. Especially when Richard reminds me how we barely came up with the money to buy hay for our own llamas. I spent the whole night tossing and turning and wondering if a had made a huge mistake. The woman who is giving up the llamas can't afford to feed them through the winter. Will I be in the same position?

I am currently trying to enlist the help of other parents to donate funds to help buy hay and build a shelter for these llama girls. We do not have the llamas yet, and maybe I could back out of it, or even take a few less. However, I feel this is the beginning of an opportunity that won't come again. If I get these llamas and get them bred, then in a year, we will have access to the milk that may help my kids heal inside. Everything is a gamble. There are no guarantees.

I feel that if I can pull this off, I can then graduate my dairy up to donkeys and perhaps even camels one day, A female camel, bred, costs about 15,000$. That's a lot of money we don't have. But we do have seven free llamas at hand with almost the same milk, although, admittedly, there is a lot less of it and we will have to learn how to milk these girls with a syringe. Doesn't that sound interesting? We also will have more llama wool, assuming I find someone to shear them, which we might be able to sell, or at the very least use for insulation in our house building endeavors.

We could try to take the llamas trekking, which might raise more money, but my life partner seems to have very little interest in this whole endeavor at this point. Shame. Maybe I could take them for llama walks to generate some money while he stays home with the kids. I just don't know. I do know this is an opportunity that probably won't present itself again. And, if it doesn't work out, we could re-home the girls in the long run, I suppose. But why not give it a go?

So, I'm running on blind faith now, hoping that within the next few days a solution will present itself in regard to financing this dairy endeavor. I don't have the llamas yet. Nor do I have fencing to contain them or a shelter for them to get out of the harsh, mountain, winter weather that is coming. Thankfully these critters are adapted for living in these conditions.

I have to believe this will all work out for the best. What else can I do? If I don't jump, will I always wonder at an opportunity missed? Don't things have a way of working out?

If you'd like to donate to this endeavor, please follow the link here: Green Desert Sanctuary
If you'd like to buy some art, which will go to support this endeavor anyway, please follow this link: Kerry Bennett and if you are interested in an original piece of artwork, please contact me through the artist website. I will give you a deal. I have seven (plus three) llamas to feed.

Let's get this camelid dairy going! And thank you Vivian for showing up in my life when you did and being such a noble and courageous person and dedicated parent! We can do this!! You have renewed my faith in people and lead me back to the belief that even in spite of our profound different beliefs, we still have so much in common, the very basic being we are simply people, trying to survive and take care of our families in the best ways we know how.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Life on the homestead. Life in Taos.

Haven't written for a while. Been feeling down with little money to invest in Our Place. It's hard to sit at home when we want to be out on our land building. We did pick up a bunch of metal barrels off of Freecycle, which Richard wants to turn into biochar and rocket stoves. We took the barrels out to the land, but didn't do much else. I meditated on the serenity as a Raven circled our work area.

Life in Taos goes on in the weird ways it normally does.

New business on the Mesa

There is a new bus out on the Mesa, called The General Store Bus. Wonderful. We did not stop in, but signs say they carry pet food, firewood and car parts. And pizza. Competition for the ice cream/coffee/burger bus?

This past week I went on an adventure of sorts, wildcrafting with a local herbalist.

Mullein--first year

On our day trip, I got to see the beautiful trees. Fall is here. I can no longer turn a blind eye to the snow that is coming.

Aspens in the Ski Valley

Today, while at home on the 'Stead, I followed Fluffy around. He's my giant Cochin Buff rooster. Reminds me a little of my tiny Cochin Napoleon from the Colorado homestead. I miss that fiesty little roo. (He died mysteriously one morning. Sad, sad day for me.) Here in NM this past week or so we lost one of the ducks to some mysterious illness. One day they are fine, the next day, stiff as a board, lying in the yard. No amount of research has yet yielded an adequate answer.

Fluffy Pants/Fancy Pants the Roo and Guadelupe the lonely duck.

