December 12, 2020

It is 16 degrees outside on this, another cold snowy day on the Albergue Garcia Adventure Farm, punctuated by Jesus and I bundling up and putting on our snow boots to go out and feed and care for the animals at least three times a day.

Mabel, our little Golf Cart who usually zips us all over the farm as needed is cold and shivering in the barn as well. After I used her yesterday, she informed me that she is a GOLF CART not a SNOW MOBILE. What was I thinking.

The chickens are staying in their coops today as well. The ducks never seem to mind the weather.

And here I am parked in my favorite recliner chair that used to belong to my Dad, sitting by the fire and reaching out to you on my computer.

We need days of rest. Times to sit and reflect on what is going around us, the good things, the love of our family and friends, the blessings in our lives. We have all had way too much bad news lately from this world. We humans, are emotionally, physically and spiritually exhausted. Things can feel so dreary and hopeless at times.

But I am sitting here trying to focus my mind on what is at hand. I so appreciate my husband farmer sitting on the couch next to me watching football. I am thankful for our warm home. I am so thankful for the internet that allows Jesus and I to connect with our children and grandchildren and friends and I am thankful I can connect to you.

However, Jesus is now getting up to put another log on the fire and is saying it is time for us to go back out in the cold to check on and feed our animals. Toby always goes with me herding me from chore to chore. He already has my steps memorized and makes sure I do not get off track.

As I walk back towards the house I always pass the bird feeders where they also have a lesson to teach me. They are getting their last meal for the day before nightfall. Now it is time for me to go back into my own home and with Jesus figure out what’s for dinner. I hope you have a wonderful evening and the Lord reveals His blessings around you.

Philippians 4:8-9

Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy, meditate on these things. The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do, and the God of peace will be with you.

December 11, 2020

It is a cold snowy day here on our Albergue Garcia farm in Black Forest, Colorado at 7300 feet elevation. On days like today it is especially important for us to make sure all of the animals who live here on this farm with us have a warm shelter to be able to get out from the elements. Bonnie, our pig, has an A frame wooden home with lots of straw to arrange around for her bedding and warmth.

Mary, our Alpine goat is now rooming in with Gracie, our horse. She is taking a break from babysitting Ellie, our calf at night and is serving as an emotional support goat for Gracie. Gracie was feeling a little down lately and not eating as well. There is nothing like some healthy competition for the food to get a horse back to eating all of her feed. She is doing much better now. Our Mama alpacas and their babies are huddling in their own barn area. Dolly, our Jersey milk cow and Ellie, her calf are also huddled in their own stall. The chickens hang out in their big chicken houses between snow flurries. And us humans are inside our home with a warm fire, Christmas tree lights on and hot chocolate between brrr cold treks out to the barns several times during the day checking on and feeding the animals.

So what are the plants doing that are not suited for this type of cold? Some of them are nestled in our greenhouses, warm and green. We have 3 greenhouses that each have different climates. My favorite is our Texas climate greenhouse. It gives me more produce than I can usually manage to freeze, dry and can 3 seasons out of the year. Now in the cold of winter we have herbs, tomatos, peppers, kale, broccoli, cabbage, jicama, onions, celery, carrots and potatoes still growing and the orange, grapefruit, lemon and lime trees producing fruit.

We also have avocado and fig trees that are dormant at this time. We harvested over a hundred pounds of grapes from this greenhouse this past summer. The large vines that cover a lot of the north side of the greenhouse are also dormant at this time. It is a delight to trudge through the snow and be able to come back to our house with hands full of veggies and fruits.

For this greenhouse we dug a big hole in the ground 6 feet deep, 48 feet long and 24 feet wide. We used cinder blocks to line the hole in the ground and a foot of gravel for the base. It is a blend of a solar greenhouse and a walipini. Between the cinder blocks and the outside dirt we placed sheets of foam insulation. The greenhouse is oriented lengthwise east/west to make the most out of the sunlight throughout the year.

Along the north side of the greenhouse we placed large water tanks filled with water and painted them black to absorb the heat during the day and radiate off the heat during the night. We used the metal frame from a large hoop greenhouse we got on Craigslist and assembled this down inside the cinder block walls. The top of the thermometer gauge you see below is actually at ground level outside.

