"Coming Home to Westcliffe"

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Coming Home to Westcliffe

Walking Gently

The month of March has been both telling and tiring to my soul. We started our month unexpectedly losing our little white dog, Tundra. She was a happy little mite, tail always up and wagging, unassuming and eager to please. We are guessing she was nearly 14 years old, but we’d have thought (and hoped) she’d live forever. Then came the crushing reality of the covid19 virus.

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Spring is supposed to bring the kiss of hope. The rains came, the fields blushed green & the birds began to nest, the kiss of spring seemed fleeting and distant. I simply cannot fully comprehend the magnitude of the pain and suffering. I cannot fully grasp the stark reality facing so many, nor the heroic efforts made daily by the “helpers” and essential workers across our globe. It was easy to fall into a blur of dismay, uncertainty, grief and anger. It became something to resist, as well, not only to survive but to redeem by trying to make some sense of it in our lives, and in mine. I saw our little town turn inward, shut down. I saw our rural community resist by, on one hand, reaching out to help those who lost jobs with food vouchers, caravans featuring local musicians in truck beds & trailers drove through neighborhoods singing Peter, Paul and Mary tunes, little libraries turned to little food pantries and volunteers stepped up and out to help others less fortunate. On the other hand, folks polarized through speculation, doubt and woe. I suppose both are natural reactions, as is waffling between the two extremes. Grief is like that and each of us process it in our way.

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It has been said that these past few months is like a Greek tragedy playing out in real time. Others, indigenous to this land and wise to suffering, offer prayer and dance, as a way of healing and a powerful symbol of solidarity for ALL people. We are also seeing first hand of our natural world healing in the midst of slowed human activity, the pause of the pollution inherent in much of our modern-day activity, as well as evidence of the cumulative, sometimes latent, protective measures taken prior to the pandemic. I resonate with all these interpretations, and learn what I can from them.  I am grateful for Foxhaven farm, and the closeness I feel to our land and the rhythm of life here. It affords me peace and a place to think, live and thrive.

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Living the rural lifestyle we do, not a lot has personally changed for us. I do feel the shifts in my heart, as well as concern, as we try to educate ourselves with fact, reason and compassion.  We help neighbors where we can, reach out to friends far and near, and help with the community little pantry. I try to choose the path of love and take guidance from a quote recently shared by a friend from Thich Nhat Hanh, a Buddhist monk, known for his spiritual teaching and mindfulness:

“When we walk like we are rushing, we print anxiety and sorrow on earth. We have to walk in a way that we print peace and serenity on the earth. Be aware of the contact between your feet and the earth. Walk as if you are the kissing the earth with your feet.”

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It is a time of reset and reflection. I think we survive a crisis by learning from it. The deepest part of ourselves is revealed. We develop strength we didn’t know we had and compassion that sustains not only others, but ourselves. I pray I walk gently – at least most of the time – leaving gentle footprints of grace, gratitude and hope.

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The blue sky is always present, even as the rain falls. Be gentle with yourself and others as we walk through this storm together.

Posted 137 weeks ago

Snow day fun! About 4 inches of new snow overnight and a bright clear (and windy) February morning at Foxhaven.


Posted 145 weeks ago

Two Weeks to ‘Spring Forward’

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Wow, Sunday, March 8th is daylight savings time. I will be happy to have longer evenings. One sure sign of spring for us is spring shots and dental floats for our horses. Equine dental care is important to do annually to prevent sharp points from harming the inside of the cheek and gums, to help the bit fit more comfortably and, amazingly, a healthy well balanced mouth, impacts the horse gait and gut health.

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Bill had all the horse in their stalls waiting for Dr. Jordan and Birgit. They were all calm throughout, even watching and interested in the ‘goings on’ in the neighboring stall. I was surprised they were all so calm; I know I am not when I go to the dentist. Of course, we had a supervisor, Rita, who purred throughout the procedures. Maybe that contributed to the calm. 

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Another rite of spring, is deep cleaning. I have started on our fridge, freezer and pantry. Take everything out, sort, toss and clean. How do crumbs get in the bottom of the chest freezer?! Why did I bother to freeze 1/3 cup of gravy? Oh my, the things we discover. I rediscovered a cool serving platter! My husband asked me to label the drawers and containers; “what!?” I thought. I have always done categories, but this step may just be the magic I need for things to stay organized! We shall see.

