Author Archives: The Perennial Wolf

About The Perennial Wolf

I am a wife, a mother, animal lover and a lover of nature. I am on a journey to live more sustainably, and to become more self-reliant through education, hard work, and permaculture. Please follow my journey!

An Oasis On the High Plains

This morning DH and I went to Parker Farm Nursery. This family owned and run nursery is a treasure out here. It is a true oasis in a sea of brown. They are only open from April until July and these folks live and work on their farm. I was first introduced to this wonderful place two years ago by a fellow plant lover.

I mentioned Parker’s Farm Nursery in a previous post and as I promised I have pictures. We had gone to purchase some additional plants for our back garden. Unfortunately it was cloudy today, so some of the pics are dark, but hopefully you will get the general idea of why this place is so special.

So here is what it looks outside of the Nursery:

And here is what it looks like inside, so much is possible with hard work and love of the Earth…Enjoy! Then come join me over at the “Barn Hop!”

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The Stages of Parenting

So in 33 days, Aubrey, my youngest of four children, will graduate from high school. The realization that I am on the cusp of another major life change, has got me thinking a lot about the stages of parenting we move through. I have been parenting for 26 years! How is that possible? (Rhetorical question LOL)

These 26 years have been equally hard, and wonderful. We have been through many hard trials; two divorces, a new marriage, my DH being deployed in the Navy and gone much of the time for the first seven years of our marriage,  the death of my older children’s father, a cross-country move while the older two were in college, and the younger two were in high school and middle school, and Aubrey having two major hip surgeries this past year. But through each trial, no matter how hard, we have kept our sense of humor, and we have remained a family, who loves one another unconditionally. There have also been wonderful successes too; my oldest daughter Amalie graduated from college, spent ten months in Europe, and after not being able to find a good job when she returned, applied to, was accepted to, and graduated from, Navy Officer’s Candidate School. She is currently an Ensign serving aboard the USS Carney. My middle daughter Annabelle graduated from high school, and finished her first year of college at NMSU with a 4.0 and enough credits to be a second semester sophomore. She is taking a break from college, to follow her dream of being a model, and was recently signed with a modeling agency in NYC. My son Derek has been a late bloomer but remains one of the hardest working people I know. He is also one of the most thoughtful and caring people I know. And the baby chile, Aubrey is contemplating fashion design as a career, and will take some college courses during her “break”. She has had a very difficult year due to the hip surgeries, but throughout all of that, she maintained a 4.0 or higher all year. She remains a hardworking and focussed individual.

My four are my most amazing accomplishments, they are all strong, independent and loving beings.  Even though we are a blended family, my four think of each other as siblings, not “half” anything. They love each other unconditionally, it is so amazing to see them together!

But now, since my youngest will be graduating from high school and moving back East to live with her Dad and Step-Mom, My DH and I will finally be in the kid-free zone,  “Empty-Nesters”! What exactly does that mean? Granted there will be no children living here, so no physical presence, but do children really ever leave you? I know mine are in my thoughts constantly whether they a “here” or not. So I am not sure that term applies to anything more than physical presence. And what are the “benes” of being an “Empty-nester”? My DH pointed out the other evening, that for him, it means he can run around the house dressed, or undressed, however he pleases (BG) . I hardly think that is the sum total of the benefits. I did think of another benefit, as my youngest is the pickiest eater of the bunch, DH and I can now finally eat the foods we like and not worry about whether she will eat what I fix. in addition, since my husband is a great forager, I will no longer be expected to cook every night. I will not miss the pathetic looking child asking, “Are you cooking tonight?” after I have been working hard all day outside. But this is not REALLY a benefit, since most nights I LOVE to cook.

For me, honestly, this whole empty nest thing will take some getting used to, because I will miss not having any of my children here. It will be a huge adjustment for me. Don’t get me wrong, there were days during these 26 years when I thought, “Why did I have children?” “What was I thinking?” And I would dream about this day! But then I look at them and who they have become and I realize it was worth all the blood, sweat and tears to raise these kids. Recently, A dear friend of mine sent me a note. She had seen Annabelle at the restaurant where she works, and said, ” What a polite and beautiful young woman!! I could still see that sweet little girl I once met so long ago. You are a wonderful woman Margy and I can see the beauty you passed onto your kids ♥ children truly are our legacy…” Such an amazing and wonderful compliment and validation for all the hard work. As for having children and being a parent for 26 years, nope I would not change that for all the money in the world!

My Kids - Aubrey, Amalie, Derek and Annabelle

So, I look forward to this new stage in my life, with a wee bit of fear, but I will watch my children’s journeys, knowing that I could not have loved them any better.