For the east and west end walls we used corrugated insulated greenhouse walls and we covered the entire structure with large flexible clear polycarbonate roofing panels.

Along the northside we added a layer of insulation sandwiched between the base sun panels and another layer of metal roofing panels. We then covered the entire greenhouse with thick greenhouse plastic.

Inside this pit greenhouse we have 2 long raised beds for our plants and trees.

On the west end of the greenhouse is our entrance with a double door system to keep as much of the cold out as possible.

All of this just to keep those little plants warm and protected. Sometimes when it dips well below zero, we turn on a little oil space heater to help curb the chill.

Just think about how much trouble we go to protect people and animals and plants and things that we care about. Now think about how much more the Lord protects us, His children whom He created and whom He loves.

December 10, 2020

She showed up in the nick of time. Earlier or later would not have worked. It was God’s perfect timing. Jaiden is the teenage granddaughter of my friend Carrie. Carrie and I have attended the same Bible study life group at our church for years and now we have been on Zoom together twice a week since the pandemic hit. Carrie thought Jaiden needed to come to our Albergue Garcia farm to be around animals and learn about caring for them. God knew we needed a living breathing teenager in our presence. I had just retired from Peak Vista Community Health Center where I interacted with parents and children all day long four days a week. And then there was abruptly nothing. Because of our age and health concerns, we were home bound.

So enter Jaiden, a sweet teenage girl with a calm loving presence about her and she was interested in our farm animals! I just had delivered our youngest pregnant Alpaca’s baby by pull-’em-out-because -she will-not -push-on-her-own-and-someone-is-about-to-die method. Then the Mom, Coco, argued that surely this helpless, wet, long legged, long neck, Daddy Long Legs spider looking creature was not her baby and most of all not her responsibility.

Coco would have nothing to do with Sugar, as we called her new daughter. And Sugar had no idea what to do with her Mom. All the natural instincts for nursing did not kick in even with penning them up close together.

I desperately started to bottle/syringe feed Sugar with the drops of colostrum I could get unwillingly from Coco. I had bottle fed goat kids, kittens, puppies, and calves in the past but never an alpaca cria. The cria has such a differently shaped mouth and most of all a different disposition. The feeding tube I would use to gavage my baby goats when they would not nurse was not long enough for this young camelid’s digestive system.

Jaiden saw our animals in a fresh new way. She and her grandma Carrie, masked and socially distanced, encouraged me and Sugar. Soon we were going from me having to force feed by syringe an unwilling alpaca baby to Sugar nursing on the bottle herself.

Jaiden kept coming back each week cheering us all up through this past Fall. Gracie, our horse got the attention she needed. Her human had just been too depressed to brush her out the way she needed to be. We all need to feel needed. It is our human nature. It is also animal nature.

After 2 precarious weeks, Coco and Sugar miraculously figured out the whole bonding and nursing routine. Praise God.

Psalm 54:4

Behold, God is my helper: the Lord is with them that uphold my soul.

December 9, 2020

Good Day and thank you so much for joining my blog today! I am going to show you how I store my lemon juice. It is always feast or famine on our Albergue Garcia adventure farm. When you grow veggies or fruit or meat for your freezer, you usually get more than you need right away and then that season passes. Though our lemon trees produce fruit year round in our pit solar Walipini greenhouse, December is the month they go hog wild and we have Meyers lemons running out of our ears. Their juice is so handy for lemonade, lemon pies and especially for when I am canning in the summer and autumn months. So if you find a bunch of lemons on sale at the store or your lemon tree is full, here is what you can do with the juice.

Wash the lemons and let them dry on a clean towel and then cut them in half. You can press the lemon juice out by hand with a lemon press like my Mom had or use a more fancy dandy press like we saw in Israel when we visited there a couple of years ago. I found one of these on Craigslist and they are the bomb.

I pour the juice into silicone trays with little individual cups and then place these in the freezer on a flat surface for a couple of days to freeze the juice.

I then pop the frozen lemon juice cubes out and place them into a ziplock bag and store these in the freezer until the next time I need some lemon juice. These cubes are super quick to thaw out and taste just like fresh frozen lemon juice.

