Sunday, December 30, 2012

It's Time

Darran and I have known for some time that we wanted to move to more land. But as recently as last year we didn't feel it was financially possible. So we decided to start right where we were and not postpone our plans, our lives, because we only had 4 acres.

I'm so thankful that we did. It's been an amazing year. We've learned so much. We've lived our priorities. It's opened our eyes.

As 2012 comes to a close we've realized it's time. It's time to go.

It's been a hard decision for us. This wonderful home is the only home we've lived in together. We've spent our entire 10 years of marriage here. 

Bigger than that: this house was built by Darran's great grandfather in 1918 and has only been owned by a member of the family since.

Bigger than that: I grew up in this town. My father grew up in this town. My grandfather grew up in this town. My great grandfather moved here to raise his family. Darran's family likewise. In fact, both sides of his family have been here since his great grandfather on the one side and great-great on the other. Our roots here are deep.

Bigger than all of that: we know deep in our hearts that we are meant to leave this place and begin writing our own story.

As I said in my last post we've found land that we want to buy. I have to admit it looks impossible from here, but we've never let that stop us before.

The bank will not lend us money on the land unless we have a contract on this house or 30% down. As we can afford both payments we had hoped that we could buy the new land and still keep this place until we built a house there. But, no go.

This spring we will be taking a huge leap of faith and putting this house up for sale without another house to move into if it sells. While I had hoped for the security of at least having the new land purchased before we did that, it is what it is.

I'm hoping with all that I am that this house sells quickly. I see such a wonderful future for my little family; I see it so clearly that it's hard to be patient. I want to go tomorrow!

Darran's a little uneasy about selling this house with only bare land to go to, but I told him that I don't care if I have to live in an army tent or a camper trailer on the new land while we build a house. He knows me well enough to know I'm just crazy enough to mean that.

Of course we have no guarantee that the land won't sell to someone else in the meantime. Our other option would be to come up with the 30% down payment. $48,000. Then we could still live here while building a house...hey, miracles happen.

So I wait and I plan and I hope. Because I know it's time.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Fading Into Fall

Things are fading into fall around here. We've had our first freeze and so the garden is done. I went out and told it thanks for the great year! 

Last week we harvested the rest of the pumpkins, squash, cucumbers, and tomatoes. The corn didn't quite have time to mature, but we had 5 or 6 good ears. All in all we had a pretty decent harvest considering the crazy dry year we had.

Leaves are turning beautiful shades of yellow, orange, and red. We even had a little snow a few days ago.

Fall always seems like the end to spring's beginning to me. This year is no different. Except maybe a little bit more nostalgic as we plan for this to be our last fall here. (Did I mention we found land we want to buy and will likely be moving?! I'll post on that soon.) I find myself enjoying the leaves a little bit more. Enjoying our walks with the goats a little bit more. Revelling in the awesomeness of this place.

Not in a sad way, but in a thankful way. I'm thankful for our time here. BUT I look forward to moving to more land. To taking this homesteading thing up a few notches! At the same time we'll miss this place. Lots of great memories here.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

But Most Times it IS Sunshine, Rainbows, and Unicorns

The deer quite like my spaghetti squash. They've eaten 4 so far. You're welcome Mr. Bambi.
Call me insanely optimistic, but I always think that when things get really, really bad there is something really good on its way. Yes, last week was a bad week for us, but this week has seemed like there were little miracles waiting around every corner.

 Yes, the deer have been enjoying my beloved spaghetti squash, but I managed to pick two like this one. Yum. Paleo spaghetti here we come.

The tomatoes are putting on like crazy and we've been able to start picking them! Let me tell you, it's absolutely true that there is nothing like a homegrown tomato. Store bought doesn't even begin to compare.

Eating farm/garden straight to the table is am amazing thing. Who needs a recipe? I just chopped up some heirloom white cucumber, some of our amazing tomatoes, drizzled a little olive oil on, and sprinkled with a little sea salt and basil. Best. Thing. Ever.

Do you remember that flowered tree we found last spring? OK, you probably don't. There was a tree at the far back corner of our property, half hidden by willows and chokecherries, with blooms on it last spring. We had never noticed that tree before. To our knowledge there were only chokecherries, willows, and cottonwoods back there.

We hadn't been going back to the second creek where this tree is because bears had been enjoying the chokecherries back there. Call me crazy, but I was going to let them help themselves! 

The chokecherries have been all eaten for a couple of weeks. Saturday we decided to go check "the tree". I walked back there and saw something bright and red.

My little miracle tree.

It's an apple tree! We'd suspected it might be a crab apple. Those are common around here. But if it is it's like no crab apple I've ever seen. The apples are bigger than a crab apple and are slightly tart, but tasty. Crab apples are generally very bitter/sour.

