Wooly Words: March 2018

Yesterday I was sure Tulip couldn’t be any more ready to deliver her baby lamb(s) into this world, but she made me practice my patience. Blossom is definitely nearing as well, but no signs of bedding down and they are still chowing hay. Both of which are signs she is going into labor. We are just baffled the lambs are still in there! It is our first year and we definitely are antsy so of course mother nature is present to teach us we have no control in this situation. They are happy, healthy and definitely due ANYTIME now!


In addition to Tulip and Blossom’s lambs we are purchasing a few additional lambs in April for more genetic diversity. They will also be East Friesian; one ram lamb; two ewe lambs from a creamery in southwest Washington. More wonderful milk and fiber sheep! I have fallen in love with their calm energy and sweet disposition. They hop right up on the milk stand and love a good scratch on the butt. Sometimes Blossom stares into my eyes like she sees into my soul. hahaha I think I’m officially a crazy sheep lady. 🙂 Anyway…

Shearing Practice

Grant and I started our first shearing lessons this past week. Most definitely a SLOW process. The first day we flipped Tulip on her rump and laid her between Grant’s legs with her head propped. She was breathing heavily and what sounded like short quick breaths so we decided she may have been TOO pregnant to be in these awkward positions. At least we got her stomach done while she was laid down. Then, we moved her to the milk stand and were able to trim her backside at least so she is cleaned up a bit for lambing. This process of only shearing the sheep around her backside is call “crutching” and is helpful for the lambs so they do not struggle to find mama’s utter. It is best to shear sheep 4-6 weeks before lambing and we waited too long. There were quite a few cold days and I guess being that it was our first year we just were hesitant as to when to start. As long as the sheep have somewhere out of the elements after shearing they likely will not get too cold so next year we will make sure to do this in mid-February or whenever 4-6 weeks before their due date is. They keep their lanolin layer anyway so they are not completely down to skin. Likely still warmer than a hair goat or sheep!

The next shearing session was a little better. Grant flipped Blossom and sheared her belly and around the utters. Then, we put her in the milk stand and did her butt and from her front legs to her neck. We put Tulip back on the milk stand too because she was so jealous that Blossom got to go on the milk stand. 🙂 So we sheared her front legs to her neck as well.

They look like the opposite of a lion, mane-less and pretty goofy. We will do the rest in increments working our way around. We have no real reason for why we did the front part second after the belly, but again we are beginners. I know there are shearing patterns out there and have looked at them, but since we are not rolling these big hefty girls around on the ground this late in their pregnancy whatever way works for us is the way we are going to do it. I imagine each session we will be able to handle a little more shearing and hopefully improve our speed at the same time. That is not how we will do it next year, but we are teaching ourselves how to shear here! It is not easy. Technically, we want the fleece in ONE piece for spinning. That means doing the whole sheep all the way around in one sitting. Do not let the shearing videos fool you, it is HARD WORK and isn’t easy to go that fast without cutting your sheep! Our hands and forearms were cramping up after yesterday’s session. We joked about doing shearing exercises over the winter to keep our forearms and hand muscles sharp. So this first spring we are learning some valuable lessons about sheep and shearing which we will implement to become more efficient and sustainable.

Shear in February

For so many reasons I have found online, but to name a few…

  1. You can tell the contours of the ewe’s body for early signs of labor. Their backside goes concave so you can see a dent on each side over the back hip area. Also it will be easier to shear around the utter area before it starts to fill with colostrum.
  2. You cut the fiber before the ewe transfers all her energy to the lamb(s) so you get better quality wool. We learned the hard way with Blossom. She is SOOOO greasy! Cutting with a freshly sharpened pair of shears was still yielding some really tough cuts. Also, the wool starts to get unhealthy and breaks easily later into the pregnancy since all the ewe’s nutrients are going to the lambs, not their wool production.
  3. Ewes get warmer in late gestation and start to get uncomfortable and itchy so taking off that huge wool blanket I imagine would feel like a lot like getting all your hair cut off, well and your clothes… 😛 As long as we continue to provide access to an enclosed shelter and fluffy straw bedding shearing them in February should not be a problem. We just don’t want to do it so early that they have thick wool in July!

Coat Fiber Animals

The wool got so much poo, hay and other vegetable matter in it! The goal is to get as much useable wool possible from our fiber critters for spinning so I believe getting them coats will be an easy way to eliminate some excess junk in the fleece. Meaning less labor skirting the wool later. We can definitely still wash and salvage quite a bit of fleece this year, but between being a first time shearer, shearing them too late, and not coating them this year’s bounty will be small. Each year we will improve and hopefully within a few years be able to spin yarn, weave rugs, and make crafts for resale.

Use a Mobile Feeder in the Winter

In the winter months the sheep and goats pretty much go between the feeder and shelter and nowhere else so having a feeder on wheels or easily mobile would allow the land some time to repair. I would rotate the feeder weekly to reduce the impact on the land. Thankfully they are about to have 10 acres to go graze all summer so their feeder areas should get a decent break while we come up with a new design. As I have mentioned in prior posts, we will be building a barn once we build the earthship so our current set up is only temporary. This side of the property that they are currently grazing will not be their main pasture next winter since we will be fencing the other 30 acres of property this spring/ summer. We will slowly fence the property into paddocks to transfer the sheep and goats through in a sustainable way that works in harmony with the land instead of destroying it.