While I play with my chickens, the always inquisitive llamas stick their noses into my business. Or, maybe they are just saying hi.

"Hey, whatcha doin'?"

And an ultralight airplane soars overhead as I watch the hot air balloons rising over the hills (Taos Gorge balloon rides). Interesting morning.


Also caught two snakes in the mudroom this past week. Bull snakes, but they do a fine impersonation of a rattlesnake. Caught on two different days. One huge one...about five feet long, and then a tiny baby about a foot long. An angry baby--hissing and striking at the glass of the jar we caught him in. He puffed his head up into a diamond shape, and he is so lucky he did not have a rattle nub on the end of his smooth tail.

Snake medicine.

I have decided to take an herbology course when the funds come in.

Sold a painting. An original no less. Not much money, but enough to buy 20 bales of hay for the llama boys. Stocking up for the winter. The next art sale goes for propane. Or maybe to register the trailers. Or the van. So many choices. Buy some art here!!

Just another amusing week in northern New Mexico.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

The tarantulas are traveling...fall is here.

Tarantula crossing our driveway.

Interesting week . The tarantulas are out on their walk abouts. On the highway down to our land last week, I counted fourteen of the little guys crossing the road. Yesterday there were ten in the road and one in our driveway. Lucky for me this guy presented a photo op that could not be passed up, especially since last week, when I was trolling for tarantulas along the highway (after having seen 14), driving at about 15 mph, I didn't find a single one to stop and take a picture of. They are not as big as I expected. The ones we had in Fremont County, Colorado were larger and more varied in coloring. The female that lived next to our path to the barn was beautiful, and huge! And a little intimidating.

Also this week there have been beautiful birds...migrating maybe. Crazy colors. When I first saw these guys, I thought, wow, they look like the African Masked Weaver I made for my Safariarte piece. What would those birds be doing here?

Recycled wood, yard staple--African Masked Weaver

On further inspection, they are just opposite of the Masked Weaver, and I think they are really Yellow Headed Blackbirds.

Blackbirds with yellow heads and breasts.
Yellow Headed Blackbirds

Still, they are very pretty and took my breath away as they added color to the desert landscape.

It is fall in the desert. There is no denying it any longer. It frosts nearly every night now and there was snow on the mountains one evening after a rain. We tried to cover the plants, and saved them one night, only to be caught off guard the next night when the weather forecast did not call for a frost. We lost most everything. We planted too late here anyway, I think. There are still some peppers under a row cover that may survive a little longer, but overall our gardening experience has been less than we had hoped this year. We got onions, garlic, potatoes, some lettuce, radishes, and there are still carrots in the ground. The peas went to seed too fast, so we saved them for seed for next year. Richard still has hopes on getting a few fall crops in.

Surprisingly (or not really), when you spend so much time out in the desert, you begin to notice the subtle changes in color as the seasons change. The sage is blooming. The Chamisa is a bright yellow in some places and gone to seed to create a creamy yellow in other places. There is bright, white Winter Fat, Purple Astors, Brown -eyed Susans, other varieties of yellow flowers, plus the sage green of the sage not blooming, and other plants gone to seed. Most of this colorful loveliness is next to the roadsides where the plants get the most water from rain runoff. So as we head to our E-ship down our long and dusty dirt road, the eyes are drawn to the color along side the road. It is amazing and inspirational. The colors of the desert in bloom in the fall cannot be beat. I am in love with this place and I am in love with the palette presented to me daily as a go about my mundane chores. I will try to get a photo before the colors fade into winter.

We haven't gotten out to our land as much as we would like due to financial constraints. Gas is expensive and we still have bills to pay before we can buy more supplies. Richard did a canning class last weekend, which was a great success, and we are hoping to have another one at the end of the month. Also another chicken processing class is coming up this weekend. I hope more people sign up for the classes. You'd think with all of the instability in the economy, people would be more interested in learning the homestead basics.

We did finally get the gravel out of the trailer and into the cistern down at our place. Richard sloped it down to the drain. The next step is to cement the floor of the cistern and of course keep adding more bag courses.

