by Jennifer Welch
It wasn’t so long ago that we decided to move The Crowded Acre to a larger parcel of land – just over five years ago, to be exact. It’s strange to think, in hindsight, of what our “ideal” farmland was and how much we expected it to cost. Initially we wanted to purchase property with grazing land, possibly even with water rights, gardens and hayfields. But the prices of those properties were astronomical compared to our budget. We quickly found that we were nowhere close to being able to afford anything considered “farmland,” a realization that affected our perception of the perfect property in a way that would prove to be beneficial for our family and for the farm.
We spent a long time looking. Aspen groves. Ponderosa forests. The flats. Nothing really hit home for us until we found the piñons. We had moved, separately, to this valley nearly eight years prior to looking at this property … and had sworn, upon arrival, that we would NEVER live in the piñons. Scrub brush. Dry land. Blecht. But here we were: four miles from Main Street, surrounded by BLM, less than 200 yards from the river, on just over fifteen acres of piñon-juniper woodland. We fell in love. We split the cost of the property with the parental units and settled into the yurt already situated on the property. We spent the next year and a half building our house. The following year we built the barn. And we never looked back.
Just over five years later and we have a finished house, barn, greenhouse and my parents’ house. And we love it here. We discovered, during excavation for the house and barn, that the dirt we did have was very nice dirt … but the rest was sand. We knew, going in, that we would not have luscious gardens, beautiful orchards and green grass for grazing. But what we didn’t expect was to move onto a property full of food. We quickly realized that we sat on fifteen acres of pine nuts, currant berries, yucca flowers and wild game. We also see plenty of medicinal plants such as plantain, currant leaves and mullein. This is farmland, just of a different kind. A kind for which we are grateful.
We still travel into the aspen groves for wild rose hips. We drive up into the ponderosa forests to find bearberries, raspberries, loads of juniper berries, mushrooms and elk. We go to the Western Slope for much of our fruit and sweet corn. We rely on Pueblo for chiles and the San Luis Valley for barley to feed to the animals. We live in a state of abundance. And even in an area where water is king, there are wonderful treasures to be found in the dry lands. Sometimes you just have to adjust your perception of what it is that you are truly looking to find.
Jen Welch lives and writes in the Upper Arkansas Valley, and she truly believes it is heaven on earth … even the sandy parts.