Monday, October 7, 2013

Classes and Farm store

Richard is offering classes at the farm. October 12 is a hands on chicken processing class. We also have items for sale in the Farm store. Check out the pages at the Church Farm Blog. You can find out more information and register there.

Monday, September 9, 2013

New Directions

Here's a link to the new website and blog Green Desert Sanctuary. This has been in the making for a while now, but without a suitable piece of property, we are having trouble getting it off the ground. Yes, we have ten acres outside of Taos, but there are restrictions, the road is horrid, and Taos County has some odd rules about certain livestock. Plus, there just isn't any water, which we need in order to run a working farm. Throw in the spiritual side of it and how I want to counsel people from a spiritual perspective, as well as do energy healing, and Green Desert Sanctuary was born.

Check out the new site, and if you feel compelled, make a donation to help us really get this thing off the ground!

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Staying here...for now.

Yeah....we're not going anywhere. There are no financing options and we don't have a boat load of cash at this time, so here we stay, on the border of Colorado and New Mexico. It's not all bad. It is one of the prettiest places I've ever been, there are wild horses nearby and lots of art opportunities.

I did make it into the Arte de Descartes XIII again this year. The show is at the Stables Gallery in Taos and runs through September 7, 2013.

We have decided to move things in  a new direction and so I may not be blogging here too much anymore. But, I'll leave it up for all of you pallet fence folks out there.

I am creating an artist website, which you can find here:

And another website to encompass the new direction we will be taking with the farm, which I will share as I get something posted there.

So, for now, we will continue to farm our little piece of the southwest, pray for rain and hope the winter isn't too cold here.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Rethinking it all.

It's hard to be excited about farming or much of anything really when the negative news of the world finally sinks in. The Southwest is in a severe drought with no possible end in sight. Fires and more fires. Is this the new normal?

We are having a lot of trouble finding local hay at an affordable price. Believe it or not, all of the farmers around here grow alfalfa, but they won't sell it local, and instead, they truck it south to the dairy farms in southern New Mexico where they get high dollar for it. These are the same dairy farms that are selling off cattle because of the lack of water? These are the same dairy farms contributing to the problem because dairy cows are simply not sustainable in a desert environment.

So, yeah, I have been depressed. We rented this little farmstead with great anticipation about the water rights. We hoped we could grow our own hay and have an enormous garden with produce to can up for the winter. No water. We did get a little more than expected because the man who runs the ditches and gets most of the water for his cattle and alfalfa operation decided to give us a little extra. His reservoir was flooding you see. So we flooded some of the fields, and got some weeds going, but we have never had enough water to seed and flood the big 17 acre piece, which is what we were hoping for.

So, we have been reconsidering everything. If the Southwest has no future and will dry up within 50 years, how can we expect to have a sustainable homestead here? As a result of second guessing, we have been researching alternative places to go.

Maine? I was born there, some of my family is there, and there is plenty of water. And cheap properties. But, it is a long, long way away.

Pueblo, Colorado, which is back over the mountains to the northeast of where we are now. It is a small city and we are familiar with it. There are health food stores, a nice library system (Taos library has decided to charge a $10 yearly fee to anyone living out of town limits, so we opted to give our cards back.), a zoo and parks for the kids, doctors and dentists, access to a holistic vet and alternative medicine, a growing art scene, a hospital, and 2 1/2 inches more of rain per year than where we are now. Plus, big bonus, Pueblo does not sit over the shale deposit that takes up so much of Colorado, so there will be no fracking there. But, living in the city exposes us to flouridated and polluted water, polluted air, noise, crime and the potential for craziness if the economy gets worse (like it isn't going to get worse?).

We have been looking for a small farm property outside of Pueblo city limits, thinking we could take the critters and continue on, like we always do. But that may just not be possible. Financing is a big hurdle with our abandoned house in the frack zone a couple of years back. They foreclosed on it and so our credit plummeted even more from the low point it already was. The only solution is to rent or to find an owner carry property, which is do-able, but not very easy to find. As a result, all of my time has been eaten up with trying to find that perfect property, but not knowing if we are keeping all of our farm animals or if I should be trying to find homes for them.

Everything is up in the air again and our future is uncertain at this point, except immediately, where in reality, we have no money to do much of anything.

Here are some photos of the day we got water from the irrigation ditch.

Preparing the ditch. The tarp diverts the water to the field.

Water in the ditch.

Here comes the water.

