Hot & Busy

It’s been quite warm these last couple of days; however, it’s supposed to cool down slightly today.

The other day I made two lemony sweet jars of lemon verbena syrup. I plan to use the syrup to sweetened lemonades and other fruit desserts. Yesterday, we baked up another batch of blueberry muffins (with our blueberries, of course) in the solar oven. The muffins baked up in less than two hours and were very moist and delicious.   Another plus with cooking with the sun it that you can never burn the food and the food doesn’t dry out.

Since we can’t always bake things in the recommended black pots (because black absorbs the heat), we have to find ways to bake things like muffins while maintaining a consistent temperature. We’ve used bricks, pizza stones and glassware for this effect.

We are nearing 50 lbs of blackberries – incredible! What a blessing to be getting so much fruit from such a little area of fence line in the front yard.

Harvesting beans, peppers and handfuls of swiss chard.

Animal enclosure

Yesterday evening, we gals and a friend took the goats and went for a stroll in the Arroyo Seco again. It’s so beautiful at that time of day (5-7pm) –The path is shaded by the canyon wall covered in oaks and sycamores — cool and quiet. Above, the brilliant blue sky and sunshine plays off the famous Colorado Bridge .   The goats love going for walks.  Blackberry likes to “talk” to herself practically the whole time, like she’s carrying on a conversation with herself. She’s so funny. 

Jealous animals

We put some of the straw bales in the animal enclosure and the all the animals are thrilled. The goats use them to jump, climb, bounce, slide on (even a scratching post). Yes, goats are just like human kids– they love to slide. Blackberry puts her two hooves out straight and slides down the bale on her belly!   We placed the three bales on recycled cinder blocks, tilted two of them to leave gaps underneath the bale because the bunny likes to use it as her hide out and the ducks use it as a quiet place to lay their eggs.

One of the bales we picked up on Sunday had strings missing and it was falling apart. So we put down a new layer of straw in the animal enclosure. Straw and mulch are our favorite ground covering to use in the enclosure. Not only does it keep the dirt covered, it also makes it easier to keep the place clean. All we have to do each morning is fluff up the area where there is any manure. The manure easily falls to the ground, leaving the straw clean and fly free.

In the animal enclosure, we have bucket, half a chair and whole chair for the goats, ducks and chickens to perch on. The chairs and buckets were all picked up on the side of the road. Actually, the “whole” chair is not only for the animals. This chair is one of our favorite places to sit in the early morning and evening time – watching the goats do their gymnastics and dances, the ducks playing in their pond, the chickens happily going about scratching and bunny munching away on her favorite gourmet greens.  

When you are in with the animals, it’s better than watching tv and it’s so relaxing. I think that is why we like the chair so much… it’s our meditation, relaxation chair.   Well, that is until two goats jump on your lap and vie for your special attention. There’s some serious jealously and jockeying for the best lap position.

Fruit & flowers

Living Off the Land

There’s a battle that we are faced with every day: we have to decide whether we spend time writing/talking/teaching about the homesteading and simple life, or, instead, actually live it.  

One such example: A few months back, Jules was invited to be one of the keynote speakers (along with the likes of Dr. Brian O’Leary &Julian Darley) at a sustainable conference in the state of Washington.   The timing of such a “sustainable” conference was unfortunate since it was in June. After thinking about if for a time, Jules decided against going.  He felt such a trip at that time in the growing season would be going against the very principles that he believes in.

There comes a time when you have to choose between being truly tied to the land and not living off workshops/books/films/speaking engagements about living off the land. People, fame, money–all pull at you, but the pull of land must come first.   If the conference had been, say, in January, like the Eco Farm Conference, or even in late August like Sol Fest, the pull from the land would be a little less.

We have to admit, it’s tough to make such decisions. It’s so “comfy” to sit a chair in front of computer or audience  instead of sweating and toiling with your hands in the earth with dirty knees on the ground.   It’s only human of us to want to choose the easier path and we struggle with this each and every day. How do we manage this site and writing about how we are walking this path and actually walk the path, step by step every day? It’s definitely a challenge to keep the balance.   For example, while at the Sierra Club Summit in September 2005, we were watching a film screening that was attended by the film subject himself, and someone stood up and asked the man (subject of the film), when was the last time he was on his farm. The “farmer” answer was that he hadn’t been back to his organic farm since November 2004(!!) because he’s been too busy touring with his film. I thought to myself, when does such fame not make one a true farmer (homesteader, environmentalist, etc) any longer? That’s a tough conundrum.

No Comments

  1. Liz says:

    I, for one, applaud all you do, and appreciate how you resist the pull of fame for your land. You are setting such a wonderful example, and it *is* appreciated. Keep up the good works. 🙂

  2. dermot says:

    It’s a shame that it isn’t easier to do some kind of video conferencing – that way the presentation could be delivered remotely, without the need to hop on a plane…

    Dont’ get me started on my hatred of microsoft and Bill Gates…gnrgh…

  3. gerry medland says:

    The pull of the land permeates our very being,to remain true to that harmonious link is of paramount importance,to ourselves and to others.Those who seek will find,your site and its tremendous content of information is there for those who are already ‘looking’Famous words that have stood for millenia are’Seek and Ye shall find’There is no other way!Thanx so much for maitaining the balance,however hard the struggle,You are all doing something that is life changing!

  4. Jennifer says:

    As one who spends a lot of time sitting in front of a computer, I have to disagree with “It’s so much nicer and more comfy to sit a chair in front of computer or audience instead of sweating and toiling with your hands in the earth with dirty knees on the ground. ”
    I would much rather be working in the garden!
    But your point is a good one. We have to make choices about where to put our energy. I think as long as the choices are informed and made consciously, we are living responsibly. The balance changes as we change too: raising children, working to save money for land, struggling with health issues… all change how much time we can dedicate to our higher purpose.
    Thanks for being great role models and sharing your process.

  5. Wildside says:

    Ah, the tug and pull! And the familiar question: is “success” really success?

  6. Nancy Kelly says:

    Amen to Jennifer on rather being in the garden than sitting here in front of my computer! However, that is only on a good day, today is too hot (in Phoenix) to tempt me outside.

    And what a great question from Wildside.

    What beautiful photos of the garden.

    You guys really do walk the walk.

    I remember reading an article about someone (can’t remember who) who was known for environmental work – and after he flew somewhere to speak at a conference he would plant enough trees to make up for the pollution he had created. Not a solution but at least an amelioration.

    Have a wonderful weekend. Thanks again for what you do.