Our summer was spent prepping for winter. Those squirrel instincts come out in me automatically, but when I found myself on the ground, on hands and knees picking up tiny pine nuts, I was transported to being a Native American woman acting the part of a gatherer. I could have been in any long past century wearing moccasins instead of my current pair of hiking boots. But, let me start at the beginning . . .
After our wonderful stay in Columbus, New Mexico, we headed north of Truth or Consequences to the Continental Divide to look for property. A few acres was all we needed to find relief from the summer heat of the deserts we frequent during the winter. Being at 7,000 feet plus, is about right.
We visited several communities to consider. Land was running $1,000 to $2,000 an acre. The higher cost was attributed to having a location closer to the bigger cities. I scoured the internet for property and found a Realtor willing to travel between several small towns. We were dismayed to find almost everything available to be in subdivisions with fees and lists of rules. Not what we anticipated with our visions of wilderness, few neighbors, and a good amount of freedom to do what we wanted. The last property we visited turned out to be just the right one with only a couple of restrictions as far as dividing the property, but it had no association fees, rules, or regulations – it was also 88 acres! I made an offer of $568 an acre and within three weeks we were property owners.
As both of us grew up in highly populated cities we were “green horns” when it came to being owners of raw land. Though our original thought was to have a free place to park for the summer and without the worry of legal harassment, we soon started seeing our land as a real homestead responsibility.
Right from the start, a nearby small town of 60 residents wouldn’t sell us water. We didn’t have funds for a well, and one has to have water. Also, we wondered how we were going to move onto the property when it was thick with pine trees.
We had to make arrangements with a town 25 miles away to fetch water, which meant we also had to have a water tank and a flatbed to carry it on.
A turn around had to be scraped in the top corner of our property so that we could gain access.
Fortunately, there is plenty of wood for our woodstove, and that is a good thing. Mornings at nearly 8,000 feet are chilly even in the summer. Day temperatures never reached more than 85 and a couple only 89 degrees. Very pleasant.
While we waited to move onto our property, I started canning apple chutney and pickles outdoors on our card sized table. Where there is a will, I will find a way, and I never stopped canning all summer long. I ordered organic vegetables online and joined in on local orders for cases of fruit. I purchased a pressure canner so that I could also store up on soups, beans and vegetables for the coming winter. It’s now approaching the end of October and we’re still canning. Now that it’s cooling down, we are able to can indoors which is much easier. My dream is to have an outdoor kitchen.
I went to Kathy’s, a new friend’s house, to share a day of canning and learn a few of her tricks and tips. She said, “Let’s go pick pinion nuts while we’re waiting for the jars to cool.” She gave me a red plastic cup and she had a small wicker basket. She out-picked me at least 4 to 1. She gave me a cushion to lean down on as there is a lot of pitch that drips from the trees so you wouldn’t want to sit right on the ground. The small nuts are inside a shell that has to be cracked open. Before we went nut hunting she let me taste the prepared pinion nuts she had cleaned and then boiled in salt water before roasting. They were sweet and delicious. Local Native Americans come gather the pine nuts to sell roadside and have no qualms about going onto private property to retrieve them. The trees have a bumper crop about every seven years and some of her trees were heavily laden. When I came home I also found a couple of trees shedding their bounty and I picked up some more nuts.
It didn’t take long to realize we were going to need a tractor. It was a big expense, and unfortunately there were no used ones available, but we are of the ages where brute force wasn’t any longer an option – especially when there is 88 acres to attend to. Almost immediately my back started aching from creating our campsite, stacking wood, raking our new road, etc. Though I have to tell you, by the end of summer both Tal and I felt very toned and fit!
Tal kept busy with wood cutting, making water runs, and using the tractor to make an actual road so that we could access the other end of our property a half mile away. We had only paid for a turn-around so that we could have a place to park and turn our rig around.
One of my first projects was to put in a story circle in the middle of a group of five trees. It was for whatever we wanted it for, quiet time, meditation, storytelling, etc. When we were cutting wood I had Tal cut five lengths to make stools. He made a video of me rolling them down the hill to the circle. At a local early Christmas bizarre I came home with a glass cutting board with a picture of wolves on it. I used it as the signage for the circle and it became “The Howling Circle” though no one has howled in it yet. That will come. Another friend, Terri, came and helped me make a large jute woven artwork between two of the trees and we decorated the twisted ropes with bones and feathers, to further close in the circle. It was a fun craft day and the art enhanced the boundaries of the circle.
Once Tal finished the road we moved down to a large clearing dotted with juniper and pine trees. We have a great view of foothills and a few mountain tops. The vast sky is just that! This could also be called “Big Sky Country!”
This is free range country and our property is not fenced. We are able to enjoy occasional visits by meandering cattle. A couple of bulls came right to the trailer to check it out and one of them found the edge of our snack table a good scratcher for his chin. We have also seen coyotes, elk, and antelope. That is not counting the large number of ravens that you can hear swooshing through the wind with the flap of their wings.
The weather at 8,000 feet drops to minus zero temperatures during the winter so we will have to leave soon for the warmer desert areas.
After much thought and conversation I think we are ready to try a homesteading lifestyle. We’ll come back as early in the spring as possible, and start working on a winter cabin. Stay tuned as the adventures are sure to continue!