Not so bad on a hot day.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Llama shearing 2013

This past Monday we got our llamas sheared by two wonderful men from Albuquerque. $40/50 a head (depending on how hard they were to catch). Teeth and nails extra.

After we (mainly Richard) had caught and penned them, and tied them all up, the men hobbled the llamas and pulled them down to the ground.

Llamas in a line.

Turbo being led to shearing spot.

Patty hobbled and pulled down.

This is a great way to shear, and I've decided it far outdoes the chute method (the llama is held still in a llama chute, but legs are still free). This tie down method leaves little room for error. The animal is completely immobilized, which cuts down on chances of accidental cuts. This is the typical method used to shear alpacas. As you can see, it works great for llamas too.

Frosty getting sheared.

And they all got their nails done. Vader got his done by the shearers, but the rest were done by Richard. Only Frosty had to have his fighting teeth cut back, otherwise all teeth on all llamas looked good.

Vader gets a pedicure.

Vader getting sheared.

And when it was all said and done, two hours later, the llamas sure looked funny, but much cooler and I hope much happier. They didn't get too mad with the whole event. Only Frosty and Turbo filled their mouths with green, nasty, regurgitated goo. Fortunately they never had the opportunity to spit at anyone.

Overall the shearing was a huge success. I will never do it any other way. Turbo and Vader had years of gunk on their legs and necks from never being fully sheared. Now they are naked. We have a field full of naked llamas. I'd recommend these shearers to anyone (in the northern NM, southern CO area)!

Turbo, our guardian, doesn't look so formidable now, does he?

I have three large garbage bags (triple bagged) full of fiber. All of it is very dirty. The wind was so intense on shearing day, the guys did not blow out the fur with the blower, so the wool is full of hay and in some cases sticks (llamas love to roll on the ground, giving themselves dust baths). I'd like to sell it raw, if I could. The moths are so bad here, in the house and in the garage, I'm afraid the wool will get ruined if it hangs around too long. The wool I've been dragging around finally had to be thrown away. After two months of sitting in the garage here, it was infested with moths and larvae.

So, I've got raw, fresh off the animals, 100% llama wool for sale at $1 per oz. I think I have 30 pounds total from this shearing. I do have it divided by animal. We have brown mixed with silver, brown/black with some red undertones, brown and white mix, black, and brown...or some variety depending on the animal. Llama wool is hypoallergenic and extremely warm.  Let me know if you'd like some. Shipping is extra.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

We are moving again.

We are packing up our stuff and getting ready to move again and leave this wonderful Earthship in our past. The owner of the Earthship is coming over from Australia and wants to live in his house for a while. Like 6 - 8 months. So, we had to find another place to go with our little farmstead.

We thought about moving out to our land, and what that would entail...some sort of power, water, shelter, fencing for the critters and so on. A lot of work in a short time. We'd have to find an RV to live in and figure out how to make a workable office with power and internet for R's work-at-home, computer based job. Lot's to do and a lot of money to do it, for it to be workable.

Meanwhile, we kept our eyes open for rentals, and one lucky day we found it! A farmhouse with 25 acres and irrigation, a barn/garage, and a pond. Perfect. And affordable. It's across the border, back in Colorado and about an hour from Taos, although from where we are now, it takes us two hours to get there.


We are excited and have already moved a few things up there and began fencing off a pasture for the llamas. There is enormous potential for a huge garden and we may be able to put in hay on 17 acres, which will keep our animals fed for the whole year. And, there are trees...big old Elm trees, which will provide lots of shade around the house.

Pond...Guadalupe the duck will be thrilled.

The house is small, with no bedrooms to speak of (there is a sun room and a living room that could be used for sleeping), but still bigger than an RV. And it has power and a well. I sooooo look forward to a long soak in the bath tub. And the kids can retire their bath tub/water trough for the real thing. It's a small house, but I think we will be spending a lot of time outside anyway. We can make it work, at least for a while. The kids are small enough still to share a room, and the era of the big house is out and the small/tiny house is in. This house is badly designed, but still a workable 900 sq feet, which is about the size of the house we are going to build on our land. Another experiment in living and learning.

Ute Moutain....defunct volcano....or is it?

The house sits on the Colorado/New Mexico border. Stick your hand over the fence and you are back in New Mexico. It's at the base of Ute Mountain, which worries me a bit, if that old volcano becomes active again. I'm sure it'll be fine.

