When things don't start out as planned -it doesn't mean it's all bad...

An unlikely chance came up out of the blue - I can't say why this year after trying for the past five without luck of timing with the funding but I'm not fighting it. It is what it is!

The bee club said there were extras and you had 1 day to get in on the excess order, but with only 5 extra boxes (each box containing 11,000 bees, and a queen). 20 people raised their 'virtual' hands, so it was still not a sure thing at first. Some of them already had bees- and they kindly said they would defer their request to new people wanting to get started, but in the end everyone on the list gets their order. 

There is usually a choice of breeds to get, but this time was only "Carniolans". (Other options might be "Italian" bees or "Hygienic Italian Hybrids"...)

 You can see the bee breeds HERE and each pro and con. 
They are picked up in Lehi, Utah so some of the money goes to defer gas for the delivery driver. Then on April 27th, you go to one of the bee club member houses to pick your prize up and get all scared about releasing your bees by yourself... lol. (Actually I've watched 3 videos on this process and am not scared). The internet is such a great resource - a great big thanks to those who provide their experiences!
And that's why I'm spending $20 to join the Four Corner's bee club- informative meetings monthly and newsletter emails all the time, and people to ask & see their setups, or get excess bees from, etc. (plus the university extension office is a resource too)
I have no experience, but some idea. That's not the same thing as hand's on, but of course compared to goats or chickens, little maintenance is required. I won't like to move them (when we move) once established, because strange things cause them to swarm (leave to find a new home).

If there is too little room in a hive, then the hive splits and some of them will 'swarm' - leave, with a new queen. You can easily catch swarms in a box because without a hive to protect, they don't sting!

I've heard the only way to mitigate bears is not to keep bees at all...lol. 
Some folks will put up electric wires (2 strings) at 4' away from their hives. But once a bear has gotten to your honey even that won't stop them, so it has to be up all the time to catch the first-timers. I tell people that you have to use a train car to keep anything away from a bear. Dogs are probably the best bet, since they can warn you in time to get pans to bang, or a gun, and distract them a bit while you do so. 

In winter you have to feed bees if they don't have a store of their own honey- that's why you don't harvest honey the first year or two and always leave some. They don't hibernate. Most people use sugar sheet stuff like fondant cake icing. It doesn't freeze like sugar water would. Lots of experimentation going on with that stuff. 

Some people also stack bales of straw around the hives for sheltering in winter (I probably will too). Mine are off the ground on pallets on the north side of some ugly pines, but enough for some shade in hot summer - they should be moved since one of the trees died.
I will move them to my MOST FAVORITE PLACE on the property- a perfect 20'x60' rectangle that's cleared in the middle and surrounded on all sides by perfect pine trees! It was too small for Cherihuka's corral. I imagined a small pond there, or putting up a tee-pee for grandsons there.

I also had to take my hives all apart when chipmunks moved into them and made nests. 

I have to look at pictures to figure out again how they go together again, lol (there are several kinds of dividers, some have entry holes for the bees, one has one round hole for the queen?)
Anyway, I know next to nothing by heart, though I have things copied over the years to disk and in files... you know, in case we ever got them. Club meetings were too early in the day to attend, but they are going to be later now, so I can go and learn!

The bad part of this story is that I had pretty much given up on this goal that I could never get the funding for. 
My hives have peeling paint now, after 6 years of winters & droughty summers, exposed. 
They are going to be rickety after the weight of combs plus honey, so I need to reinforce all the corners. The wood is soft and full of cracks (aged), and may need wood paste to fill them. They also should be 'torched' inside with fire to kill any germs/bacteria, especially after the chipmunks. 
AND I need to get a few sheets installed in the frames... without having to drive 4 hours to get them (I HOPE!) 
And I have less than a month to do all of that- but now I will have my Dad to help me with it! My mom probably won't get out to the hives, but maybe we will try out some honey recipes together.

2013 Didn't Start Out as Planned...

2013 did not start out as we had planned, so everything is now on edge in an unpredictable way and is impossible to plan around. We have given up on this dream (the old American Dream). 

Fair warning, this is a very lonnnnng post, and has a LOT of relevant links.
 I hope you have a nice hot/cold cup/glass of something and a place to put your feet up!