I took the leftover lemon peels around to the different farm animals today to see who wanted them. I was surprised that Bonnie our pig turned her nose up at them. The chickens were the most grateful bunch on the farm for the lemon scraps.

Luke 6: 38

Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.

December 8, 2020

We have several chicken coops on our Albergue Garcia Farm. One is a small building where we raise our chicks during the spring and summer with large metal troughs with heat lamps. We have a small well protected coop with a small chicken house for the elementary school aged chicks, (the ones who start flying out of their troughs). When they are teenagers and are starting to feel their hormones, we move them into the big egg production chicken yard with a large chicken house. This large yard is well protected as well with bird netting on top to discourage Harold, our red tailed hawk from picking off a snack. And yes, birds of prey do fly down into small enclosed fenced areas. Harold proved this to me with his America’s Got Talent worthy acrobatic flying techniques this past summer. Then we have our assisted living chicken coop that has been specially created for our senior adult and handicapped chickens. They don’t have to pay rent anymore. They have a small protected yard and a smaller and warmer chicken house with a brighter light. A friend from my Sunday school asked, “Why don’t they just move to the great chicken coop in the sky and into your freezer?” That just did not seem the right thing to do after them laying all those eggs for us through the years. And I have to admit as I am getting on in my years as well, I kind of identify with them. There are 2 roosters with these hens who should probably go to one of those male testosterone clinics for ED but we will just leave it at that. In the evening as their CNA caregiver, I call and lead them all into their chicken house after they have spent their day out on the veranda sunning themselves and playing bingo. There are 2 who are more special needs birds. Twirly Bird is blind with dementia and is always off somewhere going round and round. I have to pick her up to return her to the coop and put her right in front of her feed so she can eat. Every evening she always acts as if we have never done this before by desperately running around faster and faster and squawking.🤷‍♀️. Then I pick up our paraplegic duck named Duck and return her to the coop as well. She is a decorated disabled veteran duck from the great Dog versus Duck War of 2015.

Ephesians 4: 31-32

Put aside all bitterness, losing your temper, anger, shouting, and slander, along with every other evil. Be kind, compassionate, and forgiving to each other, in the same way God forgave you in Christ.

December 7, 2020

Another beautiful day here in the Black Forest at Albergue Garcia. Busy day for us today with milking Dolly and preparing the milk for our milk share families. 5 gallons of delicious milk left at our cooler at our front gate today. Because of the heightened COVID situation we are doing contactless exchange of our farm produce at our gate. We started separating Dolly’s little heifer calf during the night from her stall this past weekend. Ellie, the calf is now 1 month old and she has been drinking more and more of her Mama’s milk and our vet has warned us that there is such a thing as getting too much rich jersey milk for the calf. Ellie is now having sleepovers with Mary, our retired Alpine/Nubian cross goat and 3 shy protective Alpaca Mamas and each of their babies. Not milk and cookies and getting tucked in at night. Ellie was very willing to rejoin her Mom after we finished milking this morning and has been attached to her Mom’s utter for pretty much the whole day today like a tick.

I am Mary’s baby. Mary is almost 15 years old and she was born a triplet around Christmas time. This is before we knew any better as adventure farmers to not have baby goats born in the middle of the winter. We named the triplets Mary, Joseph and Jesse. We kept her brother Joseph as a pack goat and he was probably the biggest and most sweetest goat I have ever seen. He had deformed ears from them getting frozen at birth when it was so cold. We had to sit by our open oven in the kitchen warming up the triplets that first night. Late spring and summer births are the way to go with goats as far as we are concerned at our farm. We sold the sister Jesse and kept Mary as our milk goat. I milked her and served as the pediatrician vet for her kids until she became too old to breed. She is now living out her retirement at our Albergue shelter farm as our one and only goat. She is queen of her pasture and reigns over the alpacas and is a strict nanny goat to the calves she has had to babysit through the years. I say I am her baby because she really saw herself as my Mama when I would milk her. She has always kept an eye on me and we have a special bond. She keeps me in line. I am her human.

Isaiah 40:11

He tends His flock like a shepherd; He gathers the lambs in His arms and carries them close to His heart; He gently leads those that have young.