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I try to make spring cleaning fun by being mindful and grateful. I am grateful for the bounty we have in our pantry, and imagine my next homemade meal. I am grateful I discovered the platter that I am now displaying on my buffet. The platter was a gift from a dear friend now living in Europe. It blesses me with a little of her sunshine each time I see it now. Clearing and cleaning, I discovered, encompasses more than just things, but our sense of internal order. With that order, I find peace.

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I am hoping my business, NEST, will expand this spring and summer. We have a number of loyal and regular clients, and we take pride in helping them maintain their vacation homes and vacation rentals. Our valley and surrounding mountains create a quaint refuge, unique in our busy world. Homes nestled here truly are an oasis with the most amazing vistas and kind small town folks. 

Check out visitcustercounty.com to see all the activities coming up this spring and summer. Everything from star parties to PRCA rodeo to car shows to Shakesphere theatre and more! 

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Posted 145 weeks ago

A great start to everyday…meditation with friends!

Posted 146 weeks ago

A photo of our home, you can see Pikes Peak in the distance. We got 8 inches of snow over night. Snow kissed!

Posted 147 weeks ago

Freedom to Choose

This weekend we installed a doggy door. We’d hesitated since (1) I wasn’t sure I wanted to cut a hole in our back door and (2) since we have lots of wildlife, wanted to be cautious about letting them out. It was difficult to always know when they wanted outside and we did not always hear the bells on the door.

We can leave the dog door open when we want to, and closed when we do not, especially at night or when we are gone. They have a great area in our mudroom and hallway to hang out when we are not home. They are all velcro dogs and like to be where we are! Hey, they are companions, after all.

Freedom is key, too. They caught on immediately and love to zoom in & out at their leisure and according to their needs & whims. Easier, too, for us to let them out of their crates or off our bed, as the case may be, in the morning to zoom out and greet a new day. Carpe diem is the morning chant! 

I got to thinking about this freedom of choice and how essential it is to ALL of our well being. Domesticated animals or those no longer living in the wild are happiest and healthiest when they can practice (live) their natural behaviors. Temple Grandin’s work supports this theory and it is not isolated to farm animals and livestock. Our animal family, here at Foxhaven, are supported in this quest to thrive; however, balanced with the stewardship and protection that is our responsibility through the domestication of our animal friends and companion animals, whether our horses, donkey, duck, cats or dogs.

This means we are always learning ways to improve their lives and enhance understanding of each as both as an individual & as a distinct and beautiful species. One example is our decision to move to Westcliffe to have more space for our animal family, but for us as well. We desperately wanted to reconnect with the land and nature which sustains us. We are thriving, and I pray our animals are too.

I was in the ‘big city’ shopping a few days ago. After being here in our mountain towns for ove a year now, the hustle and bustle, the crowds busily shopping and the stores jammed with ‘stuff’ made me very sad. I know, down to my bones, that materialism (dare I say, rampant capitalism) is not sustainable for the the planet or for our souls. The disconnect and the blank faces I saw caused me to mourn. We need some ‘stuff’, I know, to survive in this world of ours. I strive for balance. There is no freedom if the choice is not informed and freely made, at least for us humans. I wanted to come home to Westcliffe, a place of freedom and a place of choice.

Posted 147 weeks ago

Snowy paradise. View from my meditation sitting room.

Posted 148 weeks ago

Winter Storm Watch

We woke up to 6 inches of snow and had single digits overnight. Surrounding areas are getting more. We need the moisture and the Sangre de Cristo Mountain range that surrounds us is a white out. 

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With animals, we must be vigilant. Our routines and planning pay off big time in inclement weather. Bill was up a 4:30 a.m. letting horses out, cleaning stalls, checking that the waterers were working and plowing. Horses have plenty of feed all day thanks to our trickle feeders. The grass hay actually helps keep them warm and they have the option of shelter under the eaves of their barn or the open of the paddock or pasture. They also have heaters in their water troughs, which were filled the the brim with clean water this weekend (when we had 60 degree temperatures). This shift in temperatures is hard on animals. We feel that providing electrolytes and warm mash in the evenings helps too.