Plan A didn't work out (living here forever), Plan B isn't working out (saving our house thru structured repayments via Ch. 13 bankruptcy), so on to plan C...moving. This means renting to survive, but working toward a re-start. 
The bottom line is that after too many years of struggle and throwing everything we had at it, we will be losing our home (some unknown timeline) and moving. At this point we'll be happy to give it up. This story has been somewhat covered here before so I won't bore you (again).

Working with what I do know, or can guess at and hope for, this is the new plan...short term (for our longer term plans see previous post!)

-this year’s motto: 
Find ways to embrace the future and the hard times coming, and be flexible!
As Dorothy's said to her little Dog, "We're not in Kansas anymore". It's really, really, hard to embrace an unknown like this.

Meantime, there are practical things to do in both preparation for that, and in continuing to live life building up resilience to future shocks and hard times....
Resilience = Problem-Solving + Tenacity + Diversity

What am I preparing for? Only 5 of the 50 risks out there... In no particular order:

---wildfire (evacuation preps - we were surrounded by 5 fires at one time last summer)
---possible longer term drought (will our next home will include water collection to cisterns?)
---downed electric grids (from EMP  (nukes in the atmosphere) or CME (solar flare)

They are all possible. Some are probable.

We can start by adjusting our eating habits.
Less meat, that’s a given. Prices will continue to go up over time, and sourcing locally means it costs double what you can get at a box store like Walmart (their meat makes me feel ill just to look at, since I know how the animals are treated). It will take a while to learn how to raise our own, and do the butchering, and processing and canning or smoking or freezing or drying….
Meantime, how to stretch it to go farther among more people in the household. (Adding more beans to the menu, more dishes that require only 'pieces of meat', rather than it being 1/3 of the plate.
We have to figure out how to eat food in its own seasons, both for what we can grow ourselves and buy at a lower cost when in season. 
We have to learn how to store (some say 50%) of what we grow, once we get up and going on that. This will take practice and learning skills on several levels! First we have to see how much we can grow ourselves.

All of these things need to be done and refined asap to account for all the learning curves.
We intend to design a system of growing produce using the least amount of personal energy, (that is self-sustaining in a circular fashion –with little to no ongoing cost)
We need to build a solar dehydrator for garden produce.

+ I intend to build a rabbitry in the chicken coop that is placed over a vermi-compost bin (this is one way to help with the rabbit droppings, while  raising supplemental chicken feed –red wrigglers or some such, and creating high nutrient soil for plants at the same time).

I’ll be learning hands-on how to ‘process’ a chicken this spring. I have  5 roosters to process (or give away, one or the other).
I need to raise supplemental chicken & rabbit feed to offset the high price of store-bought, which will only continue to go up in price. Now that we're moving, who knows if this will happen. 

If you haven't given thought to making preps, here are several good sources: 
---The Resolve To Be Ready campaign (from FEMA)
---The Nat'l. Preparedness Coalition
---13 in 13 Challenge a website challenging anyone daring enough to accept, to learn 13 new life skills in 2013. Kind of like a Boy Scout challenge....

From the "13 in 13" site:
The 13 in 13 Challenge is a call to develop or drastically improve your personal skills in the coming year. These skills can be any hands on practical skill from ancient skills like flint napping to traditional skills like trapping and hunting or even technical skills like graphic arts or computer programming.

At the time this article was written there were 157 skills available and an ability to request others be added.  
You select your 13 skills and then define what it would mean for you to develop or drastically improve.  
You can set up a profile and add a picture of yourself if you like; you can add your social media information as well.  I think this could be a good way to not only encourage each other, but to hold each other/yourself accountable too."

This is awesome... makes it in manageable pieces (if we had a wildfire for instance and needed to evacuate):
8 Months to Emergency Preparedness (Challenge) + “Emergency Survival Station”

Things to look for at yard sales and thrift stores:
Canning jars, a magnetic lid lifter, funnel, large jars with lids, large cooking pots, gardening containers, manual kitchen tools like egg beater, can openers, grain and meat grinders, cast iron cookware, backpacks, etc...

#1 I will start a monthly journal sometime after we move (a sheet a month to add into my 12-Folders system) to track myself in attempting "The Independence Day Challenge" - an ongoing sharing project that makes us count our little accomplishments and see that we are moving forward. 