Gravel in the cistern.

We also dug out the foundation trench for one of our "cabins" which in reality will end up being a small home...not tiny, but I like to call it that. It should come in around 600 sq feet with a 20 x 26 foot footprint. It also will have an upstairs.

Staking out the tiny house.
Tiny house foundation trench...done in about 7 hours. 

There is always something to do, it seems, and still nothing gets done a fast as we would like. I wish we could be out on the land so we could get more done. But we have to have a house to live in first. And so much still to do for the coming winter. Maybe we can get enough people into the classes to buy our hay for the llamas or refill our propane tank, since Richard's job is not paying much these days.

I'm still trying to work on my art, when I can. Have a new  website , connected to some print on demand thing. The cool thing is people can buy prints pretty inexpensively, and if they want an original, they can contact me directly. Check it out. Buy some art. Feed the homestead.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Another entertaining week in magical Taos

This past week we went to the Blue Moon/labyrinth/Regeneration ceremonies at the New Buffalo Center. We took the back road across the mesa and down into the gorge and crossed at the John Dunn Bridge by the hot springs. It is pretty down there. I haven't been down there for like eight years or so. The Hondo Valley seemed incredibly green. More so than I remembered when we used to live there.

View of the gorge and Rio Grande from John Dunn Bridge road.

New Buffalo is wonderful. It's very green with gardens full of growing vegetables. I guess Bob, our host, took corn directly from the garden and then the ears went into a boiling pot of water on the kitchen stove. Wish I could have tasted that fresh from the garden corn on the cob. Richard and I were fasting, so we did not partake in the wonderful  food that everyone brought for the potluck. We took gluten and dairy free zuchini bread, which Richard made, and the kids loved.

Turns out our children were the only kids there, until much later when another boy arrived, and so they became the center of the ceremony honoring the youth in our community. We walked the labyrinth with the little ones. The labyrinth was quite large and located in the field below the Barn, or formally the house Richard and I started building ten years ago and gave away seven years ago. (Long, sad story, fraught with emotion.)

My son visiting with the Crystal Skull. Barn house in the background.

One of the most exciting things...well, there were many, was the arrival and presentation of the crystal skull that some kind man brought. Being an anthropologist, I was interested in this very old and rock like petrified item. It looked like the skull of an ancient woman, which the man claimed it was. It also looked like a rock, which it also was, being thousands and thousands of years old. Very interesting. It certainly lent an air of mystery and awe to the event.

The sun set in an amazing show of color as the big, old, full moon rose in the east at the same time. Pretty incredible. The kids were pretty good, considering the ceremony was much longer than we can really expect them to sit still and be focused. They didn't do anything too strange, and I never even alerted our host and former neighbor Bob about my daughter's autistic condition.

The most fun was back in the remodeled community room at New Buffalo, where we had a drum circle. It never ceases to amaze me how incredible the drum parties are in this town. There was a harpist, the man who does the maintenance on the Earthship we live in, and guitarists, and everyone else was just free styling it on the drums. Wonderful. The kids loved it, picking out different instruments from the basket on the shelf behind our built in bench.

Drum circle and music at New Buffalo.

New Buffalo used to be a hippy commune in the 1960's. The movie Easy Rider has a commune scene in it based on New Buffalo, although the setting was staged in California for the movie. The first time we lived in Taos, we bought a small piece of land and the old commune dairy barn from the original owners, who were still there at the time. We turned the barn into a house...a much too large house we couldn't really afford, and so it eventually was sold off to the current owners. Bob bought New Buffalo around the same time and has since turned it into a thriving, community based learning and sharing center.

So our Blue Moon celebration was interesting with the fasting, the old emotions welling up over seeing the barn after so many years, the crystal skull, the kids being the honorees, and the time and place all coming together to create a magical evening. Thank you Bob.

This week, I also got to sit in the gallery where the Arte de Descartes XII show is being held. All of the artists were supposed to volunteer some time to help manage the hours of the gallery during the show. I spent my four hours studying the art, making tiny house plans for one of our cabins, and occasionally talking to potential customers.