Thinking about words…Organic, Natural, Recycle, Sustainability

I woke this morning thinking about words, words that have become very important to me in the last few years. And with Earth Day fast approaching (April 22nd go here if you would like to get involved) words like Organic, Natural, Recycle, Sustainability have been rolling around in my head. All these words have a positive connotation IMHO. To me they mean doing what is right for me, my family, my neighborhood and the planet. I have started a quest recently to teach myself the “old ways” of doing things: preparing food, gardening, hand crafts, etc. And I believe that in my quest to learn, I will bring myself and my family closer to these words. My hope is that they will start to think about these words and they will begin to incorporate them into their lives. Many of the old ways of doing things meant you did them naturally, human powered versus electric and gas powered; no pesticides, only natural fertilizers; reusing and repairing things instead of throwing away and buying new; growing as much food for your family as you are able; relying on ourselves for our own well being.

As I drank my coffee that was prepared in a stove top percolator, I wondered how am I doing on my quest. I have taken steps to make changes, but am I doing enough? And what else can I do? Am I living up to these words that mean so much to me? So my DH and I sat down this morning and we made a list of things we have done, changes we have made and what things we hope to improve upon. Here is my list:

  • Compost – House…we use an electric Naturmill Automatic Composter (I know electric!!! But because we have such strong wind and little to no rain we can not compost out doors effectively, we have tried) which uses about 5 kWh / month – as much as a typical night-light.  The cost varies due to electric rates in ones area, but it is well worth it to us to be able to produce wonderful compost for our gardens, and not throw organic material into the landfills.
  • Compost – Manure…we have five horses and two donkeys, so we have manure! This we compost, we allow the pile to grow from later Summer until Spring when we then spread it on our pastures, and use some for our garden boxes, fruit trees, etc.
  • Insulation – Our home is well insulated, R30 in the attic, and R19 in the walls.
  • Low Flow Toilets – we recently replaced our toilets with Dual Flush Low Flow toilets. As we are on well water, there is no easy or reliable way to determine what our water savings will be, however living in a drought plagued area of the country, we felt this was a good choice.
  • Low Flow Shower heads – we added these and again no way to measure water savings, just the right thing to do.
  • Compact Fluorescent Light Bulbs – yup they are controversial, and yup we switched our entire house and barn over to them. We have not done actual dollar cost analysis per se, but I know our electric bill was lower the month after we replaced all the incandescent bulbs.
  • Our home is heated with, our hot water is heated with, and we cook with natural gas. We also have a high-efficiency wood stove as a secondary heat source.
  • My DH travels for his job, so we purchased a gas efficient car for his commute to and from the airport in Albuquerque.
  • I have cut down my trips to Albuquerque, to two a month, and I make two to three trips to the local feed store, grocery store and farmers market a month. I combine trips when ever possible.
  • We purchase our hay monthly and take delivery of it all at one time. This saves us delivery charges, and the feed store folks are saving fuel too.
  • We save and recycle our newspaper in our wood stove in the winter.
  • I use re-usable grocery bags when I shop.
  • I purchase local produce when available from the farmer market.
  • I buy organic meats, vegetables and fruit when at all possible.
  • We grow as much of our own fruits and veggies as we are able, currently we have blueberry bushes, raspberry canes, gooseberry bushes, apple and peach trees. We grow greens, tomatoes, potatoes, broccoli, Brussel sprouts, onions, garlic, snow peas, green beans and kidney beans.
  • I use only organic pesticides and fertilizers such as Diatomaceous Earth,Organic Garden Pesticides, and Complete Organic Fertilizer.
  • This year I will be canning, freezing or drying our harvest as well as buying bulk items from the local farmers market to preserve.
  • I am making most of our meals from scratch, I do sometimes buy prepared items such as pizza, pasta, and jar sauce, but I look forward to cutting even more prepared items out of our diet in the near future.
  • We recycle all of our clothing and household goods to the local mission store.
  • We own a high-efficiency washer and dryer. And during the summer months I line dry most of our clothing.
  • I use only natural cleaners, either ones I make at home: from white vinegar, baking soda, and lemon juice; or ones that I buy such as the Bio-Kleen line of cleaning products.

So there is my list. It is not very long, and I can see room for improvement. We have not really tackled sustainability yet. We are looking at a long distance move in the coming months, so keeping food livestock at this time is problematic. But we are already looking at what we will add to our new homestead, so far Chickens, Goats and Dexter cattle have made the list. We will be adding a much larger garden, and fruit trees. Our new home will have additional insulation. We hope to rely more on wood heat and are looking at external boilers. We will also be looking at more off-grid options.

Even though I know there is room for improvement, I at least feel as though we are making an effort to live up to these words. Do you have a list? How does your stack up against mine?