Each week, you keep tabs on what you have done in the following categories by sharing it on your blog diary (keeps you accountable and helps to motivate others too):

People have to choose what they are going to struggle for.  Life is always a struggle, whether or not you’re struggling for anything worthwhile, so it might as well be for something worthwhile…

I challenge myself and all of you to work on creating food Independence Days this year – that all of us try to do one thing every day  to create Food Independence.  
hat means in each day or week, we would try to…….. 
(see list in red, below, that I've tweaked to fit me...)

           *for the updates she posts see Independence Days
One of her commenters said to add: “Learn/Teach/Practice a New/Old Skill”... great idea~ but I will be starting eldercare tasks so I’m not really ‘there’ right now.
I have tweaked some of the ideas to apply in my current circumstances:

Plant something: A lot of us were trained to think of planting as done once a year, but if you start seeds, do season extension and succession plant, you’ll get much, much more out of your garden, so try and plant something every day from February into September.

Harvest something: Everything counts – from milk and eggs you get from your animals to the first dandelions from your yard to wild rose hips you pick – it all counts.

Preserve something: Again, preserving is most productive if you do a little every day, from dehydrating vegetables (buy the large package of carrots and dry ½ of it, filling jars or baggies), to picking the first dried raspberry leaves (for tea), to canning the last squashes at the end of the season.

The Pantry: Adding to your food storage or stash of goods for emergencies, build up items that will be useful in the long term.

Frugal Ways: What are you doing frugally this week? it is prudent to learn to make the most of what we have and stretch our resources as far as they can go. 
Making full and good use of what you have, trying new recipe, using a clothesline, etc.

Build Community: (she focuses on food systems): What have you done to help other people have better food access or to make your local food system more resilient?

Skill up:  What did you learn that will help you in the future – could be as simple as fixing the faucet or as hard as building a shed, as simple as learning to knit or as complicated as making shoes.  

(I added these):
Build up your Network: (bartering & sharing): from blogging to making friends (can you use your Christmas cookie sharing this year to consolidate relationships with those in the neighborhood who "get it" -and expand that circle?

Management & Organizing: keeping records, maintenance lists, animal schedules and production, (what routine tasks keep our garden/farm in good shape/going, how can costs be reduced, how can production be maximized or improved…), seed saving strategies, etc.

Emergency Preps & Designing a Plan B, more than just storing water and food – systems for storing, ideas & examples, learning best practices, knowing how much of what is needed, having an evac plan & BOB (bug-out bags or boxes), setting up other emergency measures, etc.

Bootycamp: getting more physically fit and mentally resilient

Improve something: whatever makes life easier: ask yourself questions like- What can be done to improve the existing site or structures? Can you develop alternative animal feeds reducing need of dependence on stores?

Create something that you can use and share (like the following):
Make a Vision Board/Collage (for motivation and direction)
Before & After pics (projects)
A Year in Pics (progression)
12 Folders (scheduling- the steps to each goal topic on monthly calendar)

Cottage Industry discovery: how you might accomplish diversify and add alternate sources of income (or even how to sustain personally needed items): entrepreneurial endeavors (sell fish bait or wood, etc.) and/or creating home-raised, home-spun and hand-made products (eggs, knitwear, etc.). Expand the possibilities by trying new things

Add Joy: make life easier to swallow with little things. (It’s always the little things). When you bake, bake more than you need so you can give some to an elderly couple or struggling  young couple, use a silver pencil to create your grocery lists just because it makes you smile, use a gold one to leave someone a sweet hello note, put a bow or ribbon in your hair (it makes everyone smile).

**This list may apply to both improvement and emergency related topics, each is one aspect to deal with under those headings:

House (add or change the elements of it)
Household (plans for extended family members?)
Personal (what are your weak spots? what are your strong suits?)
Garden (how to expand it, start it, change it?)
Frugal/Financial (how to do more with less?)
Animals (what kinds and for what purposes? have more, less -why?)
Property (attributes of and challenges to overcome?)
Other (maybe find out the HOA rules regarding a clothesline, keeping chickens or..?)