I am sure I could go on and on with the ways we will improve for next year, but for today I think I’ve reflected enough. It is a beautiful 40 degree day and only getting warmer so time to get some more shearing done! Stay tuned for lambing updates and earthship building permit preparations coming soon!

Always Improving

Since we are stuck waiting for the ground to thaw to begin building the earthship we are taking the opportunity to improve our day to day processes and prepare for our first lambing! We anticipate Tulip and Blossom will lamb by mid-March, potentially sooner so Grant made a milking stand (in a day)! He never ceases to amaze me. Can’t wait to begin milking!


Backing up a little, we brought home two Angora does last weekend. I’m so excited to learn all there is to about their beautiful soft locks of fiber. They are calm and now taking treats out of our hands, which is great. Cinnamon and Muffin, the Nubian goats, are not very friendly and do not like to share food or space. Ramazoid, the East Friesian ram, needed to be separated from the ewes, because they are giving off hormones that make Ram think they are in heat, when they are already bred. Unfortunately, Ram also can’t be with any of the female goats as he tries to mount them. He is much too large and we are not interested in experimental “geep”. The Angoras and the East Friesians get along thankfully! We figured since the ewes are nearly four months along, and with the restrictions between some of the critters to upgrade the living arrangements. We ended up making four pens all side by side so they can still interact with there neighbors a little. The two Nubian does are together. The Ram and Sputnik, the Nigerian Dwarf buck, are together. The Nora and Rora, the two Angoras are together and that leaves Blossom and Tulip in the last pen.


Angora does Nora and Rora on the roof

There are many benefits to separating the ram and buck from the does. For one, they don’t need more than a nice grass hay. While the girls, at various times, will need higher protein alfalfa hay when pregnant or nursing/ milking. Another benefit of keeping the males separate is so you can plan their breeding schedule. This is helpful if we want to have milk year-round. I haven’t gone as far as to plan yet for milking, but imagine we will have a better plan for next year to keep the milk flowing consistently. This year, we will just let them breed when they are in heat. At this point if the goats are bred they would kid in the fall. I think the best time to breed goats is in December/ January so they would be born at the beginning of summer. Having it be plenty warm is one less thing to worry about! So everyone seems pretty happy except Ramazoid and Sputnik are testing each other. It hasn’t become harmful to either party yet, but we are keeping an eye on it. I also believe they both are slightly stressed to have been separated from their ladies, but that should calm down with time.


We added rain gutters made of pvc pipe cut in half because that is what we had on hand. Why not collect this precious water dripping off the roof?! Now there are gutters dripping into three of the four water buckets. Any plan to automate daily tasks is welcomed here! I’m grateful we got animals before building a barn, only because we were able to learn with them on the easiest way to complete chores for them and us. By the time we get to building our barn we will know exactly how to set it up for maximum efficiency. How much we have learned already from and about the “hoof clan”! They are so fun.


We just got some surprise news today from our rabbits, Nibbles and Carrot, that babies were born! We have now spotted two kits probably around a week old; one black like dad, and the other tan like mom. We are worried either the rest didn’t make it or perhaps they are just slower to come out of hiding. The picture may be too hard to see, but Grant tried to snap a shot of them hiding in the sheep fort.

Happy New Year!

Oh, I do love winter, but I am sure feeling the effects of the shortened days! But, we are on the up and up! We are welcoming 2018 and looking forward to the blessings already on their way! Happy to have spent some much needed quality time with the family over the holidays. It was the most special, memorable Christmas of all. It was the last Christmas I got to spend with my grandpa and I miss him very much, but he will stay with me in spirit and heart.

Grant and I are both back on the homestead and taking our time before making any big moves. We are preparing ourselves for a very busy spring ahead. We have collected over 100 tires so far and we just got a great hookup with a local tire shop that will give us as many tires as we want! It is the closest option by far and I am so grateful! It will be so convenient to just stop by on our way to get groceries every other week with the trailer and fill up. We won’t be making separate out of the way trips to far off lands or wasting countless hours talking to prospective deliveries that fall through. This is perfect. Some plans have to fail so new ones can form. So, we are piling up our tires in three different size groups: small, medium, and large. The largest tires will be the first few rows of the earthship. Working up the walls we will work largest to smallest tires, pounding dirt into each tire along the way.



Grant during our first day stacking tires.


The next project we have to tackle is drawing the building plans. We have a general idea of the layout (where the stairs will be, doorways, windows, etc.) but we haven’t drawn with exact measurements to meet County regulations for the building permit. Grant is using an online free drawing tool to develop the plans. I’ll provide more details once we have the plans made.

Yesterday, Grant and I took a snowshoe hike over to the West side of the property, where the earthship will be. Earlier in the fall, we marked out the perimeter with stones. When we went back yesterday Grant marked out the 60′ circle in the snow so we could go visualize from the next hill over.


Can you see the circle in the snow on the hill above my head?

Now, we collect tires and patiently enjoy what old man winter brings us. In the spring, Grant will dig that area out with the backhoe and the work will begin. Meanwhile, I’ll be planning our first hugelkultur garden beds and layer one of our dream food forest: nut and fruit trees along with berries and other low lying perennials. Many cozy days of reading and enlightening ahead!



Wishing you all the best in 2018! Dream big!