Butter Making Day!

Today is Butter Making day. Hubby and I are taking turns with the churn…that is TRUE Love I tell ya! But first, let me back up and take you through the entire process of how I make homemade butter.

First, here is a wonderful web site http://www.webexhibits.org/butter/index.html where you can read all about the history of butter making, learn how to make your own, and you can also find recipes for making butter, baking with butter and cooking with butter. There is also a recipe for making ghee (clarified butter).

I will give you my step by step pictorial version also. Butter can be made as Sweet Cream or Salted. Sweet Cream butter is made from unsalted, uncultured raw cream. I have focussed more on making cultured butter, as I am trying to introduce more healthy bacteria into our diets.

For the first Step, I buy Cream Top Whole Milk. To this I add Body Ecology’s Culture Starter. If you decide you wish to try adding good bacteria back into your diet, I highly suggest Cultures for Health in addition to Body Ecology as they have a full range of culturing mediums. Give them a try!

Cream Top Milk and Culture Medium

Next step is to separate the milk from the cream. Up until a few days ago, this was a difficult task, as the bottled milk had the cream at the top, but when I poured it our the cream stayed in the bottle. I tried different methods such as, shaking up the milk really well, and using a strainer to catch the cream as I poured it out. I tried using cheese cloth, which was very messy, and I tried shaking it well and pouring it into a different container, then scooping the cream off the top.

None of these were ideal. And then I found this awesome blog:  http://www.foodrenegade.com/ and on her blog she had this amazingly easy way to separate cream from milk.

Summer Beverage Dispenser aka Cream Separator!

I purchased mine from Wal*Mart, it is made from BPA Free plastic. Eventually I would like to find a glass one, but for now this will make butter making so much easier!

The next step is culturing your cream, pour cream into a saucepan, and heat milk to 98° F. Once milk is warm, add the packet of cultures into the cream and mix well. Then pour the cream into a glass container with a tight-fitting lid, or cover tightly with plastic wrap. Place in refrigerator for two to three days.

Culturing Cream

After the two to three-day  waiting period, you are ready to pull out the equipment and get busy! There are many ways to make butter, the old-fashioned wooden floor churn, a mason jar and a marble, a high-powered mixer with whips, a food processor, a blender, or a hand crank churn. We decided today we would use the hand crank churn. I have used my mixer, and while it got the job done, it was very messy. I will not always use this method, as it is a workout, but in my quest to learn the “old ways” of doing things I wanted the experience. It takes anywhere between 20 – 30 minutes to make butter with the hand crank. It is a chore that can easily be shared with children using this method. After doing some research I settled on this churn as it got really good reviews:

Paderno World Cuisine Fresh Butter Maker

I highly suggest refrigerating the paddle/crank assembly prior to churning, it helps keep the cream cold as you churn. The instructions were completely in French, so I only translated the bare minimum, and the rest was trial and error. Here is what the cream looked like after 10 minutes of churning:

Cream after 10 minutes of cranking

The cream/butter mixture will solidify even more and you will be left with almost no liquid. When you get to that point, you can stop churning and remove the top, and scoop out the butter.

Butter Squishing

Place the ball of butter in a cold water bath for a few minutes, then squish it around with your fingers, removing all the milk. Once the water turns cloudy, you can then place your butter into jars and perhaps a Butter Bell. As an added side benefit, you will not believe how soft your hands will be! If you like, once all milk has been expressed out of the butter, you can add salt, herbs, etc. to flavor your butter. Get creative! You can keep Cultured Butter two to three weeks in the refrigerator, if it lasts that long!

Two Horses

We have horses, more than two horses, five horses actually and two donkeys. We do not get to ride much as my Husband travels for work and is away most of the week. But we love our horses and would not choose life without them. Some we have had for several years, but one of them is very young. Her name is Chloe and she is pure joy to be around. She was a rescue, not wanted because she would never race due to an injury. She was due to be shot, so after frantic phone calls and a whirlwind rescue effort she came to live with us in October of 2010.

My Husband and I have made a commitment to try to save as many young horses that folks give up on as we are able. Sometimes it does not work out, our first rescue Koa Paka had to be put down due to a catastrophic hoof break after a year of trying to save her. It was heartbreaking, but if given the chance to do it over, I would make the same choice. She taught us much about being brave, and loving one despite their faults. She was a bright and shining being and I was honored to have her in my life for the short time she was here on Earth.