It's right next to a small pond and the second creek, so I'm sure the roots are drinking well. They must be, because even with the crazy dry year we've had the tree was filled with little yummy apples! 

It took a lot of work to cut the willows and chokecherries away to get to the tree, but we were so excited we made quick work of it. You'd have thought we'd found gold.

Ellie and Fiona were great help picking apples.
We've done better than expected financially this summer and have started working on the house again. (You have no idea how amazing this is, we haven't been financially able to work on the house in YEARS). We painted it and will be putting new counter tops in the kitchen soon! I'll do a full post on our house soon, it has a very cool story.

We've also had lots of purple beans, green beans, peas, zucchini, yellow squash, and eggs of course. Oh yes, and Red is happy as ever.

It's been a good week. Life is amazing. Tough times come, but tough times always go. We are grateful.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

It's Not All Sunshine, Rainbows, and Unicorns

I have another post I'm working on with updates and garden pics and good news...this is not that post however.

We've had a tough week. 

One of our spring calves
You see, we're passionate about grass feeding our cows. Generally that is not an issue, it's just what we do, but this year has been tough because it hasn't RAINED. 

Our cows have been on a pasture that we leased for the summer because of the dry year and my dad's place not having enough pasture. On top of the cost of the leased pasture (we share all costs with my parents thank goodness) there will need to be hay bought for the winter, again because of the dry year  my dad's place made no hay either.

Not a big deal. There are dry years, there are wet years. We adjust and move on.

However, in the last 3 days 3 of our cows have died. We're not sure why. We've called the vet and hope to figure out what's going on soon. In the meantime we are moving the cows back to my dad's because of concern it's something they're ingesting.

Two of those were steers that were to be our food for the next year. The other was a mama cow with a 3 month old calf. Together with my parents we had 14 cows at the beginning of the summer, and 11 right now today.

So...on top of all of those expenses we will now have to figure out what to put in our freezers for the next year.

I hesitated sharing this post. But this is our reality right now. This is the truth of our lives. Our spirits are good. We know this can be part of the deal. But, at the same time we care about our animals. They're not just feedlot numbers to us.

We've had a tough week.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Totally Worth It

As Darran and I lay in an exhausted heap on the living room floor last night I asked him what I should post about on 4 Acres this week. He said, "I don't know." I said, well what do you remember about this week. He said, "zzzzzzz." Well, not really zzzzz, but he'd nodded off. That really did answer my question though.

This last week has been a whole lot of hard work. 

We've been pumping water with a hand pump and bailing buckets into a pipe system to water the garden. Every day, sometimes twice a day. FYI: water is heavy.

This is a VERY old pump, it breaks almost daily. It's a dang good thing Darran has skillz.

We've been weeding like mad and hauling the weeds to the goats and chickens. (We try not to waste anything around here). Not to brag, but one thing I'm highly skilled at growing is weeds. Oh, and FYI: weeds, when in sufficient amounts, are heavy.

Darran has been building Fort Knox back by the creek. Goatopia is getting an entire other layer of wire on top of the wire there now. These two tiny goats require quite the pen to be kept IN.


I made laundry soap. I've got it down to 20 minutes flat.

On top of those things, I've begun preparing for our homeschool year. We start in a week. Oh yes, and I've begun training for a 5k...

Yes, it's been a week of reminding us how hard this lifestyle really can be. But it's also been a week of reminding us how rewarding this lifestyle can be.

Yep, totally worth it.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Not Licked Yet

After feeling like our little experiment this year was a big fat flop (other than the eggs that we have in abundance) I was looking toward next year. Taking my lessons from this year's failures and making plans for doing better next year. I had really just about given up on this year; when we went on vacation we didn't even bother having anyone water the garden because we thought it was too far gone.

But lo and behold plants are amazing, resilient things and I am flat out amazed that this year will yield far and beyond what we'd originally thought. We returned from vacation and realized that many of these amazing heirloom varieties were holding on for dear life and would likely produce. Since then we've hauled water like crazy and had some rain recently (that made all the difference, there's just nothing like actual RAIN). I went out to the garden yesterday and was exceedingly excited to find:

Several little baby yellow squash.
An entire row of purple beans are doing well and flowering!
Darran informed me that purple beans turn green when you cook them.
I informed him that we would eat them raw then, because we are eating purple beans!
We picked this, our first zucchini ever on 4 Acres. I sort of felt it needed
memorialized somehow. Can you bronze a zucchini? Guess we'll just eat it.
THIS I was most excited to find. Like, just won the lottery excited. Really.
Our first ever spaghetti squash. I've never even heard of anyone growing spaghetti
squash around here. Maybe they do? I've never seen it though. We love spaghetti squash.
Ya, this little thing right here was nothing short of miraculous to me. Guess you had to be there?
Will we grow most of our own food for the winter ahead as we'd hoped? No. But we are grateful that through this far from perfect, hectic, hot and dry, crazy summer we will have a pretty good first harvest here at 4 Acres.