December 6, 2020

Of all of the animals we are raising on our Albergue farm, the chickens are the most plenteous. Now, there are other animals living here as well that greatly outnumber those like the mice, voles 😒, flies and birdies. (More on those guys later). So if you did not know before, chickens are cool. I had no idea they could be tamed as much as they can be. My dear friend Cindy has a chicken she has named Parrot. This bird will actually perch on her shoulder, making my friend feel like a pirate. Arggggh. Her chicken has also perched on her goats as well. I am not sure how that makes the goats feel.

We also have been blessed to be the foster home for ducks and chickens who have been raised by our friends’ children. These birds have brought great joy to their little caretakers. However when they have gotten bigger and have become more messy and louder, they have moved from their apartments where they were raised and on to our farm. Dixie is a red hen who is extremely tame and demands that you pick her up and hold her the entire time you are visiting her coop. Ben is her counterpart and is actually a large cochin hen. Not quite as eager to be picked up, but if you do, she will fall peacefully asleep in your arms.

Did I say how much we love our chickens? We have a large coop for our egg production chickens. These are young Blue Laced Red Wyandottes, Aracaunas and Welsummers and they are lively and beautiful. We have high hopes for these girls and boys. Here they are scarfing down the spent grain we get from a local craft brewery.

These same chickens were up late last night admiring the white Christmas lights we strung up on their coop. They had asked for more decorations and I warned them the lights might mess up their daytime nighttime cycle. But how do you tell chickens “No” and especially when there are so many of them? They even asked for little outside tables and chairs and one of those outdoor patio heaters. 🤦‍♀️We had to gently pick up the partying hens and roosters, reminding them of Governor Polis’ curfew for bars, and put them to bed and close up their coop for the night. Goodnight Birdies.

Psalm 91:1-4

He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress; my God, in Him I will trust.” Surely He shall deliver you from the snare of the fowler and from the perilous pestilence. He shall cover you with His feathers, and under His wings you shall take refuge; His truth shall be your shield and buckler.

December 5, 2020

It has been a beautiful day today on our little farm. My husband and I woke up feeling well and ready to start the rhythm of the day on our adventure farm. We call it our adventure farm because every day is indeed an adventure, especially during this season of COVID. It has been a long 8 months of strict working from home. Before COVID hit, I was the medical director for a community health center pediatric clinic. Because of my age and health status, I began working from home in March of this year.

After many months of struggling with doing telehealth and managing our clinic from afar, I decided it was time to retire this past September from full time work as a pediatrician and to turn my full attention to my husband and family and our farm. More on that to come. My husband is a substance abuse counselor and has been able to work from home , which has been an enormous blessing for us all. Our morning started with feeding our animals and milking our Jersey milk cow, Dolly.

We have been giving everyone and everything names around here. Dolly has a darling calf and her name is Ellie. You will also get to know Bonnie, our pig, our alpacas, Michelle, Coco, Annie, Dottie, Snow, Sugar and Barack. Gracie is our beloved horse and we have 3 other cows named Maggie, Torito and Sancho. We have 3 dogs, Toby, Jacob and Pichon. We even have a golfcart that we zip around the farm in named Mabel. We have a hawk that visits us named Henry and on and on. You see, spending all of this time on this farm has brought us so much closer to our livestock and nature. It helps us feel much less alone.

The holidays this year will be so different. We will not have our family with us on the farm as we were blessed to have had last year. So, the most appropriate thing to do was to start enjoying the holidays with our farm friends. Bonnie, our pig has a wreath on her gate and so do the chickens and our horse Gracie. And today, we strung up vintage white icicle lights on our chicken coop. The chickens were thrilled and stayed out a little longer admiring the lights before strutting off to bed for the night.

Psalms 148: 7-13

Praise the Lord from the earth, you great sea creatures and all the depths; fire and hail, snow and clouds; stormy wind, fulfilling His word; mountains and all hills; fruitful trees and all cedars; beasts and cattle; creeping things and flying fowl; kings of the earth and all peoples; princes and all judges of the earth; both young men and maidens; old men and children. Let them praise the name of the Lord, for His name alone is exalted; His glory is above the earth and heaven.