Some examples:

-- create livable space for parents
--clear out storage spaces for repurpose (vermiculture, emergency storage, etc)

Re: Family
parents move in 

--make jerky, pasta, granola, laundry soap, apple cider vinegar
--try “Meals in Jars” using freeze-dried dehydrated foods (will take planning and $$, so is on hold as a ‘wish list’ until possible)

--create a circle gardening (aligns to sprinkler ---taller plants on the outside (like corn)
--build 1 raised garden
--set up pallet fence for in-ground gardening area
--know how much I need to grow of what, to provide for a family of 8, double the number In-house. (with practice this will give extra food to store and sell).

--booty camp – get fit, and start low-carb diet
--practice archery

--revamp 12-folders covers (collage of that month’s theme topic for motivation and direction)
--per sewing agenda- bargain shop for furniture to up-purpose and materials for sewing projects

--finish binder to track parent care needs & to keep pertinent info in one place

--continue to pay down debt: (i.e.: continual taxes, student loans, and/or BK pmts.)

(so far: all garden topics and pantry goals)
--created egg-count sheet for the year

Emergency Preps
--get 4 mil. thick plastic sheeting and duct tape for sheltering in place (per Ready.gov)
--consider measuring and cutting the sheeting in advance to save time.
--create storage areas for emergency supplies (BOB evac packs, and emergency stash storage areas)
--create 3-day emergency evac packs (BOBs)
--2 weeks’ worth of Stay-in-Place supplies (TP, water, adequate food, pet food) for 8 adults.

Make resolutions that matter  -and staying with the theme of prepping on a dime….

For 2013, we need to get on the ball of finishing preparations for possible further financial crisis and fine-tuning for specific  disasters – in our case WILDFIRE:

12 things to accomplish this year (at a rate of adding 1 per month to my ‘routine’)
My 12 Folders help me to schedule the prioritized projects and then attack them in a logical or seasonal order.
To them, I will add these challenges:

goal #1: 2 weeks for 8 people (build up to 3 mos) of ready-to-make meals (we will have 4 people in-home)
goal #2: Jars of dehydrated veggies. Like jars of jewels lining the shelves.
 Here are 5 sources of how to!
goal #3: organize needs’-based scheduling of chores related to eldercare, and move parents in
goal #4: stock up on medical & personal hygiene supplies  –when on sale
goal #5: gardens – obtain seeds, erect greenhouse, create pasture area, start orchard trees (pit fruits) 
goal #6: designate, increase, and improve: storage areas
goal #7: start vermiculture w/rabbit hutch built over a worm bin in the chicken coop, get 2 hair rabbits
goal #8: hands-on practice of ‘dispatching’ chickens,
goal #9: Raise a small flock of meat birds (start with 12) *update after processing the 5 roosters in May - I do not want to process any more.
goal #10: Purchase Goods for Trade and Barter (this may be much of #4 (just buy more than you ‘need’)
goal #11: begin bartering with what I have and make! So far, this is a fun thing to do and has worked out well for us! I encourage you to try it! 
goal #12:  emergency evac packs (BOB’s per the 8 week challenge). So far I have one backpack that I'm dedicating to my parents if we should need to evacuate. 

Mother Earth News magazine says: “The convergence of the seemingly unstoppable forces of climate change, the savagery of global corporate capitalism, and the downward spiral of our predatory economy all lead to an inevitable conclusion: We are coming undone. We are unraveling.”

I say put your best foot forward, and get prepared for the fight of your life –

For us right now, it’s a more urgent journey to a more sustainable lifestyle to shore up our resistance….
There is no knight in shining armor. There is only a troupe of riders on apocalyptic horses approaching.

The director for the Office of Public Health Preparedness and Response, said: "If you are generally well equipped to deal with a zombie apocalypse you will be prepared for a hurricane, pandemic, earthquake, or terrorist attack."
Unfortunately the Government isn’t going to tell us that a lack of CHEAP oil will bring shortages and lack to us… right now everyone in public is pretending that we're going to become energy independent. 
What a nice dream.

A middle class white guy comes to grips with Peak Oil, Climate Change, Mass Extinction, Population Overshoot and the demise of the American Empire.
Made before the world reached 400 ppm of CO2 in the atmosphere, but relevant all the same. 
I have watched this 4 times in a years’ time (because it's hard to soak it all in just watching it once. It’s disturbing, but I can see the ring of truth for myself...