Mostly, we are grateful for the priceless family time and the adventures we've had while trying. And... 

Summer's not over and we're not licked yet!

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Lower Sugar Chokecherry Jam Recipe

Last weekend I made chokecherry jam and jelly. 
I don't ever remember the chokecherries being ready this early! This has been such a strange year.

Making chokecherry jams, jellies, syrup, and wine is a tradition of sorts around here. It's been done for as long as there's been people here I suppose. Everyone's grandmother had the best chokecherry jelly recipe. 

If Ellie and Fiona had their way, they'd have kept them all to themselves!
I have fond memories of picking chokecherries by the bucketsful, of the delicious smells in the kitchen, and the ping of the jar lids as they sealed. My mom used to make chokecherry/crabapple jelly. Ah, memories...

Not many people still carry on the tradition around here, but me...well, I do.

Being that we eat paleo we don't eat as much jam and jelly as we used to, but I still like to make my own. Plus, I'm convinced most things that grow wild are better for us. In fact:

100 g of raw, pitted chokecherries contains 379 mg of potassium, 67 mg of phosphorus, 60 mg of calcium and 27 mg of magnesium, along with lesser amounts of sodium, iron, zinc, copper and manganese. That same 100 g also has 168 IU of vitamin A, 347 mcg of lutein, 90 mcg of beta-carotene, 21.1 mcg of vitamin K and 5.5 mg of vitamin C. Chokecherries also contain a bit of vitamin E and the B vitamins thiamine, riboflavin, niacin and pantothenic acid. 
source: Nutritional Value for Chokecherries 

Lower Sugar Chokecherry Jam
8 cups chokecherries washed and stems removed
3 cups water
1 and 1/4 cup organic cane sugar
1 package Sure-Jell for less or no sugar (pink box)
Cook chokecherries and water in a large pot over low to medium heat until very soft. Stir as needed.
Strain mixture through a cheese cloth or colander to get pits out. I use a colander and potato masher to get as much of the fruit as possible without the pits.
Return mixture to stove over medium to medium-high heat. 
Mix together 1/4 cup sugar and the Sure-Jell. Add to the chokecherry mixture. Bring just to a boil, stirring constantly. Stir in remaining 1 cup of sugar until dissolved. Let boil for 1 minute stirring constantly.
Pour directly into hot jars and water bath can. I usually process in a water bath for 15 minutes.
Makes 2 pint jars of jam.
I use much less sugar than traditional recipes; I also use organic real cane sugar. Still, I wouldn't call this a paleo recipe, but it works for us. Those used to much sweeter recipes (many would call for double this much sugar) may not like this one, but I love how it's tangier and tastes more like chokecherries than traditional recipes. Yum.

Monday, July 30, 2012

A First Harvest?

How about another edition of "What I've Managed Not to Kill So Far!"? OK, OK, since the mass execution of the heirloom seeds I haven't really killed...much. But because of it we got the garden started much later than we'd hoped (we're talking the first and second week of June) and started most everything from seeds instead of seedlings. Best laid plans I guess...

With our short growing season (at just above 7,000 feet it's really more like 3 seconds) it's a toss up as to whether we'll wind up with much of a harvest this's hoping for a late frost? Indian summer?

This summer has also been exceptionally hot and dry. We've watered the best we can, but we can't afford to just turn the hose on (we tried in June and our bill was $70 higher!). Mostly we have been hauling water in buckets from the creek. Talk about a workout! 

Between the late planting and the hot/dry weather I had almost completely given up hope, but the last week or two things are starting to come around. While not everything has exactly thrived this hot dry summer, we've done the best we could and I'm pleasantly surprised by what is doing well!

The corn is in a race against the frost...will it have time to mature before it turns cold???
Our first zucchini! Considering how zucchini generally goes gangbusters around here we should do well here.
There's about a half a row of beets doing well. Before we got the electric fence put up around the garden the deer munched their tops off, but they came back!
We planted several varieties of cucumber, but so far the only ones looking promising are these pickling cucumbers.
The strawberry patch is doing amazing (in spite of the vampire pumpkin plant trying to snuff it out). I just picked 4 to 6 of these thumb-sized strawberries from each plant!
Speaking of the monster pumpkin plant...the pumpkins on it are growing like crazy.
Just that one pumpkin plant already has 6 to 8  fair sized pumpkins on it!

The tomato plants along the north fence are putting on like crazy.
The tomatoes in the greenhouse however only have a few.  Any idea why they're not putting on more tomatoes?!
We're even still getting a few blueberries.
There are also lots of beans, peas, and lettuce I didn't take pictures of. 

