Chickens Love Colorado Springs!

IMG_2069-300x225Welcome to Hungry Chicken Homestead! Six hungry chickens live here as well as some other animals, and people who know where the food is stored.

The chickens love Colorado Springs and want to tell you about local farms and small businesses right here in our community!  Chickens know a thing or two about the importance of a good flock and good things to eat.  Likewise, people benefit from knowing their neighbors and knowing where to get good food!

Look around!  You’ll find stories about Colorado businesses and farms, stories about the Homestead and even listings telling you where to buy food grown or produced right here in our neck of the woods.

We hope you’ll find a little inspiration for your own story too!

Colorado Springs Local Business: The Sound Shop

My late husband once filmed two of our cats wrestling.  In those days, you had to hook up the camera to a television to see the recording and he had done this with a ten inch television on the floor.  One of the cats sat down in front of it and watched intently.  He even jumped at a surprising moment in the action.

“So that’s why they never watch TV,” my husband mused.  “It’s not that they can’t see it.  It’s that there was never anything good on until now.”

I can only imagine what Spot the Cat would have though of seeing himself on one of today's televisions.

I can only imagine what Spot the Cat would have thought of seeing himself on one of today’s televisions.

I sent the last of the old televisions off to the recycler about two years ago.  I just watch the chickens whenever I need entertainment.

As entertainment equipment goes, this is more my style.

As entertainment equipment goes, this is more my style.

With all that in mind, you can imagine my bewilderment when I walked into The Sound Shop on Cimarron St. for the first time.  Action and sound surrounded me from every angle!

I didn't even try pushing the buttons to see and hear the displays.

I didn’t even try pushing the buttons to see and hear the displays.

I asked owner Patty Jakos how she came to be the the owner of this very exciting place.

“I worked here part time when my kids were growing up,” she explained.  “When the previous owner retired, I bought it.  I didn’t want to work for anyone else.”

It’s quite a transition to go from employee to owner, but she likes it.  “The nice thing about this job is everything we do is entertainment,” she said.  “It’s all fun stuff.  It’s meant to make your life more enjoyable.”

“Kind of like chickens,” I thought to myself.

The Sound Shop sells all kinds of stuff, from home theater systems to simple speakers.

The Sound Shop sells all kinds of stuff, from home theater systems to simple speakers.

We talked a long time about the things you can buy from this locally owned shop.  They have equipment all along the cost spectrum.  They have televisions and sound systems and the equipment you need to network it all together.

They even have some used equipment on hand.

They even have some used equipment on hand.

Now you might wonder why you should go there instead of just ordering off the Internet.  I could tell you how The Sound Shop saves you from a lot of time spent doing research and from making mistakes because they already have the expertise to build what you want.  I could tell you how they know how to work within your budget.  Or I could tell you this story…

My house has speakers in the ceiling.  I know where they connect, but I have never seen this particular type of connector in my life.  Several people have attempted to figure out how I could make those speakers useful, but they still languish, unused and mysterious.

I told Patty about this and she told me about a service they offer.  A technician from the shop comes out to your house, looks at whatever you want to do and makes recommendations.  They do this for free.

I made an appointment and Scott the Technician came out.  He showed up on time, looked at the connectors and then explained exactly what I would need.  When he got back to the shop he sent me a quote for the equipment, which they would come out and install.  In one fell swoop, he solved the mystery!

You can stop in at The Sound Shop to have your own mysteries resolved.  It makes sense.  Why spend a lot of time researching and buying from someone far away when you can get what you want a lot faster and with less risk by buying local?

***

©Hungry Chicken Homestead 2015

Join Chickens on the Mailing List to learn about Colorado Springs locally-owned businesses, keep up with local homestead & garden events and read stories about the hilarious homestead chickens!

Colorado Springs Local Farm: Hi Plains Dairy

I like taking pictures of goats and cows.  Something like this often happens.

Close

Close

Closer

Closer

Way too close!

Way too close!

As you can see, they are curious animals.