Four Months Later…

We have been busy as bees here at Green Journey Farm. We have gotten into a routine with all the animals so that makes for smoother mornings and a better workday for me in the tiny house. The new dogs, Drako, Arrow, and Orca still think the rabbits are here for their entertainment. Every time they are left outside alone you can hear the sound of tin under our house getting scratched and other sounds that indicate a struggle. We are back down to two rabbits because Drako caught one so losing another would mean we have to purchase a couple more breeding does. I don’t understand how the friendliest rabbit, Carrot, who is out sunbathing in front of the dogs regularly doesn’t get eaten or chased, but poor Nibbles is always under attack. We are working on it. The dogs are meant to chase rabbits, it is their livelihood so I have a hard time telling them not to hunt! The rabbits were meant to reproduce enough to feed all four dogs regularly, along with some chickens, so we kind of need these first few to survive long enough to reproduce!  They are puppies so I’m sure it will continue to get better with time. They are learning so many things from Sahara, good and bad. The good, sit and stay, working on shake. The bad, bark at cars and people that come by. They have taken it a step further to actually go out in the road after a car when we aren’t outside! Sahara didn’t teach them that, but I’m terrified they are going to get hit by a car when they are out without me during the day. Needless to say, we are working on training to stay out of the road. We have our hands full, but I can’t complain about getting to snuggle these friendly, furry critters morning and night.

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So after some time doing daily chores Grant and I have come up with some improvements to the current living situation for the critters. Grant made new hay feeders for the goats and sheep. One, they were sharing a feeder and it was causing some anxiety and competition we noticed. The sheep never used to be that noisy or pushy, but since we got the goats the sheep have gotten jealous. Two, it was a small pallet feeder that held about 3 flakes of hay at a time. With six critters that went pretty fast. The pallet feeder, even with a trough or table-like lip on the bottom to catch hay they wasted a lot. They are able to pull out huge mouthfuls with the pallet feeder and then take a step back and drop half of it on the ground. They don’t eat it once it has hit the ground for the most part so we needed a new design. I couldn’t find a picture of the old pallet feeder, but the new model is in the pictures below. It is made of 1×4’s (or 2×4’s) and chicken wire. It could even have been made out of fallen tree limbs, but we had some lumber on hand so it was convenient.

The recently built second structure meant for the goats is currently being used by the sheep because it is open to the big pasture. The big pasture is only fenced with barbed wire on one side so the goats can crawl right under it. They have to stay in a fully fenced sheep wire pen when we aren’t out there. The new structure is about 8’x12′ with lean-to roofs hanging off three sides. On either side there is a new feeder, one in the goat pen and one in the sheep pen. They can’t see each other while they eat so it makes things less stressful for them. Under the third lean-to is where we keep the upcoming bales of hay, some alfalfa, grain, chicken scratch, and sunflower seeds. The rabbits have their own little safe haven next to the sheep pen. It makes it so convenient having the feed right there so we don’t have to haul things from the shed. We just have to take down containers for refills every once in a while. We can not wait for a barn to store everything in! With time, it will happen. Our wheels are turning!


The chicken coop needed restructuring as well. We moved around the roost bars to maximize space. If bars are crossing at all they will poop on the bar below so other birds won’t want to roost below. The solution is to space the bars in a way that they go up like stairs in parallel lines. It doesn’t have to be perfect, but as long as the bars are spaced and poop can’t get on their neighbors, in their nests, food, or watering dish then you are good to go! Ours still isn’t perfect. There used to be a floor where you see the 1×4’s in the picture. We made more space and less cleaning by taking that middle floor out. While there is still opportunity for them to poop on each other it hasn’t been an issue. We want to adjust the feeding area, but this coop is temporary so we also don’t care to put too much time into it as long as the chickens are happy.  In the past we made boxed in nests (12″x12″ or so). This time I tested out a flat open nest box with a lip. That does NOT work… They will roost on it and poop all over in it. So, that experiment failed. My proof is in the picture above where one of our rooster perches in the old nest box. Grant grabbed a 5 gallon bucket and screwed it to the wall, added hay and a small piece of board to hold in the hay/ nest materials and viola!  We have a floating nest box! There are so many options for how to make nest boxes. I’ve seen ideas for old dressers converted into nesting boxes, milk crates, plywood, whatever you have on hand. I could see even cardboard boxes tipped on their side if you are in a crunch. Chickens aren’t too picky. As long as they can get outside all day to explore, all your coop really needs is a safe, dry, high up roost bar for them to rest on and a nest box for them to lay in, aside from water and food of course!

We improved our own living situation a little more recently as well. We added a bookshelf and a wall to the bedroom loft and stairs in the tiny house. This provides a little more privacy and helps divide the space. It also gave us a spot for more books so that is always good news! I just finished staining everything yesterday. We are going to add one or two shelves to the outside (facing the stove) for added storage. So far it has been great because the dogs aren’t afraid to sleep there now. Whereas, before there was a wall they were afraid to sleep too close to the edge.

Besides the basic improvements, we purchased an old backhoe to aid in all our upcoming digging projects. First, for developing a spring so we have a more steady supply of fresh water on the property. After that it is earthship digging time! Once we finish the earthship we will begin building the barn. We discussed and have a feeling that we may end up alternating projects between building the earthship and barn in case we need a break from one thing we can work on something else. We will see. I think come spring the garden and milking will be taking up the rest of our time. Having this backhoe will make these projects go so much easier! We are so grateful for the modern machine, even though our end goal does not included gas powered vehicles of any type.