It looks like the broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, carrots, onions, and a few other things are just plain not going to make it, but we may just pull this thing out and have a decent first harvest after all! 

Cross your fingers.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Misadventures in Wanna-Be-Farming

This week has been...hilarious. There's really no other word for it. 

Darran built Ellie and Fiona a nice big pen out by the creek. With this being such a dry year it's the only place that's green and has enough groceries to sustain them. They have lush green to eat, plenty of space to's a goatopia really. 

Ellie and Fiona's thoughts on it:

Alrighty then. Moving on...

Top on my list of things to start this spring was a strawberry patch. I love strawberry patches. My uncle had the biggest strawberry patch when I was growing up and since then one of the things I've wanted most in life is a big strawberry patch. What can I say? I'm easy to please.

I was so excited when I had pretty much killed everything else, but my strawberry patch was thriving!! 

Then, I saw this strange plant growing at one end. It wasn't a weed, but it wasn't a strawberry and it was in my strawberry patch! Darran said not to pick it, that it looked like a pumpkin, squash, or cucumber. My bet was pumpkin. You see, we had mixed some of the soil that had been composted by the chickens into the strawberry patch when we planted it. Last October we had fed the jack-o-lanterns (which had been grown with heirloom seeds) to the chickens. One of those crazy heirloom seeds had planted itself in my strawberry patch via the dirt from the chicken pen!

Yep, it's a pumpkin.
The dang thing is on steroids or something.

It's completely trying to snuff out my strawberries.

It's overgrown several strawberry plants.
But, I leave it be because with the luck we've had with the garden Darran thinks it may be one of the few things that produce.

So, we'll have tomatoes and pumpkins come fall I guess. Oh, and speaking of tomatoes:
They've finally started to put on tomatoes!
The gate to the tomatoes on the north side of the house has been open for weeks. We figured out that the goats and chickens don't much like tomato plants. In fact, they'll go in and eat the weeds around them. Nice. Anyway, Red chicken doesn't go in there. At. All. 

Darran weeding the tomatoes with Red's help.
She's a good helper.
Unless one of us is in there. Then she's right along with you the whole time. Scratching and pecking, rooting around, and just going to town like a kid at Christmas. Then, when we leave, she leaves too. Silly Red.

Oh yes, and speaking of Red chicken! Darran was putting a new door knob on the back door (much to Fiona's chagrin, she had just about figured out how to open the previous lever-type one. I wish I was kidding.) and Red chicken spent the whole time trying to sneak around him and get into the kitchen.

One last thing...We've had two more new additions this week. Yesterday the boys came bringing home frogs from my parents' house. Darran promptly built frogtopia:
Shall we take bets on whether Fiona teaches the frogs a thing or two?
Life is funny. We are grateful.

Monday, July 9, 2012


It's quite possible that this blog needs a new tagline. Experiment in sustainability?! The what you say?!

While sustainability is still our goal. It's definitely a longer term goal than we realized. What can I say...we've learned a LOT!

After the whole killing of the expensive heirloom seed fiasco we still managed to plant a late garden. However, this summer has been hot and dry. Colorado is burning up, literally. We've barely managed to keep a garden alive. With our short growing season it will be interesting if we wind up with much of a harvest.

I did manage some yummy lettuce and spinach in the greenhouse before it got too hot in there for them.

The chickens and goats have pretty much ate up the yard (and even with watering it, it's pretty much burned up anyway). We've put most of the chickens back in the main pen and are having to feed them all way more than just the supplementing we were hoping for. Which means it's costing way more. Which means I've had to focus more on my fitness blog...because it's the one that helps pay the bills.

Darran is in the process of building the goats a pen on the land in the back. With the creek being back there it's still green and there's much more for them to eat. If I have my way there'll be some chickens snuck back there too. Oops, look at that, now how'd they get back there? There's a lot more bugs for them to eat there! (That's what we're struggling with, them getting enough protein. Especially since we don't feed them soy).
Ellie and Fiona munching where their new pen will be.
We have gotten some rain the past two days, so I have hope it will not all be a wash! Oh yes, and there will be tomatoes! Lots and lots of tomatoes. The greenhouse is full of gigantic tomato plants that are growing like mad and we have a row of them along the north fence. All of which we've managed to water enough to keep going. (You don't want to see my water bill!)

We also have some strawberry plants and two blueberry bushes doing well.
Yay strawberries! Do you see that bone dry ground around them?!
With things not going as planned I've focused more on making sure my fitness blog is doing well, and it is. Thankfully! If we can't grow our food we have to make the money to buy it (crazy how that works). Darran has kept pretty busy with side jobs. Mostly mechanic work (my husband can fix anything). So financially, miraculously, we are doing well. Heck, if we can pay the bills I'm happy.

Sustainability? No. Growing most of our own food? No. Having a blast living our priorities and spending time together as a family? YES!