A Better Defined Farm Dream

That which you vividly imagine, sincerely believe, ardently desire and enthusiastically act upon will inevitably come to pass. ~William R. Lucas

We love our Ponderosa pines – there are so few in this area, especially growing in a group (we have 3 that stand tallest, that I call “the three brothers”); they are what make it worth living here – without them I would not care to live here.
Two grow side by side about 6 feet apart on the edge of the seasonal stream. One of those is the tree that the eagles prefer to rest in overnight- it’s airy branches afford a wide view. It has such character and asymmetry…..like the wrinkled, worn face of a wise old woman; with pine cone hair  shading obliging weathered arms carved by two hundred years of wind and snow and sun.  

We moved here with a self imposed pressure to make this wild overgrown place a paradise. (And have not managed that.)
In fact, that photo of the ponderosa lushness - became the cover for my home & property management binder:
These are the very trees the eagle came to rest in 3 years ago, and that 2 other eagles are trying to compete for? See how they came and chased him away again earlier this week:


(you may have to enlarge to see them all)
Anyway, here we still are, still fighting to stay. Partly due to the past year and a half of “loan modification HELL”, which does a serious job on our commitment of sweat equity, partly due to lack of time, resource or funds for resources.But we are blessed with trees and abundant wildlife, and have not been in too big a hurry.

But we are not done yet.
Not ready to retire or give up on the prospects of successful property management and future income or sustainability from it, I am focusing in on that intent.
It will mean we also reinvent ourselves for a new lifestyle.
It’s time to define (then refine) our ideas of multiple streams of income (with diversity). This is our way to transition smoothly as circumstances that we have no control over & an effort to prepare for future ‘retirement’, as well as develop it (as a work in progress) as a "lifeboat" for my family  against the possibility of hard times.
I feel a little like I am preparing for winter right out of a chapter in ‘Little House in the Big Woods’. [Remember, I am a city girl...and don’t even own a pair of boots!]

Our 10-acre property is not really a ‘farm’ and never will be- but I have farm dreams, and that is paradise to me. This place will one day look more like a park than a farm, but that’s ok! It will not be meant primarily to provide profit as much as sustainability- and more focused on “boutique” types of cottage industries – as well as survival (just in case).
Finding the opportunities that set your heart on fire is the secret to success since you will put more into what you love than what just gets you by. It’s not all about survival but of life-enrichment too!
I’m gathering ideas toward “sustainable architecture”. Maybe someday we’ll have solar panels and live “off the grid”, but until that day comes, our farming enterprises will work to sustain each other, with whatever system is most workable, and ultimate in low-maintenance with a concentration on “dry farming” techniques– [a "dryland" farmer is relying not on irrigation but on special techniques to conserve sporadic water, reusing grey water & using water catchment systems ], planning so that  the farm takes a seasonal approach, timing maturation so everything doesn't happen at once.

Aside from companion-planting (like letting vining vegetables like beans use corn stalks for support), I plan to use vertical gardening tactics, and indoor grow lamps for overwintering and plant starting.
Planned with aging in mind; all of our livestock will be small so that we can continue to manage them for the remainder of our lives,  our garden beds will be raised for easy maintenance and access.
These are my personal preferences, things I want to examine more, and experiment with:
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*create my own cottage industry label (already done)
*raise chickens for eggs (chocolate to Easter-egg colors, and white too)- eventually to sell at Farmer’s Market
*milk goats - create goats’ milk artisan cheeses [like cheese marinated in olive oil with herbs, and glazed with colorful edible flowers]
*hair goats - sell their cashmere/angora hair
*meat goats [3 oz. of roasted goat meat has 122 calories and 0.79 grams of saturated fat, making it leaner than chicken]
*raise meet sheep for our own uses (Katahdin Hair and Soar Sheep are low maintenance sheep that do not produce fleece, therefore, do not require sheering.) 
*sell my own paintings (wild goats and sheep, longhorn cows, bison, horses with fancy bridles or rustic barbed wire, and  bird nests with colored eggs), also planet paintings which seem to appeal to the younger crowd and have had great reviews already
*grow thornless blackberry, lavender & sunflowers and culinary herbs, mints, and edible flowers,
*raise bees- honey & bee products, including dipped candles & rolled beeswax candles
*raise rabbits for angora hair (maybe meat and pelts after a while- I can’t butcher them myself though!)
*worms for castings and bait (red worms and nightcrawlers),
*maybe grow mushrooms too – if we get a greenhouse
*paint goat carts for sale- have always wanted to do this!
*orchard fruits (figs for sure, some cherry, apple, apricot and peach, and possibly nuts) – semi-dwarf and dwarf trees preferably
*sew cloth dolls, doll quilts and sell w/ wooden doll beds, and rocking horses, and painted  kids furniture
*grow decorative gourds – for simple bowls (painted) and birdhouses (painted /decoupage pressed flowers, or with rustic decoration like pine bough and pinecones, etc.)
*aquaponics: raise talapia and maybe koi (fish), inside greenhouse...successively growing plants with hydroponics, re-using water for aquaponics (filtered of course)
*hogs -raise 6 keep 2, sell 4 (this pays for everything else)
*ducks, peacocks and Chocolate colored turkeys (sell the feathers, offer holiday dinner birds)
*create rustic wreaths, flowers in tea-cups & garlands in a jar...
*have a horse and cart, who will pull a plow or a log, or whatever