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Somehow in between working on all of the above projects, Grant also had time to collect another cord of firewood, pick up another truckload of tires, and set up and test the aquaponics tiny house system! No leaks! Phew! We just need the fish and we can start some seeds. We will grow sprouts to share with the chickens and have fresh greens all winter long. We haven’t decided what else we will test yet. Any ideas for what to grow this winter? Please share!

All Charged Up!

Foggy day in a Tree

When the season turned, the clouds rolled in, and the hours of daylight dwindled. We were finding our 2 KW solar system was NOT enough for a fridge, washing machine, and hot water heater, especially on a day with NO sunlight shining through the clouds. There was enough for basic charging of computers, our router, and lights, but not for those large appliances 24/7. I have been programmed already to take hot showers on sunny days. Or, get a raging fire going in the woodstove to warm up after a cold shower! The laundry had to wait or we had to choose one thing per day, but not anymore! As usual, Grant figured it out. He got us a couple more batteries. The four batteries we had weren’t keeping up with the energy generated from the panels. He also hooked up the wind turbine. Between those two improvements we have seen a tremendous difference! We call that a win! Also, against our sustainable mission, but solely as a backup plan, we purchased a 3500 watt gas powered generator for emergency situations. We do not plan to use this unless the situation is dire. The generator may come in handy when we are building the earthship since there is no power on the other side of our property. We do not anticipate using many power tools on the build. For the most part it will be a hammer, a shovel, and a trowel. But, I’m sure we will need it from time to time. One thing we need to figure out is if we need a cement mixer and how much power that would use. I’m hoping we can make an adobe mix that we can mix by hand (or feet). We recently started searching for recycled tires (the main building material for an earthship) and reading the earthship building books to begin preparations. The books we purchased are written by Michael Reynolds and provide detailed instructions and imagery on how to build your own earthship from start to finish! The second volume discusses the systems integrated in the earthship and how the components of a self-sufficient home will come together. We found a tire business in Spokane interested in delivering a trailer load full of tires to us for free! They are begging to get rid of them! FREE WALLS! All we have to do is pack them full with dirt. We have been hoarding bottles for wall spacing materials between the concrete to allow light to shine through similar to stained glass and uses a fraction of the cement since the bottles fill empty space, but still hold the structural integrity. We have a large pile of glass pieces to use for windows on the south side of the earthship, which will make up the greenhouse. We found those free on Craigslist in Spokane a few months ago. Hopefully that will be enough windows for the job! I will probably keep on the look out anyway, because it never hurts to have extra glass for spare projects! Grant built a tiny rough model of the earthship. Pictures are below. The milk jug represents the glass dome facing the southern sky. The area between the glass and the building will be greenhouse and aquaponics grow space. The home will be two stories. On the first floor will be the bathroom, kitchen, and office/ living area. The second floor “loft” will be the bedroom and relaxation area. The loft will have its own view of the valley to the south and the stairs to the loft will be in the greenhouse so they can double for picking fruit off of tall established trees. We have a vision, can you tell?? I just want an avocado tree!

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Things are looking up here on at Green Journey Farm. A lot of fun new projects are starting! Grant is continuing work on the yurt so we have somewhere to store supplies while building the earthship.

We are all settled in for winter. The goats and sheep are getting into a routine and enjoy each other’s company. Sometimes our bully new adult Nubian doe, Cinnamon, bites wool out of our sheep, which we are not happy about. She gets jealous if we are feeding the sheep and not her. Muffin the 7 month old Nubian goat doe gives hugs and kisses. She is so sweet.  Sputnik, our Nigerian Dwarf buck, has got to be my favorite, most adorable character on the farm yet. The way he twitches and randomly leaps or skips is just hilarious. Everyday is another gift. We are recharged and excited about our sustainable journey.

Home Sweet Home

Leaving the farm was an interesting adventure. Life is so different here than in a lot of places. It is slower, calmer, and more peaceful. I find my clarity by the water’s edge, feeling the wind against my face or soaking up the sun’s golden rays. I noticed after being in the city for over a week I was overstimulated. I needed uninterrupted time without attention or noise to be with my thoughts. I hadn’t realized that the constant vibrations of city life would be so noticeable to me after only three months of being away. It was nice to get my fill of social time and head back to the hills! Being away afforded me many happy new memories with friends, co-workers, and family along with some sad times as well. My cousin lost her husband last week and my heart is with her and the kids. Also, my grandpa found out he has Myelosplastic Syndrome, which I can’t tell you much about except it is a rare bone marrow illness where the blood cells don’t do their job essentially. This has been a sad time for our family. I took the train to Wisconsin to work for a week in the office and see a Nahko and Medicine for the People show with a couple of friends. I got to spend a week with all my hilarious, fun, and hard working co-workers. I can’t tell you how many times I laughed until I crying. I admit, I snorted once laughing so hard. The concert was a night I’ll never forget and learned a lot from. Their music is my favorite medicine and has helped inspire me to follow my own path. They are partially responsible for us starting Green Journey Farm!