The Crash Course by Chris Martenson, seeks to provide you with a baseline understanding of the economy so that you can better appreciate the risks that we all face on that level. This is video- but you can read the transcripts instead.
I have been thru it twice (because it was updated) – it is a practical guide and full of pertinent info in chunks you can absorb. It's HELPFUL on several levels. 

Collapse movie now on youtube, and somehow disappeared from Netflix: explains what peak oil is and means for us (starting in 2015 or so, from what I've gathered from other sources). I have watched this one 10 times. 

If you are interested in more insights and info...
I would suggest to get familiar with Dimitri Orlov’s website- there are some really good things he’s doing to open eyes to the financial collapse that is coming. 
He does an excellent job comparing us to old USSR (now Russia). You will come to understand that we are in much worse shape facing a financial shock like currency collapse, than Russia was.
Then this explanation of what’s happening behind the scenes right in front of us, showing how it all relates to Peak (cheap) Oil:

“…we had a stock market crash, a housing crash, an oil price spike and crash, and an employment crash.  Because we don't have a real economy any more we have papered over these problems by creating more debt.  The taxpayers bailed out the criminal fraudsters on Wall St., taking on more government debt, and the fed bailed out many bankrupt banks internationally ($12 Trillion), indenturing the taxpayers for future debt.
Since debt represents ultimately a claim on real assets, debt cannot continue forever if growth of the real resource based economy has stopped. This is Hubbert's Third Prophecy:  When economic growth cannot continue due to the lack of affordable oil, then we will have a cultural crisis.  Well we are here folks...” 

As for predicting the timing of collapse, no one can, but Dimitri has some keen insights having lived thru it in Russia and spending his life in the study and observation of it. You might want to read this article too: Peak Empire

A short succinct slideshow solely related to the decline and collapse of empire.

James Howard Kunstler wrote The Long Emergency, published by the Atlantic Monthly Press in 2005, about the challenges posed by the coming permanent global oil crisis, climate change, and other “converging catastrophes of the 21st Century.” 
Here is a podcast on James Howard Kunstler on “The Long Emergency”.

§  While on that webpage, check out the links on the right-hand bar related to other informative blogs like:
Self-Sufficient Homestead
and under the tag cloud: “Homesteading”!

We are facing the collapse of industrial civilization,( if not extinction), but lets deal with one thing at a time, since we can actually DO something to become more resilient against financial strife.

To guard against being a little under-ambitious with the number of goals… I shoot for one goal a month to concentrate on, but include steps toward other goals as possible or necessary.
Maybe I’ll call new goal experiments “Challenges”.
Maybe I’ll keep tabs of goal progress for each month, or each quarter,  using goal and task lists and taking before/after pics for each project

This stage of my life is going to be divided amongst different things:
prepping & learning skills related to self-sufficiency measures (how to raise and kill chickens, how to tan hides, etc.), and gradually taking on more and more eldercare tasks.

I already use a system called 12 Folders... 
You might like to track yourself & progress w/ monthly reviews using a template like this (I like it!) The monthly goals… are easy to add to a 12 Folders (Farmgirl version) agenda/tracking system, and keep focused and not overwhelmed!

-From the sustainable life blog monthly review, here’s how that it might work (for me):

January—starting the new year out with things I can control….
--Bootycamp  (introducing new goals for getting fit and healthy )
--Planning the garden(s)

February--Food-related ideas to combine healthy eating goals with frugality (need to create more cash flow):

March—creative pursuits
organizing everything related to getting ready for my parents moving in (first part of April).

April – time to start raising things
-- clean the coop, decide on raising chicks to have 2 dozen layers (buy them or hatch them) *Update as of June 2013 *20 laying hens of which 15 lay, and 1 rooster.
--get some seeds in the ground

I know I've put out a lot here, lots to look over and consider. 
I know you know that life is hard- but it may get even harder...but lets look to the light.
I thought it might encourage you for me to share my current challenges and how I'm aiming to meet them, deal with them, mitigate them, overcome them, and live a more resilient lifestyle. 

Anything that's hard is easier just by sharing the burden, load, journey. So there you have it!

(Feedback welcome!)

A Season of Interlude

We got a fresh layer of sticky snow last night that blew in sideways. It’s not common to get ‘sticky’ snow, it’s usually light and fluffy like feathers. More is coming today.
We are now past the midpoint of winter- a few days of warm sun, a few days of overcast rain and sleet and snow and mush, (then slimy mud)!  Mud season IS a thing here.