This week has been crazy with packing and moving and we even managed to fit in a day trip over La Veta Pass to Walsenburg to pick up a stock trailer to haul the llamas in. It was a great deal and the trailer is nice enough. The trip over there, not so much, as we encountered a storm at the top of the pass that had me turned around, facing the kids in the back so I would not have to see our descent on totally iced roads. I hate  that mountain. That was the pass I hit ice on on our last move, and flipped the trailer. Horrid. But, by the time we had picked up the stock trailer, the storm had blown out, and the ice and snow had all melted. Our return trip was wonderful.

Happy Ass Stock trailer

We headed over to ALamosa to check it out on our way back home. There is a Big R there, which is handy, and the City Market has a few organics. We didn't get a chance to check out the Co-op store (it wasn't open) but I'm hoping they have even more organics and maybe even some of the specialty foods we buy for the kids' special GFDF, soy free diet. If not, Taos is still an hour from the farmhouse, and we know we can find everything we need there. Plus we can keep our egg customers and take eggs to town on our shopping trips.

There is so much to do still to get ourselves transitioned into the new place. We have to move all of the animals and take down the barns and chicken coop, remove our raised bed planters (R wants to keep the dirt) and move more household items, which is a lot easier with a 16 foot stock trailer. This time we will not be renting a big truck. But, that means more trips and more gas. Sure hope that income tax return comes in soon.

So tired of moving and moving. At least the packing and moving the "stuff." The adventure of a new place is always welcome. We just need less stuff.

The snakes above the door have been up to young snake antics. I swear these little ones learned from that adventurous Verdi, the little, wild green snake that wanted to do crazy things in the children's picture book of the same name. We have had to pick them up off the floor and put them back in their little crack several times now. No fear, these wee ones. Wish they were big enough to start taking care of the mouse problem. I like them, as much as one is able to like baby bull snakes. I am the snake handler, but I won't miss the snakes in the house one bit. I wonder if there will be any up at the farmhouse?

Baby Bull snake saying hello.

Now, back to packing....

Monday, March 11, 2013

A day chasing llamas.


Been feeling pretty discouraged lately with no creative inspiration. Although, I have been working, slowly, on my fat lady sculpture...Goddess sculpture...I'm trying to embrace myself and come to terms with my own body. She, and I both are works in progress.

We have been out to our land a few times, trying to avoid the mud days, but racing through the bad spots in the road. The mud on our pallet shed has held up well to the weather, considering it was only the first coat. There is some signs of weather hitting it. The snow and wind come from the southwest.

And back at the Earthship, the llamas got out one morning, or at least when Richard went out to feed them, they were gone. Panic!! Where do you even start? We bundled up the kids and warmed up the car. I think it was around 10 F that morning. I  stood outside calling "Llama, llama, llama, llama," at the top of my lungs. Yeah, like here kitty, kitty, kitty, but the boys will usually come in from the field when I do that. No llamas to be seen, anywhere. Richard got out the binoculars...nothing. For miles around. Just sage. So, where do you start looking for seven wayward llamas in miles and miles of sage?

I put a post on Facebook, hoping some one in neighboring communities might have seen them. Richard started to call the neighbors. I rounded up leads and grain to entice them with, loaded the kids in the car, and then Richard told me one of the neighbors called and the llamas were at his house, on the very edge of our development.

We drove about three miles to get to the escapees. There they were, Turbo standing on a little hill being the proud guardian of his herd. I rolled down the window and started my here "llama, llama, llama..." call and they all turned to look at me, ears perked up. But no one came running. The neighbors came out and basically just stood there, not knowing what to do or how to help. Richard got out the pans of grain, and then they came running. Yippee. But getting leads on them...nope.

They were lead shy and balked at the sight of the leads. Richard managed to wrestle Vader and keep his arm around his neck while I snapped on a lead. Thankfully they had halters on. One boy caught, but no one else wanted anything to do with any of it and in fact were beginning to wander away. So I took Vader and began walking. Turbo started to follow, and then Frosty. My boys. The brat girls followed for a minute, and I thought I'd have to walk that llama the three miles home, in the cold, while the rest followed.

But no, the girls got spooked by Richard waving the grain at them and they turned around and began to wander off into the sage. Now Turbo looked at them, looked at me and Vader, looked back at the girls and took off...for the girls. And Frosty decided to follow him. And Richard was following them with his pan of grain. I was left with one lone llama, some frozen toes and two little kids in the car, yelling "here llama, llama, llama."