Grant was here at home taking care of business while I was off in Wisconsin. Drako the Dragon is healthy and happier than ever! So, last I shared we thought his illness was related to the decaying meat he ingested, however we found out the next day it was actually Parvovirus. He had it when we got him from the prior owner. The first test they did came back negative, but they just kept seeing all the symptoms of Parvo so they did a blood test. Sure enough, so they ended up going in and cleaning out his intestine. The next day he started eating and improved quickly from there. We are so happy he is home and so is he! The pack enjoys multiple walks a day all across the property. Grant was able to establish a trail that loops around the 10 acre sheep pasture. Besides that, I found so many nice surprises! Little things like the paper towel rack being installed that we had been talking about for months! He got the reverse osmosis faucet installed so we have delicious fresh filtered water on tap! There is new shelving in the shed to use all the vertical wall space and get things off the floor. The chicken coop was revamped to provide more weather proofing. We got 8 more chickens from the neighbor. They are an assortment, but I think there is a white Silkie rooster, a couple Rhode Island Reds, a Black Australorp, and a few others I’m not exactly sure yet what they are. They are staying in a separate coop for now until they get better acquainted with the existing flock. The biggest and most exciting addition since I left is the new windmill Grant installed! He said it isn’t completed just yet, there is some wiring to do. The instructions didn’t come in English so he has to do some deciphering… The list just goes on and on! He is amazing at getting things done! It has been all the little things that we just couldn’t get around to before. Every once in a while you have to stop and tie up loose ends. This place has come a long way from where we began. It is a lot easier to notice after taking some time away from it all. Now, Grant is off on his own adventure to Montana to meet his brand new beautiful baby niece, sister, and parents for a visit! As sure as the seasons change, there are blessings and hardships. We must embrace all the seasons and all of life’s lessons.

Reflections on Day 83

Today is an interesting day on the homestead. It is a day of mixed emotions. It has been awhile since I’ve gotten my thoughts out or discussed what has been happening here on the homestead. Recently, we acquired three dogs; two female pit bull/ lab mix puppies we named Cloud and Arrow along with a male springer spaniel/ lab mix Grant named Drako the Dragon.

They are all wonderful pups. Drako was supposed to be Grant’s hunting partner and was already flushing birds out of the draw on walks at just the right distance for Grant to shoot. Even though we have only known Drako for a couple of weeks he has very much become a part of the family. He filled the role of Grant’s side kick better than any other dog I’ve met. Unfortunately, last weekend on our Sunday Fun Day hike he found some scraps the coyotes and crows had scattered of a dead cow on the other side of our property (the area has open range land so cattle are everywhere up here). Long story short, he is very sick and still at the vet hospital. We are hoping he will improve, but there is still a lot of doubt that he won’t make it. We have spent $2,000 already and the surgery to see if there is an obstruction is another $2,000 which we just can not fathom spending. Tomorrow, we are bringing him home, regardless if he is still not well. A very prominent part of life is death and we believe in a natural way of life. It has been a very hard, emotional situation since we don’t know if he will improve or pass on. We are spreading all our positive energy today in hopes that we will bring Drako home to live out a happy life on the farm.

The journey so far has been difficult. We expected that it would be and we also know (but forget) that it is all temporary. We have been living here nearly three months.  We arrived with the tiny house and our heads caulk full of inspiring ideas. The energy and spirit originally so high was briefly replaced with stress and exhaustion. Fall is here. The weeks of frantically preparing for winter’s chilling arrival have been wearing on us. We now wake up to frozen over ice buckets and frosty grass. It has been physically challenging in such a great way. Every activity includes meaningful exercise and that is wonderful. Some days of course we don’t feel like chopping fire wood, but if we don’t it will be a pretty cold morning in the house. Every day there is an endless list of tasks waiting to be done. And some days, it feels like there is no way we will ever get it all done. But, that is only because we are RUSHING ourselves! We are workaholics! We want everything done yesterday and nothing left for tomorrow.

Since Drako’s incident we put all of the projects on hold. It has officially been a week since he got sick. During the time off we allowed ourselves some mental clarity. Thankfully, through this horribly sad yet subtly hopeful event, we found a way through the emotion and exhaustion. We found a way to wake up this morning, discuss the obvious ongoing dilemma regarding Drako’s current state, contemplate our inability to control life, meditate with an hour of positive mantras, and move on to start a new FUN project! We are building a yurt on the other side of the canyon in the west corner. It is on a hill adjacent to where the earthship will be. For now it will work as a shed for earthship building materials and in the future it will be a glamping guest house and a special hideaway for tranquil MUCH NEEDED meditation time. I think we were subconsciously resolving our own internal conflict by channeling our love for building to provide a safe, comforting space for us to use for all the hardship that is inevitably to come throughout our lives. This yurt will have been built from hardship to mend our hardships. It is quite beautiful.


In the end of all of this, because this is life and we can’t control it I can say that I am happily fulfilled. I have come full circle. We have come so far in such a short amount of time. Thank you to family and friends who remind us of what we have accomplished. We push to the future still reminding ourselves everyday to stop and smell the roses, enjoy the view, and breathe the crisp fresh mountain air. Most days we compare where we are to where we dream to be. Today, we relax, reflect, and heal our sadness. Today, we ARE where we have dreamt we’d be. This is still the beginning of a life long journey. I’m happy I’m on it, even on the worst days.

Winter Prep on the Homestead

Fall is here and winter is coming fast! We are getting down in the 30’s at night so that means it is about time we got the wood stove installed, skirt the tiny home, collect fire wood, plan our water supply and grey water filtration, and prep our animal’s winter supply of food, bedding, and water. We have heard rumors of last winter getting down to -30 degrees! That said, we are doing everything we can to ensure a smooth, stress-free, and warm winter.