I am beginning to feel either cabin fever or spring fever.
What's the difference between them, do you know?

Spring is trying to get going… and the interlude to it is ok, since I’m too busy inside to worry about outside. I have several projects to get into to keep me going into definite Spring:

– personal booty camp (getting back in shape after too long not paying attention, and menu planning for a low-carb diet, which works best for me). Sooooo bummed out after I last went shopping; I hadn’t been shopping in over 2 years and all the tops I found were too small when I got them home….so yeah, gotta get myself back to where I was 2 years ago asap!

--writing a western novel (1880’s), called ‘Mustang Diaries’ for lack of a better name. I’m on pg 125, and getting about 6-8 pages a week done. It’s for my Dad, so I hope to finish it in the next 3 weeks (when my Dad will be moving in).

Also, I finished the pirate and knight story and got it sent by email to my 6 y/o grandson. 35 pages, with the last page awaiting an illustration of the knight handing him the pirate monkey….his auntie the illustrator has been too busy to draw it up. It was good anyway.
(I’ve been writing stories most of my life, but this is the first one ever finished).  

If YOU dream of writing a story, try starting in November, it's "National Novel Writing Month" and has it's own supportive organization!  (nanowrimo.org)

--maintaining the chicken coop (it’s always something, lol). 

Most recently, a persistent egg-eater was on the loose, which is a terrible development since there’s an Easter-Egger hen just starting to lay green eggs!
*Update -as of April 2013, this hen died in an accident after laying only 4 of these beautiful eggs.

It meant rearranging the nests in the coop, adding a ramp, and curtains, and seems to have worked. Throughout winter, you need some kind of anti-boredom tactics or this is bound to happen. Some people hang a cabbage or other treat in the coop for the hens to peck at. Mine are pretty spoiled by those standards and I visit them at least 2x a day and try to give them something to think about. LOL, even if it means picking them up to tame.
*As a note, I got more eggs in the first week of March than the entire month of January. Even with a red heat lamp for light and warmth. I guess the warmth was relative, really, since several of the chickens with larger combs got a touch of frostbite a month back.

Laying has picked back up since overnight temps are slowly but finally getting up above freezing. I was able to give 4 eggs to the propane guy –one of them was a green one. He’d never seen one before.

I also traded a dozen eggs for enough carpet to cover 400 sq ft. of cement flooring. (It’s a cheap short shag the color of OATMEAL , but it’ was free for a dozen eggs. He lays/pulls carpet for a living and has to pay to take it to the dump, so his giving it to me really did us both a favor.)

-planning upgrades to the coop which includes adding fiber rabbits and worms...(pics coming of those plans)

-and most importantly, getting the house ready for my parents moving in. 
Painting walls, painting ON the walls (murals), storage and furniture re-and re-arrangements! 
I thought we had a BIG house, until I suddenly needed to move everything to make room.
Storage areas are packed, and a mess. 
I need to pack up my art supplies and farmgirl supplies…my closet is full and the attic is too. 
So I kind of wander from space to space and stand there with my hands on my hips, thinking “Ok, gotta move this stuff. But where to? Shall I take it ALL out and re-re-re-organize and repack it again, hoping it will take up less space? Is that TV worth storing? Will I ever use that delicate antique furniture? Do we have enough visitors to make those beds worth the space?” and on and on… and then I’ll move one thing, only to have to move something else in order to put it somewhere. Ugh. 
ONLY 3 WEEKS to get it all cleared out, and set up beds for 5 more people that are helping them move….and plan how to feed us all. Haha on me (who thought I was so well organized).

But it has been fun. Here’s a vignette of what I’ve done to create a kitchenette space:

There is only one chair since Mom can use a wheelchair. Those are vintage crate labels decoupaged to the acrylic patio table, and on the right is a red screen door as art, and a gameboard on the easel, as art, and Dad's "supper prayer" I grew up hearing, as wall art. Still refining this... The other side has a huge rustic wood entertainment shelving thing for the electric appliances (roaster/toaster oven, microwave, double hot plate) and storage, and there are other things. 

Here's a piece of what I'm painting on the wall above their bed (no headboard). It is going to 'frame' a special art piece they have that is framed in gold, of 3 overlapping red elephants. They are original hand-rubbings from a temple site where rubbings are not allowed any more... 