These are recommendations I've read from those who are trail-blazing the farm life on small acreage:
*Lamb and pork have the highest profits. Chicken and poultry may pay for themselves, but profit margins are much lower.
Angora and Cashmere goats for fiber – 3 females and a buck
Meat goats: 10 meat does and 1 buck
Milk goats: 2 or 3 does and 1buck.
*Paving an area well around each water tank (  rough concrete is the answer, with a domed center so that water will run off)   will allow livestock to wear their hooves down naturally, reducing or eliminating any need for hoof trimming.
*check out “the BioPod”  to learn more about composting paper scraps to grow fly predators (soldier flies).

Amenities I would LOVE to have/build/develop:
*a 1/2 acre recreational pond (fish and float) with butterfly garden around it (and maybe berries), with tree-stump benches, solar lighting, fire pit, clay oven, and some decoration- like glass wind chimes and homemade stepping stones,  a waterfall for soft background music
 *a covered arena/area for snow days    
*garage/shop -over the shop would be an apartment living space
*mini cow, for making butter, mozzarella, whipped cream, sour cream and cottage cheese- and milk!
*a milk house pantry -   with cold storage to store the eggs and store milk, make cheese & process/jar honey.
*pasture for 2 miniature cows (one for milking, one for raising beef each year (sell ½ a side of beef, keep 1/2)
*a real barn for animal shelter (rather than lean-to’s with doors) - and feed storage!
*landscaping – trees trimmed for park-effect, dedicated spots for naturalized flowers (some deer resistant)
*fenced boundaries

Dream House- Yes, color is important!! I'm always looking for great colored barns. (They seem to have a lot of black barns in Kentucky!)

1) White roof over soft indigo blue wood, (or blue trim and a blue metal roof if the house is straw bale or a log-sided mobile home, lol). Love the blues.
Orange and purple (love Mexican Petunias!) and white flowers to brighten it up, with blue outdoor furnishings (tables, chairs, fenceposts, etc.) to complement and bring it all together.

2) If a red metal roof, over various gray colored stone walls (that protect and hide the straw bale construction), cream trim, apple red on the front door and red window boxes full of red colored daisies and buttery yellow flowers and blue morning glories.

3) Black metal roof, redwood siding and black trim.
*This would be refinished current house which is currently black roof, flesh-colored siding with pine green trim – except where it’s faded- and redwood around the eves!  
Again, using orange, purples, and white as landscaping colors. Hanging bird houses, redwood fencing, butterfly garden, water sources for bees and birds.

4) Log cabin? If it comes to getting a small place by the river...ok I can deal with that. Did you know some mobile homes actually have siding that make them appear to be tiny log cabins? Yeah, last resort.

*If we have to build our own home some day in the future, we want a house built from straw bales & papercrete (construction costs as low as $10-per-square-foot). While straw bale homes are labor intensive they are a great alternative to a new home that can easily come with a $200,000 price tag. A straw bale home built by thrifty owners can easily be built for under $10,000.) 
With a wall of windows across the south (for heat) and facing east (toward dawn light ) and a wide veranda styled like a wrap-wound porch.
We want to be off the grid, but to have access to the internet, and the property must have trees and a year-round stream. Yeah, that's a tall order, especially if we end up making a go of it here.
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We named them "Lunch" and "Dinner" so the kids would remember what they were for.
~Jim & Marcy Lilly (High Lonesome Ranch, Inc.)





Pantry Perfection, part 2

It’s helpful to organize when you’re restructuring your life for whatever reason, dreams are just another kind of goal to adjust life to. I started with the dream of a pantry, then moved to a new state that required a new lifestyle, then got hit by the empty nest syndrome... which came with it’s mandate to reinvent myself! We all have our reasons to restructure and reorganize. But it’s helpful, and fun, to see what others have done/are doing, so I’ll share some of my strategies beyond just menu planning.

Toward Pantry planning, I started with a box of recipes that I had to paw thru to find anything (somewhere in this pile was that quiche recipe, right?) Needing accessiblity, I decided to organize them into a binder. It’s been a year-long process, but I’ve only worked on it on gray days because opening the project is like opening a present each time and makes the day brighter!
I started with re-organizing the pile into piles of sub-topics (breads, vegetables, sauces, salads…). Then I went online to find pictures that I thought were beautiful and appropriate for food-related titles. And I picked a font & colors to use that matched the tone of the illustrations (like those of Linda Paul, [which are copyrighted so I can't show  you... but here’s a link to the Tuscan styles I was attracted to: Linda Paul Fine Art Prints

I don’t just have recipes anymore, I call it my Pantry Book- that gives me the feeling I’ve actually created something Big and Authentic – and worthy of passing down.
Here’s the inside layout via the table of contents  – so you can see how I arranged the recipes and how I added all kinds of our life-needs into this one project, making it a complete resource for myself & something I enjoy referring to:
*if you can't see the font, let me know in a comment and I'll email you a PDF... for some reason it's not working to import one.
Table of Contents