The Wood Stove & Fire Wood:

This past week we installed the wood stove since the temperatures have been dropping. I am so proud of Grant for his homemade wood stove project. His vision came to life and is working spectacularly! First, he researched the best designs for wood stoves with an oven and cooktop. He read Design Principles of the Wood Burning Cook Stove which provided him insight into the most efficient stove design.  Then, with free materials (two different size hot water heaters that were being replaced), some scrap 1/8″ thick plate steel, and a welder he got to work building his first wood burning stove. We have cooked multiple meals in it already and it has been cooking to perfection! In order to get the oven to 350-400 degrees the fire has to be raging pretty good which takes about three logs. Heating up the fire for cooking  makes the tiny house about 75-80 degrees so we have to open the windows and door to cool off a little. I am happy to know we will be plenty warm this winter though!

We started “Firewood Friday” to keep us on track to collect the four cords we need to be prepared for winter. We currently have two cords so we are half way there! What a workout hauling firewood is though! My goodness! I got my 10,000 steps in walking firewood from the woods to the truck and my biceps were feeling it! We only collect wood that has fallen or someone cut and left unused. There is PLENTY of recent deadfall to choose from without having to cut down live trees. We have found it easier to keep the logs in 8′ lengths and cut them down when we get home. It is less trips back and forth in the woods. Also, we put a piece of plywood down when we cut the logs to firewood length so that we can collect the saw dust for our composting toilet.


Skirting the Tiny House:

Unlike a conventional home, tiny homes are elevated off the ground a couple of feet and will need to be enclosed for winter to help insulate and keep cold drafts out! Thankfully, our plumbing lines are ran internally so we will not have to worry about freezing pipes. We only did this after they froze last winter. 🙂 Sometimes you learn the hard way! We purchased 3″ foam board insulation and tin sheets for skirting. We are halfway done with this project. All that is left is cutting the insulation into strips and then gluing them to the tin sheets that are already in place. This space can be a breeding ground for mice and other vermin so we are showing our cats the awesome new hang out spot so they hopefully find endless meals and entertainment and keep any potential vermin problems to a minimum.


We are still working on the spring… we got distracted and we haven’t made a lot of progress recently. Grant plans to keep working on it until the ground freezes, but we have been graciously allowed to use water from a nearby well so we will be hauling water for the winter and transferring to our indoor 55 gallon tank week by week. The water won’t freeze inside our tiny home so no worries there!

Grey Water:

We currently have a five gallon bucket which we collect our sink and shower grey water in. We use all organic, biodegradable products so we have been giving this water to our apple trees. They are loving it and really doing well compared to how they looked on week one! The water is filtered through the thick layer of mulch covering the base of our trees and into the soil and roots.

Obviously, during the colder months a bucket of standing water will freeze so we have been brainstorming options without adding antifreeze or other nasty stuff to the water like some RV’s use in their grey water collection tanks. Our plan is to create a grey water pond. First, it will go through a filtration system consisting of large to small rock gravel, into a reed bed, and then into a pond. This will all be started at ground level and be dug down to 8 ft. deep. It will have a glass angled roof at, or a few feet above, ground level so this enclosed earth structure will also be a greenhouse. Light will come in through the roof so it will be important for us to clear the roof of snow. We just began digging so I will write a full post on that once it is completed.


Livestock Needs:

The last key component to being prepared for winter is our animal’s feed, bedding, and water. We calculated our hay requirements for three sheep to be just over one ton which can range in price from $3-5/ bale. The weight of the bales varies but we want small rectangle bales that I can move so they are about 45-70 lbs. per bale. Hay should cost us $100-120/ ton. So for three sheep it will cost us a little over $150 for a winter supply of hay. It is on next week’s list to find the best deal and go pick up at least a ton of hay, if it will fit in one load with the truck and trailer! We are cutting all our own grass to pile up and store for the chicken coop. The chickens will appreciate a nice layer of grass straw to keep them warm throughout winter. It also helps keep the floor of the coop a bit cleaner. Lastly, without the ability to use an electric water bucket for the animals we are planning ahead for the best ways to keep water during the freezing months. I’ve found that if you use an old tire, stuff it with grass straw, and then put a black watering bowl inside the tire. This could be a new oil pan or any other bucket that fits inside the tire. The key is that it is black to help heat up in the sun. I have heard of using an old pop bottle with salt water in it or even ping pong balls to float in the water. Having something floating in the water will help deter freezing since there will be more movement. This will be an experiment and we will surely have to break out ice from the buckets most mornings, but hopefully this trick will help a little bit. If you have any tricks you know for keeping water from freezing in the winter please leave me a comment below! We know that being a few feet below ground level will help regulate temperature. We plan for our barn to be one story below ground so that we will not have to deal with freezing temperatures in the stalls of the barn.

Well, that covers our winter prep list. Fall is in full swing here on the homestead! We are dreaming of winter; me of warm tea and reading near the fire and Grant is dreaming of skiing down Vulcan Mountain. We love it here and are looking forward to the adventures winter has to bring.





Chick Chat: Backyard Buddies

Chickens, in my opinion, are one of the most fun and rewarding animals to interact with. They are creatures of habit so you can bet in the morning when you open the coop or shake some seeds about for a treat they will come running. They make me smile often so it is an easy source of happiness. Hens for the most part are friendly and if you raise them from chicks and hold them regularly they won’t be afraid of you when you want a little cuddle time. They may even enjoy being pet or sitting upon your shoulder. So, if you eat eggs (or chicken) in your home, consider this wonderful option.


How Much Space Do Chickens Need?