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The duck have extra shavings in their coop and surrounds, as well as some meaty sunflower seeds and corn to help keep them warm. This morning they devoured some warm green peas and have plenty of fresh water that also has a bucket heater. No swimming today girls! We even retrieved one egg just after sunrise. It did not freeze and Bill had it for breakfast.

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Kitties are snuggled into a self-heating cat bed in the barn, droopy eyed and purring away, tummies full of a bit of warmed cream and wet food.

Two more suet cakes were put in the bird feeders last night in preparation for the storm. The birds, particularly the scrub jays and juncos, flock to it.

Dogs are lounging around me now as I type, but came out briefly to do their business and run about in the snow. After about 5 minutes, paws were being lifted and it was time to come in. Beau, my quintessential farm dog, followed me about while I did the farm chores. 

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We humans are making chili, writing and working inside by the fire. Snug and happy are we.

Posted 148 weeks ago

Springs First Egg

It seems the theme of the day is eggs. Earlier I posted about the not so empty bluebird nest I discovered. Later this morning I found our first duck egg! It has been quite cold here and with all our construction, the ducks have been stressed. But this morning I found a single egg tucked in the shavings of their nighttime coop.

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I wonder who laid it?! My guess is one of the Welsh, Skye or Little Mary. I think it would have been a fairy egg if it had been our younger Khaki Campbell ducks, Kate or Meghan.

Posted 148 weeks ago

Potential & Risk

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Yesterday I cleaned out our bluebird house. I found a lovely nest and five unhatched tiny perfect eggs. It broke my heart. I remembered this past summer when the bluebirds would swoop to scare away our barn cats, Rita and Mari. I think one swooped too close. A life lost, and more, the eggs in the nest not hatched. It seemed like a promise unfulfilled, wasted potential. 

I realize that many birds are killed by free ranging domesticated cats. Estimates range as high as 3.7 billion a year.  More, many of the bird species falling victim are considered threatened. As an animal person, who knows the value of a good barn cat, I also care very much about the lives of birds and small mammals. I researched ways to take steps in my own life to reduce our cats’ predation on our birds. I believe I need to strike a balance between the needs of cats and the needs of wildlife facing the feline threat.

The National Wildlife Federation has a practical list of advice to help minimize the wildlife lost to cat predation. Our cats, Mari and Rita, are beloved companions and are mousers here at Foxhaven. The barn is their domain, and I have never seen evidence of a rodent, except for a dead half-eaten one, in our barn. For this I am thankful. We can leave bags of feed on the floor with no worries. We put our horses and cats up at night in the barn. The evening’s entertainment being the cats bounding about and climbing on the rafters. I wonder what the horse’s think about the acrobatics. 

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Some practical advice I discovered that can help us include (1) providing cover for the birds (trees, shrubs), (2) placing feeders and birdbaths 10-12 feet from hiding placed for cats, (3) removing bird feeders to favor native plants with berries and seeds. Birds congregate around feeders which, in turn, attract hunting cats; whereas, native plants won’t cause birds to flock. (4) I may investigate motion sprinklers near my bird house, since I plan to plant wildflowers around it this summer. (5) Spay, neuter and adopt a cat, if so inclined. AND do not abandon an animal. Those that survive contribute to the feral stray population that takes it toll on wildlife.

I also discovered that some people use moth balls; don’t, they are toxic! Also, bells or colorful colors don’t work. A tinkling bell is not something wildlife associates with a predator. Likewise, bright colors are not associated either, and many species don’t see color.

Passions rise between cat and bird lovers over this topic. Resist the urge to write off the others concerns. Science is clear on the impacts of cats on wildlife populations. For my part, I am going to put some of ideas I discovered into action. I want to continue to watch the birds from my deck. I need and love my cats. I want a nesting place for bluebirds that is safer. I hope to find an empty nest this time next year.

As I look at this nest, it also reminds me of the potential we all have inside of us. It can be realized or not. In my quest to be mindful and to listen, to myself and others, I feel the push & pull of potential in many conversations and thoughts. For my own part, I have resisted the pull or have allowed myself to become distracted by the familiar. Why? The risk of failing and the risk of leaving my comfortable nest. The question remains, “Do I want to fly?” 

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Posted 148 weeks ago