That's my recycled wood art piece: Safariarte.

Out on the land Richard got the window put in the pallet shed and put on a door from the stack of glass doors and windows we took out there. We have been moving these glass panels around with us, hoping to build something with them. It looks like we will use them in our house. We also cleared some more sage in the location where our 20 x 20' house/cabin will be.

Pallet shed with window and door.

Richard held his chicken processing class this past Saturday, which was a success for the two folks who came. He plans on doing another in a few weeks to eliminate the many roosters we have in our flock.

Processing chickens.

Also next weekend (September 15), Richard is holding a canning class our here at the Earthship. Hope to see lots of people at this one. Food security is so important as the craziness in our world continues. If you are in  and around the area and want to come, please contact me in the comments. Also, anyone interested in the art, contact me. I will pay for half of shipping if anyone wants to hang this piece in their kid's room.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Fire on the hill, art, and working on the land.

Fire on Wind Mountain, Taos County, NM.

The fire is still burning north of our Earthship.  It was started by lightening on July 17, 2012. Some days it appears worse than others. Yesterday when we got back from working on our land in the southern end of the valley, the fire was raging. When it got dark, I could see the flames. There is no updated news on the NM fire info website, but I suspect the fire has grown now that it has jumped the ridge. Thankful for the highway between us and it. We do have corral panels moved down to our land in the event we have to move the llamas.

In other news:

The art opening was a blast. Arte des Descartes XII at the Stables Gallery in Taos, NM. There was an incredible amount of art there...all of it made out of recycled materials. Wonderful. Even the live band was a "junk" band called Check Magaphone. They were absolutely splendid. The little kids danced. There was food and a wonderful assortment of colorful characters that make up this great place I live in. Isn't it great when so many people are out there, not afraid to be themselves, no matter how quirky? I love this town!

Check Megaphone at Arte Des Descaters XII, Taos, NM

The little gallery, that before seemed just an old adobe building with cracks and peeling paint, was transformed into a haven for artists and art lovers, a mecca of fun under the trees, and I was transported back to another era when Mabel Doge Lujan might have held such a party, or salon, at her home. I imagine the same sorts of artistic and interesting people would have attended such an event and even lived in Taos at that time. This is a town that seems to draw the most amazing folks to it. We must attend more art openings.

Out at our place, we finished the roof on the pallet shed. It's coming along nicely. It still needs a door and to have the window installed. Soon we will put some mud plaster on the outside walls. We are thinking of trying a straw/mud insulation on the inside walls.

Roof framework on pallet shed.
Metal on pallet roof.

And we got another course done on the Earthbag Cistern. We are four high now. We decided to cover the first three layers with plastic and then back filled with gravel to keep any moisture away from the foundation of the cistern.

Four courses and gravel back fill on Earthbag cistern.

It is slow going out on the land, trying to live in another place and get out there to do enough work to make a difference. I wish we could just move out there, but it will be a while before we can get a live-able structure up.

This week Richard begins his fall series of classes at the homestead. This weekend will be a chicken processing class, where he and participants will butcher four of our old chickens and prepare them for the freezer. I can't take part in it...not yet, and I don't want the kids to see that. That would send my autistic daughter off on a fit I might never see the end of. So, the kids and I will hang out in the house, in the back rooms, like we usually do during classes.

The following week Richard plans on doing a canning workshop, which has garnered so much interest we might have to schedule more than one. Can it be that folks are finally interested in food security? It is definitely a good skill to have as the times change. Plus, if you have a backyard garden, canning allows you to preserve some of the lovely fruit and vegetable bounty. I sure do miss the raspberries we had at our old Victorian house in Colorado Springs. And, I really enjoy making grape jam from local grapes. Maybe I can find some around here somewhere. Maybe down in the river valley towards Santa Fe where the vineyards and winerys are.