Chickens take up very little space especially considering a household of four people probably wouldn’t need more than six laying hens, if that! The rules regarding coop space vary depending if they will be free range or in a fenced in run. We choose to free range which means less feed because they are able to forage more for bugs and wild seeds, etc. However, it is impossible to regulate what they eat when free ranging so it is likely you will deal with chicken crop issues but it is manageable! They will try to eat EVERYTHING! The decision to free range or keep in a run is just based on personal preference. If you don’t want chicken poop all over your yard or in your garage (if left open), then you’ll probably want  a run.

Each bird should be given two square feet per bird if they free range all day, every day and only use the coop for laying and sleeping. If it is a completely enclosed coop and run provide at least four square feet per bird in the coop and about 10 square feet per bird in the outdoor run.  Because they don’t require much space and the cost for starting is relatively low they are the PERFECT backyard addition in my opinion.


Our first chicken coop, completely homemade from old lap board siding and various wood gathered from the property along with some old kitchen cabinets re-purposed into nest boxes. Equipped with a rain gutter for summer water collection.

A coop can be built DIY for dirt cheap with free wood off of Craigslist or your local newspaper. In big cities there are left over building materials constantly available for the taking. I can’t believe that stuff just gets thrown away! Go get free wood and start your coop today. There are tons of options pre-built (and expensive), but I think it is more fun to design and build it yourself. It forces you to learn what the birds like before you begin raising your backyard chickens. For example, they will want to roost at night in the HIGHEST possible point in the coop! You can get away with one nest box per every four to five hens. With our first batch of five laying hens four of them used the same box and we had four boxes for them to choose from!


What Breed is Right For You?

There are a ton of different breeds of chickens to choose as well. I’m not going to list them all, but we have had the following breeds: Salmon Faverolle, Americauna, Black Australorp, Buff Orpington, California White, White Leghorn and now… assorted Bantams (not old enough to judge them yet).



My favorite breed so far for temperament has to be the Buff Orpington and Black Australorp, but Buffy was my number one lady for sure. The two white layers: California White and White Leghorn were “production” breeds and they laid one to two eggs a day! They were machines! Beware if you get a really good layer breed you will have A LOT of eggs! If you are interested in birds for meat, there are breeds like Cornish Cross, Jersey Giant, and Freedom Rangers, along with many others. There are also dual-purpose birds like Orpingtons, Australorps, and more. Our preference is to have a variety of dual purpose birds. We don’t need too many excellent layers or too many “meat” birds. It is still hard for me to say chickens for meat as I have a hard time dealing with that process. However, I know that if I want to eat meat I need to know the reality of what that means. A friend turned me on to a book called “The Omnivore’s Dilemma” by Michael Pollan which follows the production process of four meals and the disgusting truth about the conditions and practices of large scale farming. If we all had our own backyard flock of chickens, there would be no need to purchase chicken or eggs from the grocery store. I recommend this book to anyone who has ever questioned the ethics of large scale commercial production farming.

How Much Time and Money is Involved? 

Very little, if you set it up right! A large average brand 50 lb. bag of chicken feed from your local feed store will run you around $15. How fast you go through a bag completely depends on the situation. How many birds, breed of birds, run vs. free range, supplemental feed/ compost access, etc. are all questions you will need to keep in mind when planning your expenses. I would guess we picked up a bag every couple of months for our 6 chickens. A feeder and water bucket can be picked up at a local farm store for $15 each. Throw in a bag of various seeds as a treat for your little birdies and you are at about $60 to get started with adult hens. A rough estimate for 6 birds would be $20 every two months. If you are thinking about starting from day old chicks, see my previous post here. I would recommend searching for DIY chicken food and water set ups. There are some very inexpensive options made of things you can find in your home already! For example, a 1 gallon milk jug can be turned into a waterer or feeder. PVC pipe is used often for both as well. We used a 35 gallon brine tank from an old water softener and 3″ PVC 90 degree elbows to make a large feeder that we wouldn’t have to refill often. It stayed clean since the birds only had access to the small 3″ PVC hole to get to the feed.

Side note: They scratch their food out all over the ground if given the opportunity and it will be wasted!



Homemade chicken water system with chicken nipples and a 1 gallon milk jug hung by twine. Feeder is hung to keep chickens from scratching the food all over the floor of the coop and wasting it!


We purchased what is called “chicken nipples” from the store, essentially just like a hamster or rabbit water bottle and screwed them into a PVC tube that connected to a separate 35 gallon brine tank filled with water from the gutter, in the summer. In the winter we had to use a heated water bucket. Stay tuned for this year’s winter watering system. We are still undecided. So, how much time should you expect to give to your adult laying hens? If you have an automatic feeder and waterer like I have stated where you know they will not dirty their water or food then the answer is 10 minutes tops. All they require is a greeting at the beginning and end of every day to open and close the coop and collect the bounty. Some even have automatic doors set on timers so all you have to do then is pick up eggs and clean the coop every once and awhile. In addition to collecting eggs and cleaning the coop, you can find them anytime you want by dispersing seeds and clucking like a chicken. 🙂 It is helpful to interactive with them to ensure they are healthy and the flock is getting along okay.

What Are The Benefits to Raising Your Own Chickens?