And of course, always trying to get some wildlife and weather pics onto this blog!
Sometimes nature gives such big thrills, I will eventually create my own annual calendars …but nature gives SO MANY of these thrills that I would have to create a DAILY picture calendar to fit them all in!

But recently the wildlife hasn’t been all that cute.

I caught a huge mule deer buck picking stuff from out of the trash bags, 

that the fawns and doe's got into first - 

...after the crows had strewn everything all around, after something originally tore open the bags... It could be a circus out there. 
I give all edible scraps to the chickens, I have no idea what they found so interesting.
(Our trashcan is at the end of the 150-yard driveway - I've been taking it down to the can by wheelbarrow once a week because the driveway gets slick and slimy between ice and mud).

The eagles have been resting in the Ponderosa since the end of November, 

-including a juvenile for the first time the first week of March.
Enlarging photos of them helps to differentiate from the various hawks – notice the size of the beaks. (juvenile eagle above, hawk below):

So we’ve had hawks, ravens, mockingbirds, and up to 6 different eagles (I know this only because once there were 5 at a time) in that tree. Plus the juvenile eagle. And I captured a juvenile golden eagle being harassed by a raven:


Another thrill this week came by way of a new client. She enlightened me a bit on the cost of angora goats -only $100. vs the $700. I'd seen online. Perhaps the difference between backyard goats and shown goats?
Anyway, she was wide open to my coming out with my mom and getting some hands-on. She has quite the set-up after 30 years of refining it... from fiber animals and spinning and showing art projects with the results, giving classes, an orchard and running a couple of greenhouses, (all with the invitation to stay on the ranch/homestead in a guest house). Cool stuff! And, it's VERY interesting how they built their home by hand. Can't wait to visit  De Goat n Sheep Ranch. 

We've been researching the 'earthship' homes for our next home, and are excited about the prospect. 

If you're unfamiliar, I think this tour video is one of the best, since it shows the 'mood' inside one of the homes - so light and cheerful, artistic, airy, natural... like that. My favorite aspects of the home are the arch built over a dining table in the greenhouse area, and outside, the arms of the courtyard. I always wanted a courtyard....
It has THREE layers of green house...which is the newest design model. You can get away with just one though. 

Another of our clients has an earthship and has invited us to visit. It's an older model, the model being refined over the last 30 years or so. I expect to be impressed. 
Some tours inside and out of the 'Phoenix' Earthship in Taos New Mexico (home owned by the original architect), and it's amazing!
 - In Photos (via an overnight visitor)
Fishing for breakfast inside the earthship (it's a completely contained bio-tech design). This is the original designer Michael, fishing with his grandson in one of the little pools inside the greenhouse... a cool concept!
-you can find thousands of youtube vids on these diverse structures...but stop in at
 earthship.com for the latest news and updates and check out the designs!
"Earthship principles:
• Building with Natural and Recycled Materials
• Solar/Thermal Heating and Cooling
• Solar and Wind Electricity
• Water Harvesting
• Contained Sewage Treatment
• Interior Food Production
They have proven comfortable in any climate, any landscape, any size and still provide electricity, potable water, contained sewage treatment and sustainable food production.

An Earthship is the epitome of sustainable design and construction. Earthships are constantly being improved upon, incorporating every aspect of sustainability."
 [The "vaulted" design is the most recent upgrade. They call it the "Vaulted Global Model Earthship" It is a 2 bdrm, 2 bath model. I hope it's what we end up with!]

And one last (favorite) thing to do during this short interlude - catch up on new homesteading blogs (with time to join their spring contests, lol).

One of my new fav's is by Heather Harris, called "The Homesteading Hippy", which has a current contest/giveaway of a new ebook out, called 'The Urban Chicken'. I don't really feel that WE are urban here, but I couldn't help signing up for it, because I'm hoping to win it as a housewarming gift to my sis-in-law, [who is moving from the suburbs back to her old 'homestead', and starting from scratch. She's raised many goats before but not chickens!]
These days, we need all the insight, info, and encouragement we can get... do I hear a "YEAH!"?
So, if you're urban or you've got an appetite for homesteady stuff, check out that blog!

On that note, I end today's updates!