Living Small In New Mexico
By Virginia Hawthorn
Virginia Hawthorn returned to New Mexico after spending 23 years in California. Shortly after her return, her daughter and son-in-law invited her to live on their farm, Beso del Sol Farm, with them.
“I do the business accounting; computer design for labels, advertising and the like; and general business office work. I also help with farm projects such as building, planting, animal care, etc.,” she says.
She plans to focus her blog on their efforts to develop the small family farm into a working operation, and “this involves building projects (fencing, shelters, greenhouses, and more), and finding which animals and market crops are best suited to our climate, space, personalities and the time involved in their care.”
A secondary focus will be Virginia’s personal adjustment to life on the farm, how she’s downsized her possessions, and how she’s creating her own space and developing her own interests while living in harmony with her family and the land.
To go along with that, Virginia says, “My current project is to get comfortably settled into my new little home on the farm. I still need to sift through several boxes of person possessions to either find places for them, or sell or give them away. There are also a few construction projects that need to be completed before I consider it done: rain gutters, finishing touches to the front and back porches, building a small storage shed, and completely my own small native plant garden with walkways.”
The native plant garden was a birthday gift from her children and grandchildren.
The family has a token vegetable garden in 2014, with onions, tomatoes, peppers and herbs. Virginia says, “It was a very bad spring with nasty winds forever, then a couple of late freezes, followed by an unusually hot spell. Big plans for next year include hoop houses and a big, open family garden planted next to the main house.”
A young orchard holds 30 or so dwarf fruit trees, of various types that are not yet to the bearing stage, and a few berry and grape vines, also not yet bearing.
Other projects on Virginia’s to-do list are all focused on improving the farm: completing hoop houses before fall; completing an open patio between the two houses with an adobe wall, drip irrigation, plantings and footpaths; getting set up with the local farmers’ market; and establishing a small CSA (community supported agriculture) for distributing produce and eggs.
She considers her “country” skills to include gardening; making jellies, jams and fruit butters; cooking from scratch (granola, pesto, hummus, tahini, chutneys); baking; preparing meals for the family, from scrach and with local or home-grown products whenever possible; chicken and other poultry care; and recycling and creatively reusing just about everything possible.
Beso del Sol farm is home to a number of animals. Virginia says the animals include Ameraucana, Hamburg and Buff Orpington hens, “and one extremely happy, very fluffy white Banty rooster who can’t believe his good luck.” Other animals on the farm are eight White Midget turkeys; 10 ducks of various breeds, including seven from the farm’s own broody mamas; two young geese of unknown heritage; two Jack Russell terriers and one mixed-breed shepherd; and “one calico cat who thinks all these other animals are really cats as well.”
Virginia defines a homesteader: “Homesteaders are people who try to be as self-sufficient and earth friendly as possible, given their climate, location and abilities. This can be in either an urban or country setting, and may include farming/gardening; animal production; building with recycled or “green” materials; home preparation of food, cleaning and personal care products; food preservation, and any number of other activities. In short, it’s a highly eclectic and creative way of life, with an ambition to be as self-sustaining and productive as possible, given the opportunities at hand.”
And her philosophy on country life? “Go to town as rarely as possible. Enjoy the peace and quiet, the goofiness and affection of all the animals, the chance to really see the stars every night. Help our family, friends, and neighbors whenever they need it. Live with the satisfaction that we are creating something useful that is good for the earth rather than destructive, and that we are giving back rather than taking away.”