The obvious benefits include fresh eggs (and meat). The secondary benefits include a new interesting relationship you’ll come to know, love, and even crave! When we were without chickens for a few months after the majority of our flock was killed by predators we missed them everyday. We had gotten very used to our routine with them. It was a very sad experience and I still think of that flock (our first flock raised from day old chicks) and miss them dearly. The relationship comes from hanging outside with them, talking, and observing their behavior. It is some pretty great entertainment. They provide feathers, even the live birds, so collect them from the coop and you’ll be able to create beautiful meaningful art projects. The most important benefit is the chicken’s poop! Every time you clean out the coop collect it all into a wheel barrow and throw it in your compost heap. It will be great on the garden! They are also great end of season tillers. Once your fruits have fallen and you’ve collected your crop. Bring your chickens in to do the rest for you! They are a huge benefit to any home, not only farms. I highly recommend everyone raise their own backyard chickens. You will not be let down!

A Lesson in Patience

“Life has a way of testing a person’s will, either by having nothing happen at all or by having everything happen at once.” – Unknown

Where do I begin… Grant has been gone so I am tending to the farm by myself while working a full-time job. It has proven challenging. Most of all I am learning that my wildest dreams and visions can’t come to fruition in a week, month, or even a year. There is just too much to do and why rush through it all? Well, things hit a head when Grant left and the sheep decided to go on a two day adventure around the neighborhood. Thankfully they were found in the neighbor’s driveway and returned to their pen eventually, but only after two nights out on their own. All of my energy went into looking for the sheep. I was spread too thin and very emotional about the loss of the sheep. I thought surely one night out of their pen would prove fatal. Thankfully I was wrong! While those couple of days were very difficult for me I learned some extremely valuable lessons and was able to build community in the process.

The first lesson I have learned since being here on the farm is patience. I have always struggled with patience, but now it affects more than just me when I rush. It affects the animals well-being also. One of my neighbors let me in on a little secret: add one thing at a time and perfect that one thing. Do not try to bring three different projects to life simultaneously. You will be spread too thin and none of the jobs will be done to your satisfaction. I have to admit I rushed into bringing sheep home because it was a special deal for a starter flock of this wonderful breed of dairy sheep that I didn’t think we would find again until next year. We don’t have the full 40 acres fenced in yet so the sheep are stuck in a modest 330 sq. ft. pen until we finish fencing, which is still larger than their pen at their prior home, but I think they need much more room to roam. In the meantime, I had to purchase hay to supplement their diet since their grazing is limited. I’ve also added a mineral block to their diet to help ensure they are getting all the nutrients they need. They are now happy and comfortable. Not quite as happy as being free range, but it will work temporarily until the larger fence is completed!

Note: If your sheep are going to free range, you better have a shepherd with them!

There is no way to be prepared if you rush, especially with an animal that is new to you. I am completely new to sheep. There is a lot to know and I can’t learn it all overnight. What I have learned to do is spend time watching their behavior. I know their natural behavior is either to be eating or chewing their cud. They should be grazing most of the day so if they aren’t there is likely an issue. Also, if a sheep is off on it’s own that is a sign that something is up. They are herd animals and usually stick together in case of predators. It can be very costly to learn as you go. It is much more effective to learn about anything whether it be a build project or a new critter BEFORE starting or bringing an animal home.

Lastly, I learned how much I lean on Grant to get me going on certain things. That is a wonderful dynamic of ours. I can get him to STOP working and he can get me to START! I am completely capable of doing projects on my own. I know how to use power tools, build, etc. however, somehow when he is away I freeze up instead of taking the initial step. At least I recognize it, right? Well, the sheep ran off and silly me left the key in the ATV turned over so the battery died the night before. Once the sheep were gone I couldn’t chase them down easily. I drove around on the roads, but that didn’t provide a good enough view. They are so hard to spot in tall grass. I needed to jump the ATV. It took me a day to just DO IT! Dismantle the rack Grant made, take the seat off, and clip on the jumper cables. IT WAS THAT EASY! For some reason I was too frantic to think clearly. Grant has the ability to think quickly in pressuring situations. I’m so grateful to have him, however I am very thankful for this opportunity to learn what I alone am capable of. Many people said being alone up here for two weeks was crazy. I definitely had a couple of days of crazy, but things are looking up. Through all of the chaos of the past week I was able to meet quite a few people in my community and every single one of them has been so helpful and kind, offering to help me in any way they could. I am so excited to live in a place where people don’t rush or ignore one another, they wave, smile, and love to chat! I absolutely do not wish the sheep had run away, but I am very grateful for the awakening. I have been humbled, yet I also gained confidence as an individual. I knew before we moved up here this wasn’t going to be easy and that has tested us for sure. Even so, it has been empowering and rewarding to have to put in some effort to just live life every day. With patience and a little blood, sweat, and tears (a lot of tears) I can do anything. We all can. Things will always work out in the end…

Things Work Out

Poet: Edgar A. Guest

Because it rains when we wish it wouldn’t,
Because men do what they often shouldn’t,
Because crops fail, and plans go wrong-
Some of us grumble all day long.
But somehow, in spite of the care and doubt,
It seems at last that things work out.

Because we lose where we hoped to gain,
Because we suffer a little pain,
Because we must work when we’d like to play-
Some of us whimper along life’s way.
But somehow, as day always follows the night,
Most of our troubles work out all right.

Because we cannot forever smile,
Because we must trudge in the dust awhile,
Because we think that the way is long-
Some of us whimper that life’s all wrong.
But somehow we live and our sky grows bright,
And everything seems to work out all right.

So bend to your trouble and meet your care,
For the clouds must break, and the sky grow fair.
Let the rain come down, as it must and will,
But keep on working and hoping still.
For in spite of the grumblers who stand about,
Somehow, it seems, all things work out.