I recently got to visit with a whole lot of goats and cows at the Hi Plains Dairy.  Hi Plains Dairy is located in Calhan, CO and run by Jim and Angela Smith.  They offer goat milk, cows milk and yogurt.  You can buy the yogurt in select stores, but you have to be a shareholder to get the milk.  Why?  Because it’s raw!

They have a big, professional bulk tank for your milk.  This milk in bags was going home with one of the owners.

They have a big, professional bulk tank for your milk. This milk in bags was going home with Dustin.  It was the only time I actually saw any milk because most milk goes right from the milking machine into the tank.

The bulk tank is an important part of milk production for a facility that has 25 cows and 130 goats.  Milk tastes a lot better if it’s cooled very quickly and the tank gets it from animal body temperature to 45º in 40 minutes!

Co-owner Dustin Davis took us on a tour.  We went through one door and were greeted by lots of goats.

Dustin Davis took us on a tour. We went through one door and were greeted by lots of goats.

Goats.

Goats.

Goats.

Goats.

And more goats!

And more goats!

As you can imagine, there are lots of shenanigans going on in such a place.

Like this!

Like this!

Dustin warned us about one shenanigan.  It’s a good idea to refrain from petting the adorable baby calves’ heads.  Why?  It’s because they like it, not just as calves, but when they grow up too!

"Be careful!", he yelled out when this cow tried to get my friend to pet her.

“Be careful!”, he yelled out when this cow tried to get my friend to pet her.

As you can imagine, when a full grown cow rubs her head on you, you’d better brace yourself or you’ll get pushed over!

This goat would like to tell you why she wants you to get your milk from a local ranch.

This goat promises not to push you over if you listen while she tells you why she wants you to get your milk from a local ranch.

Even if you’re pretty satisfied with your grocery store milk, the goat above and I hope you’ll consider getting a share from Hi Plains Dairy or any of our local dairies.  They’ve got 25 cows and 130 goats who all look beautiful, sleek and well cared for.  Can you say that about the animals producing the grocery store milk?  I don’t know.  You don’t know.  None of us have ever seen them!

You can visit this dairy and you can visit the other ranches around town and see for yourself how well the animals are treated.  You can visit and pet and maybe even be pushed into the mud by an enthusiastic cow who lives in a safe environment where she lives as a cow should live.

Dustin, a former U.S. Marine who now serves his country by providing food said to me, “I love my animals.”

If we, the consumers, demand locally produced, organic milk from well-treated animals then we’ll get it.  Here’s your chance!  Contact the dairy at 719 499-7273 or email them at hiplainsdairy@elpasotel.net to set up your share.

And if you visit, be prepared for nose prints on your camera.

***

©Hungry Chicken Homestead 2015

Join Chickens on the Mailing List to learn about Colorado Springs locally-owned businesses, keep up with local homestead & garden events and read stories about the hilarious homestead chickens!

Colorado Springs Local Business: In Joy

I had yet another embarrassing conversation recently.  I was having coffee with Jillian Dwyer, co-owner and baker of In Joy Baking at the newly opened Red Dog Coffee in Manitou Springs.  Red Dog is owned by the Thomason family and David Thomason was in the shop at the time.  Well, I did what I do best and introduced them, hoping they might discover their mutual interest in good food and locally owned businesses.  So what did I say to David?

“I’d like to introduce you to Jillian Dwyer, maker of best truffle ever!”

I stopped, but it was too late.  The words were already out.  How could I forget that the Thomasons also own the Pikes Peak Chocolate and Ice Cream shop, which may in fact sell an amazing truffle?  (I don’t know if they have truffles or not, but their chocolate turtles are delicious!)  I tried to get out of it by pointing out that Jillian’s truffles are gluten free, but most truffles are gluten free and all I could do was cover the awkwardness by turning around and ordering a latte.

These truffles are what caused all the trouble.

These truffles are what caused all the trouble.

Jillian makes a lot of things and she makes them well, but when I have one of these truffles I hide somewhere so that I can give it all of my attention.  The chocolates in the picture are espresso almond truffles.  The center is a dark chocolate, almond infused sphere of perfection.  It’s not especially sweet, which tells you it’s not trying to hide anything.  Sweetness covers up the other flavors and it would be a terrible crime to hide the essence of these nuanced, delicate chocolates.