But our Chloe is a success story, she is strong and has developed well despite her injury. She continues to amaze us with her affection for people. Like most babies removed from their Mama’s too soon, she has been a handful. We nicknamed her “Crash” as she has had a series of accidents, running through fences, trying to leap over fences, and even a run-in with a porcupine! She has had stitches, a deep hoof abscess, and of course the quills of the porcupine removed. But through it all, she has learned to trust us, and she seeks our company when we are out with the horses. She is smart as a whip and her training progresses well. She is a joy to be around and work with.

She reinforces the reasons for doing what we do.    Chloe  

My Mother sent the “Two Horses” story to me last week. She knows that horses make my heart sing, and she tries to understand as best she can (she is NOT a horse person). This story speaks to me on many levels, I hope you enjoy it.

Two Horses

Author Unknown

Just up the road from my home is a field, with two horses in it. From a distance, each horse looks like any other horse. But if you stop your car, or are walking by, you will notice something quite amazing….

Looking into the eyes of one horse will reveal that he is blind. His owner has chosen not to have him put down, but has made a good home for him.

This alone is amazing. If you stand nearby and listen, you will hear the sound of a bell. Looking around for the source of the sound, you will see that it comes from the smaller horse in the field.

Attached to the horse’s halter is a small bell. It allows the blind friend know where the other horse is, so he can follow.

As you stand and watch these two friends, you’ll see that the horse with the bell is always checking on the blind horse, and that the blind horse will listen for the bell and then slowly walk to where the other horse is, trusting that he will not be led astray.

When the horse with the bell returns to the shelter of the barn each evening, it stops occasionally and looks back, making sure that the blind friend isn’t too far behind to hear the bell.

Like the owners of these two horses, God does not throw us away because we are not perfect or because we have problems or challenges.

He watches over us and even brings others into our lives
To help us when we are in need..

Sometimes, we are the blind horse being guided by the little ringing bell of those who God places in our lives.
Other times we are the guide horse, helping others to find their way….

Good friends are like that…You may not always see them, but you know they are always there…Please listen for my bell and I’ll listen for yours, and remember…

Be kinder than necessary-
Everyone you meet is fighting
Some kind of battle.

Live simply,
Love generously,
Care deeply,
Speak kindly…….

And leave the rest to God!

FOR WE WALK BY FAITH AND NOT BY SIGHT


“Grow Where You Are Planted”

“Grow Where You Are Planted”. These five little words have so much depth to them! This quote has been a favorite of mine for many years. I have moved a bit over the years, and this has a special meaning to me. Because every where I have moved, I have tried to make the best of things. I have tried to focus on the good, I have not always been successful, but I have tried. I also believe that this means that where ever we are, we should improve ourselves, our environment, our lives. For me that translates into planting many beautiful growing things, cleaning up, fixing up, and making things better. But I think the most important thing it means to me is, we are each of us, responsible for our own happiness. So it is up to us to live in the here and now, to find our bliss, be happy and grow! I know I need reminding of this regularly and now I have one:

When I was searching where this quote came from I found there is much confusion as to it’s roots. It has been listed as a proverb, listed as originating from a bible chapter, 1 Corinthians 7:17-24, from Psalm 1.3, attributed to kitsch artist Mary Engelbreit, and St. Francis de Sales. Of all the roots I found,  I think I prefer St. Francis de Sales quote the best:

“Truly charity has no limit; for the love of God has been poured into our hearts
by His Spirit dwelling in each one of us, calling us to a life of devotion and inviting us to bloom in the garden where He has planted and directing us to radiate the beauty and spread the fragrance of His Providence.”

And while I am talking about planting and growing, I finally got to make use of one of my Christmas presents from my dear friend Kathleen.

It is called a “Topsy Turvey Strawberry Planter”. “Grow baby, Grow!”:

Planting Day Has Arrived!

After having to postpone planting for a day, due to high winds yesterday, I awoke this morning hopeful that I could get my paws in the dirt today. But when I came out to the kitchen to check the temperature my face fell, it was barely 30 degrees out there! So I bundled up, went out to feed our horses and donkeys, fill stock tanks and clean the corral. I finished my outside chores and returned to the house to make coffee and my breakfast. With an eye on the thermometer, I began to read e-mail and FB. The hay delivery came and after jawin with the guys as they unloaded my hay, I realized, it was almost warm! Maybe I could plant today after all!

First up was planting the tree and bush we bought this weekend as they are the most labor intensive. Then it was on to planting tomatoes, peppers and figuring out my upside down strawberry planter! Had to make another run for more mulch and soil, wish our soil was rich enough to use, but it is not. We will amend it with compost , Coir and Terra-Sorb before planting our potatoes and strawberries.  Below are pics from today, of our garden boxes, my garden helper and garden area:

You cannot tell it by the expression on her face, but we had a lovely time together this afternoon and all in all it was a very productive day!