So, what now? The llamas and Richard were headed into the sage, and the road didn't go that way. But I could cut them off via Renegade road (the road around Two Peaks that our development has tried and tried--to no avail-- to keep the people on the other side of the hill from using).

But I still had a llama and two kids in the car. So I tied that llama to the bumper and drove real slow down the road. So slow, it was painful, as I wondered where the llamas had gone, and if Richard was getting frostbite. Eventually the neighbor where the llamas ended up was behind me in his fancy Mercedes, and I thought, oh good, he's coming to help. Maybe he can find Richard and get him in the car before his fingers and toes fall off. So I pulled over at another road and got out to wait for him to drive up, and on he went, right on by, with a little wave, speeding up as he passed me and my slow walking llama. Okay, fine. I stood in the door to the car and searched the horizon with the binoculars. Nothing.

So, I got back in and drove my walking llama to the crossroads, wondering if I should just take him home and tie him up. I decided to tie him to a post at the crossroads. He was panting from his walk/run behind the car. I gave him a pan of grain and left him there in the sage, hoping if the other llamas saw him, they'd head that way.

And we were off, four wheelin' it down the Renegade road, but I could not see the llamas or Richard anywhere. So I headed off road and through the sage, hoping the ground was still frozen enough to not be mud. It was all good. I love that Kia. I was swerving around sage and big rocks until I reached the end of the clearing. Unless I wanted to drive over the sagebrush, I was done, so I stood in the door way of the Kia and looked again, and they they were! And then they were gone. Over a small rise. The flat landscape around me was sure full of hills and valleys...enough to hide seven llamas and a six foot four inch man.

But, for the second I saw them, I could see Richard herding them with his bowl of grain back toward the road. I didn't know it then, but they were following the fence line of our development. So I headed back through the sage, aiming for the road, bumping along on the icy dirt. I caught up to them, but Richard was waving me on, telling me to go home (really he was telling me to cut them off so they didn't go in another direction).

So, I took off, hoping to get to my tied up llama before the rest of the herd did. I planned on using him as bait to get the others to go home.

And we were back to driving slow, walking Vader behind the car to the road behind our house. When I got back on our property, I couldn't figure out what to do, so I left the kids in the car and the llama tied up and went to inspect the electric fence lines. How was I going to get the llamas back in when they showed up? Richard was still herding them down the road, chasing them with his grain (reminded me of another day, in Colorado, of escaped llamas as Richard ran behind our two boys, waving grain at their butts).

So I found a spot in the fence that was pretty broken down. It looked like a herd of buffalo went through the fence. I disconnected the remaining lower lines and ran back to Vader. Now Richard and the llamas were headed down our back road. I had to get Vader back on the right side of the fence before the rest got there.

It was timing. I almost didn't make it. I got around the fence when Turbo saw Vader and started running, the girls, and Frosty following him. I tied Vader to the barn and snuck back through the fence line. And they all came running, reunited with Vader, but not interested in the pans of grain I had put down around the barn. And they all headed right back out through the downed lines, in the other direction. Crap, I'm thinking! But Richard tells me it's okay, at least they are in the area now, and he grabs a bale of alfalfa.

I jump in the car and drive around the house to the other side to herd them back into the yard. It's just those pesky girls. The boys are eating from the alfalfa bale in the pen. Vader is still tied up at the barn. I scare the girls into turning around, or maybe they were headed back to the alfalfa anyway, and park the car at the fence line, thinking I can get the wire back up while they are distracted. I have my daughter get out and stand in the hole behind the car. The car is the fence at this point. The llamas are only interested in their alfalfa.

We get the lines back up, in spite of the fact that I had parked the car on one of the lines. The llamas were all back in. We decided to herd them into the corral panels and contain them while Richard checked the fence line. But instead we spent the afternoon going down to our land to get the other four corral panes we had stored out there so we could keep the brat llamas fenced in for a while.

It turns out we have to move (another story) and we don't want to chase llamas around the countryside anymore. We picked up our unused roll of field fence from our land too, thinking we could make a more sturdy pen. I am not a fan of electric fence.

No one lost their fingers or toes. It was a day of adventure--and comedy-- indeed. I wish I had thought to grab the camera in my haste to get out the door and find those llamas. I sure did have fun driving through the sage (I rarely get to drive anymore), and almost felt like the cowgirl I used to pretend I was when I was a little girl. Yeehah!

Saturday, February 2, 2013

The weather is a little bit strange this year.