Here is the inside of this marvelous, dairy-free confection.

Here is the inside of this marvelous, dairy-free confection.

(After I wrote that, I stared, unseeing, at the computer screen for several minutes, daydreaming about truffles the way a child daydreams about recess).

I’m not only delighted by Jillian’s truffles, but also by Jillian herself.  She told me about the name of her business while we sipped coffee at Red Dog.  She says it’s not just the food itself that should bring us joy, but the spirit with which we eat.  She points out that in our day to day lives we get caught up in our endless to do lists and forget to focus on joy.

Jillian helps us focus on that joy by making foods that are, as she says, "meant to be eaten with friends". Here is her Unleavened Seed Bread, which you can buy as a mix.

Jillian helps us focus on that joy by making foods that are, as she says, “meant to be eaten with friends”. Here is her Unleavened Seed Bread, which you can buy as a mix.

The truffles and the bread mixes are available through In Joy’s online store or in Hunt or Gather’s store or Buying Club.

 You can also get this gluten free Farmhouse bread in a mix. It tastes just like regular bread!

You can also get this gluten free Farmhouse bread in a mix. It tastes just like regular bread!

I got to eat that Farmhouse bread with friends once when our gracious hostess baked one and served it hot, with butter.  We devoured it!

The word “gracious” brings us back to my story about David and the truffles.  He didn’t say a word about my gaffe, but engaged Jillian and her husband Chris in conversation.

That’s why I love our community-minded local businesses!  They don’t get stuck on social errors.  They’d rather focus on joy.

***

©Hungry Chicken Homestead 2015

Join Chickens on the Mailing List to learn about Colorado Springs locally-owned businesses, keep up with local homestead & garden events and read stories about the hilarious homestead chickens!

 

Colorado Springs Local Business: Romick Studios … Candy!

Call me crazy, but I figure a post about a candy business probably doesn’t need a lot of text. A picture is worth a thousand words, as they say.

For example, here is an articulate picture of chocolate covered rice crispie treats.

For example, here is an articulate picture of chocolate covered rice crispy treats.

I met with Kate and Josiah Gillette, a local couple who are living an interesting life.  Kate makes the candy and Josiah markets it.

“Why do you call your business Romick Studios?”, I asked.  It’s kind of an odd name for a candy shop.

“Well,” explained Josiah, “We do a lot of different things.”

It’s true!  They’ve both worked with the Renaissance Fair, in candy shops, selling roses and at other glamorous types of jobs.  These days, Kate works as a veterinary technician, a heroic occupation in the opinion of all the members of this Homestead.

Being a veterinary tech can be stressful and Kate says she started making candy as a way to relax.  It works!  I felt very relaxed eating one of these chocolate covered pretzels.

Being a veterinary tech can be stressful and Kate says she started making candy as a way to relax. It works! I felt very relaxed eating one of these chocolate covered pretzels.

I learned about their business when they applied to sell it at the Colorado Farm and Art Market.  The Market is selective about what is allowed to be sold and a jury has to taste all the food to make sure it’s up to Market standards.

It just so happened that in the month of January I was the sole member of the food jury.

That means that I have personally tasted every variety of Kate's candy you can buy at the Farm and Art Market.  I should come down from the sugar high any minute.

That means that I have personally tasted every variety of Kate’s candy you can buy at the Farm and Art Market.  I did this all in one sitting and then was up half the night running around.

Do I have a favorite?  Why yes, yes I do.

In my opinion, you can't get a better candy than one with dark chocolate and nuts, like this pecan truffle.

In my opinion, you can’t get a better candy than one with dark chocolate and nuts, like this pecan truffle.

But my favorite doesn’t have to be your favorite.

You'll have plenty of varieties to choose from.

You’ll have plenty of varieties to choose from.

As luck would have it, I didn’t have to eat all this candy myself.  We met at the Wild Goose Meeting House and co-owner Russ Ware happened to be in the shop.  I did what I do best and introduced him to Josiah and Kate.  Naturally, they left samples for him too.

I liked the peanut butter cups a lot too.