As we head into Fall, we are doing what we can to create our own food security and long term security on our little piece of land in the Taos Valley. There is always so much to do and I feel like winter is fast approaching. We still have to get hay and build a place to store it! We have to top off our propane tank (for hot water and gas cooking stove), resupply our wood pile, pick up some organic potatoes and straw from the San Luis Valley in Colorado, which means we have to get a hitch put on the van and get it running more reliably.

Still so much to do....

Friday, August 24, 2012

We bought a van, man, and delivered some art.

Adventures in the NM sun...some we'd rather not have.

We traded in the rainbow truck for a 15 passenger van. Actually the mechanic bought the truck and we found the van on Craigslist for hardly more than we got for the truck. It has a big engine and can tow the water trailer and the horse trailer. Plus, we can all ride in it, with room to spare. It just needs a hitch.

The "new" van.

The van is in pretty decent condition. It used to be used by the town and then a local school district. The man we bought it from got it at auction. Unfortunately it got vandalized while it was sitting at the auction lot. One of the big side windows got broken out and all of the rear lights were removed...wires cut and the whole housing taken. Weird.

Lots of room in this van.

So we vacuumed out the glass and put plastic on the window and ordered the rear tail lights, which would take a day to come in. The manager at the auto parts store said a receipt would be enough if we got pulled over. What? A receipt in lieu of lights?

We picked up the van on Wednesday and lucky for me it was plenty big enough to hold my art piece, which I had to take to the gallery in town, for the show that opens on Saturday. We layed the piece on top of the back three rows of seats and still had enough room for all of us in the van. It was a little rough rolling along the dirt road out to the highway and I had to hold my art piece up off the seats to some degree. I was afraid it was going to shake apart on the washboard road. But we made it.

Art in the van 

First stop: pick up and install the tail lights before we try to drive through town traffic to the gallery. Done. But then, the van won't start at the auto parts store. Why? We bought and installed a new battery when we picked up the van. Okay, time is running short. Have to get the art to the gallery. The clerk jumps the van and we are off, taking back roads and trying to keep the van from stalling out (the idol is a little rough).

We make it to the gallery and deliver the art without too much trouble. I worry about the van starting and ask Richard if it is a good idea to turn off the van? He isn't worried. But what choice do we have anyway? It takes both of us to carry the ginormous art piece into the gallery. Why do I make such monstrosities, I wonder, as I see other artists carrying their artwork in one hand?

Stables Gallery, Taos NM.

Excited to see the art show taking form. Pick up some postcards to hand out and keep for my scrapbook.

Oh, now it's time to leave, and guess what...the van won't start. Are we surprised? Not entirely.

So I go back into the gallery and ask all of the people I don't know if anyone can jump the van. The wonderful lady putting on the show has cables and we push the van out so she can get her truck next to the battery. But that doesn't work. She tells us it is a strange day for cars at the gallery. Ours is the third that has had issues.

Now the battery cable clamp has broken and some other men/artists are trying to help Richard put a makeshift clamp on the terminal. That doesn't work either. So we push the van into a parking was in a fire parking zone or something, and I take the kids to the park while Richard runs off to the auto parts store for a new terminal clamp.

After a couple more hours and another trip to the auto parts store, Richard calls the insurance company for a tow/jump. Wonderful. The tow truck driver jumps the van and tells us the alternator belt is no good. So, off we go to the auto parts store again where they test the alternator, we buy a new belt and they tell us the starter is going bad. Great. We do not turn the van off again.

Eventually, the adventure is over and we make it back home with the traitorous van. All the people are in one piece, but nerves are frayed and moods are cranky. (Big sigh.)

There is something to be said for not having a car payment, but sometimes I wonder if it is worth the hassle. At least most (not all) new cars are fairly reliable and under warranty. Too bad we can't buy a new car with cash.

Needless to say, we will take our reliable Kia (which still has a warranty and still has payments) into town for the art opening Saturday.


Stables Gallery 
133 Paseo del Pueblo Norte
Taos NM.
August 25, 2012
4 -7 pm