                                                             Seasonal Menu Plans:
Spring
Summer
Fall
Winter
Recipe Categories/Sections:
Soups Inventory, Breads,  Sauces & Reductions, Cheese
Salad Inventory,  Oils & Vinegars,  Dressings
Il Cibo Cusina Al Fresco (Outdoor cooking~BBQ, Picnic...)
Condiments, Breakfast & Brunch, Rubs, Marinades
Honey,  Fruited/ Fruity/ Fruits,  Alchoholic/Mixed Drinks,  Flower
Romance
Pasta/ Rice/ Potato
Vegetable Sides
Meats:
Beef
Poultry
Lamb & Goat
Deer & Elk
Fish
Buffalo
Ethnic & Regional Dishes:
  Regional: Southern Traditional / Southwest Flavor / Country Rustic
Ethnic: French / Italian / Asian / Mexican/Greek/Other
Desserts:
Pie, Compote, Crisps  & Cobbler/Muffins, Bread & Coffeecake/ Custard, Pudding, Cream
Other/Miscellaneous:
Nuts, Candy, Ice Cream, etc...
Crockpot/Slow Cooker
Holiday Menus & Recipes
Pet Foods
The Hard Times Café   (frugality, planning)
Diet & Nutrition    (information, ideas)
Cooking Tips and Other Knowledge   (substitutions, tips, etc.)
Pantry Lists   (inventories, storage, etc.)
Party & Entertaining   (Ideas, illustrations)
Wine, Beer & Labels   (info & illustrations)
Business    (promotional marketing  & gift ideas)
In this binder I have information, and lists, costs and other useful things – everything with it’s pretty Title page of course, organized like chapters in a book.

“The Larder Inventory“ (section or chapter) is not just a food list-  pages on differences of different oils, salts, beans, rices, etc... for someday when I have a harvest and have learned to can food in jars. Things I would like to make in BULK so that it’s as available as opening a store-bought bottle. Things like these:
  Blackberry reduction sauce (for lamb, beef, duck)
  Juniper-pepper beef reduction sauce (for venison, elk)
  Bottled Hell and other hot-sauces 

“The Hard Times Café “ is a resource on frugality and other basic survival topics. What to do if. It’s how to cook outdoors, and whatever else you would need to store for emergencies from batteries to the Canned Goods List, to where to get and how much for a hand-crank pump for the water well, to homemade household cleaners, bug repellants, and medicinals.

So, first collecting things which either inspire, enrich, inform, to secure my life in some way,  then organizing it all, then making it pretty!

Regarding the "Business" chapter- it’s basically a Creativity Foods Project File – with some foody goodies-  a running list of projects for gifting when the opportunity presents itself.

It includes detailed planning pages for artistic endeavors, timelines to complete, pictures, clippings and other resources, materials & supplies lists, and vendor phone numbers).
So far it works best to start gathering materials for the project ideas all year long, assembling them in the month prior to a new quarter so that I can finish one aspect of the project each week with a deadline. 

We survive on the income produced by our service business, that has been successful from the outset largely because of ‘word of mouth’ referrals, and our town is small enough that we might run into a client of ours when we’re out, so every little thing can count.
So when, for instance, our drive-thru bank sends back a few dog biscuits with the deposit receipt (which they do when they see the dogs in the car), they get a goodie bag in return.
Because of this popular practice in our town (dog biscuit treats), I began to create a giveaway gift bag / treat either during the Christmas season or at the end of January just for ‘winter’ cheer (because winter seems to drag on and on). The intention is to enhance business relations, and is somewhat specific on what clientele is intended –because we have well over 2,000 clients - I can’t make that many cookies! LOL. For that reason, certain projects might be more geared to our vendors, our business clients – or maybe just our seniors or to those who have made referrals... or just to anyone we run into & do business with until the supply runs out (I always attach a business card and a tiny bell to the packaging). The point really, is CHEER.
It might be a selection of little clay ornaments (made to hang on a tree, door handle or rearview mirror), or several large pieces of assorted decorative chocolate bark or gourmet nut brittle... always fancy or uniquely  flavored, as this tourist-town has a plethora of gourmet shops, and most of us tend to be kind of spoiled.
I’d like to expand this to every quarter- every season – because sometimes we don’t have a season to ‘celebrate’ as much as one to commiserate - like a real good ‘mud season’!

As one who came from asphalt-bound green-grass-yard southern California to untamed clay soil and as the snow melted, was quite enlightening!  You learn to contend with the slick, yet sticky, slurping, pull-your-boot-off kind of sucking that mud-season can be: my first encounter I was wearing sandals.
After walking around outdoors, I came back with 3” thick platforms of mud and gravel stuck to the bottom of my sandals- even scraping against the cement porch didn’t resolve completely! Try washing it off your car with a spray attachment to the garden hose, and scrubbing, and all you get is swirls of residue... it’s pretty YUCK!  

Snow shoes double as mud boots.