Well now, it seems like it has been forever. Not much to write about, I guess. We have not been out to our land for some time, what with the snow and frigid temps, and now the melting of the snow and the mud. Hope everything is okay out there.

Unusual bet.

We suffered through a couple of weeks of absolutely frigid, below zero temperatures. We plugged in the light for the chickens at night and ran the generator during the day to boost our lost power. The llama water froze, in spite of the heater we put in it...that froze into the bucket of 24" of ice. Every morning Richard takes 2 hot 5 gallon buckets of water out to dump into the llama water. He then tries to break the ice out. It was freezing again by noon there for a while. And to my horror and dismay, a couple of wild bunnies got themselves into the water over night, but of course froze quickly and in the morning were just  an image frozen into the ice. Richard dumped them out and cleaned out the trough and filled again with hot water. A mess. So cold...wind chills down to -31 F overnight. Temps down to -15 F. I was so worried about the llamas that I have decided to make them llama coats from a pattern I found online. So I asked for donations of comforters, sleeping bags and horse blankets. Got a few things, including three horse blankets from a kind lady down near Santa Fe who runs a horse boarding facility. I think I can alter them a bit and they will be great for some of the girls.

With no snow to speak of...too cold, and no melting of the snow we did get previously...too cold, our water situation has been rough. So I hung the horse blankets out on the clothesline to get moisture to maybe clean them a bit. And Richard hauled water. Or tried to.

Every time someone used the water trailer, something broke. The fittings are all plastic, and with temperatures below freezing as our new normal, it wasn't too surprising, but it created a big headache for everyone. Richard found new pieces in town and managed to fix it. We had to put chains on the van to pull the water trailer on the snow pack and ice. Lucky the chains for our handy Kia actually fit on the van...not perfect, but well enough to make it work. We are thankful for those chains.

So, we hauled water, and blew through our stack of firewood. I have to say with some awe though, the Earthship  stayed at about 60 F overnight without heat. In the back room (Richard's office) it got down to 54 because the door is closed overnight. Still, we put every blanket we owned on our beds and slept in socks and full pajamas. It was fricken cold!

And being the person I am, unhappy with snow and cold, I began to research moving someplace warmer, someplace south. Although, it seemed that even Maine was warmer than we were at this point. So, I looked at Edgewood and Moriarty, in central New Mexico, because they were not experiencing the cold temperatures we were, even 200 miles south. We drove down there one Sunday to explore, but it was not what we were looking for. The mountains seemed so far away. And there was no sage brush. How could I live without the sage? All was not lost on our twelve hour trip...we did pick up those horse blankets and we went shopping and stocked up on groceries when we passed through Santa Fe.

So, back to where I am, again. The temperatures are back up, and for a week or so, a bit warm for the season. It rained. Melted the snow and turned the world to mud. Taos mud is unforgiving. And then it snowed again and refroze the world around me. Back and forth, but no where near as cold as it was a couple of weeks ago.

With the freezing and thawing, we seem to have developed a leak in our roof where the porch meets the rest of the Earthship. The porch looks to have been added on later. We have someone coming to look at it this week. The pipes to the cistern that take the water off of the roof were frozen solid, and some have come apart. That needs to be fixed too.

Roof is leaking.

That pipe is full of ice and this roof work is a mess.

We also inherited some chickens a week or two back as one of the men we sold chickens to last summer, brought some back. They moved into a house in town and could no longer have them. So now we are back into eggs. Lots of eggs. We get about a dozen a day now. We sell some to the neighbors, but they are stacking up in the fridge. The kids love eggs. How many ways can we eat eggs? Fried, scrambled, hard-boiled, and Richard made a souffle yesterday. Free range, organically fed chickens. Anyone want to buy some eggs?

So, except for experiencing global weirding first hand, there isn't much going on out here on the farmstead. Richard did get the second half of the roof on the girls side of the llama barn, just in time for the rain. He also put some boards on the front to block some of the wind. It's getting better all of the time. He's still making chicken coops out of pallets and selling them quickly on Craigslist.


Pallet wall on llama barn...and a little bit of siding at the far end.

Looking through the llama barn...see that NM sunset?

Metal roof on the second half of the llama barn

Maybe in the near future we can get back out to our place and see how well our mud plaster held up on the pallet shed.

Just enjoying our time in the Earthship, waiting for Winter to be over.

Honey on the planter box, rain coming down and a rose in bloom, next to the avocado tree.