Hopefully, that means you’ll find their candy at the Wild Goose in the future.

You can find Romick Studios at the Colorado Farm and Art Market one Saturday a month (January 31, February 21, March 28 and April 25).  They may be at the summer markets as well and before long you’ll probably find their candy in stores and restaurants too!

It tastes as good as it looks, but take my advice … pace yourselves.

***

©Hungry Chicken Homestead 2015

Join Chickens on the Mailing List to learn about Colorado Springs locally-owned businesses, keep up with local homestead & garden events and read stories about the hilarious homestead chickens.

Hungry Chicken Homestead Project: Four Things to do with Animal Fat

“Fat” has become a dirty word, hasn’t it?  We don’t want to be fat, we fear fat will clog our arteries and nobody ever uses the phrase, “fat of the land” in a good way anymore.

Alright, maybe I'll be reviled for even bringing it up, but I'm going to talk about it anyway... while eating this cheese.

Alright, maybe I’ll be reviled for even bringing it up, but I’m going to talk about it anyway… while eating this cheese.

Personally, I’m a big fan of fat.  My interest in it began when I discovered that eating fat made me less hungry and if I wasn’t hungry all the time then I could do more stuff without stopping to eat…again.

And then I discovered that many fats could be acquired for free!

And then I discovered that many fats could be acquired for free!

It’s not that I wouldn’t be willing to pay for my fat.  It’s just that I hate to waste anything that comes from the slaughtering of an animal, which explains why I always have bags of chicken feet in the freezer.  Since fat has become so unpopular, ranchers will often give it to you, just for asking!

The fat in the picture above had been cut into squares and put into the crockpot for rendering.  I wrote about this process the first time I did it and I recommend learning it.

What can you do with it?  Here are a few ideas:

1.  You can cook with properly rendered fat.  I admit that I did once make a squash casserole with lard, which was very popular here on the Homestead.  “It tastes like it has a lot of butter!”, they said, which it did, but instead of expensive organic butter I had used free organic lard.

Most of the time, I use the lard for frying.  It has a smoke point of close to 390ºF.  That means you can get it hot enough to fry without burning the fat and setting off your smoke alarm.  Most vegetable oils have much lower smoke points unless they are heavily processed and refined.

2.  Animal fats are great for protecting your cast iron.  Cast iron can rust, but you can coat it with fat to prevent this.

Look how shiny and smooth it is!

Look how shiny and smooth it is!

3.  Why don’t people use soaps made from animal fats?  I really don’t know.  Lard and tallow make hard soaps that don’t melt in the soap dish.  Add the right combination of oils to it and the soap can be moisturizing, bubbly and whatever you want!  And no, it doesn’t smell like meat.

Diana Ford of Li'l Bit Farm makes soap for me.  She made these from my last batch of rendered lard.

Diana Ford of Li’l Bit Farm makes soap for me. She made these from my last batch of rendered lard.  The one on the left smells like chocolate!

4.  I just learned that you can make homemade skin balm from animal fat!  This does smell like meat, but you can add a combination of essential oils to make it smell like citrus and spices instead.  I love a tallow & olive oil balm, especially in the winter when daring to shave my legs before bed seems like itchy folly.

I'm almost out.  I'm going to have to beg Corner Post Meats for more tallow.

I’m almost out. I’m going to have to beg Corner Post Meats for more tallow.

Speaking of Corner Post Meats, join us for a fat rendering and balm class on Saturday, January 24, 2015!

***

©Hungry Chicken Homestead 2015

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Colorado Springs Local Business: Breakthrough Breathwork Meditation

I have an interesting quote in my notes from Savanna Cassidy of Breakthrough Breathwork Meditation.

“I want to help people stay connected.”

It’s a good enough quote, but the most interesting part is when she said this.  She was in 7th grade!

I’m not one of them and can’t speak from experience, but it seems that some people are born to fill a spiritual need in the world.  They practice, study and develop methods to help people in various fields, such as religion, spirituality and psychology.

I interviewed Savanna and Kris Cassidy about their method and learned that I was speaking to the founder of a widely known meditation modality called Breakthrough Breathwork.  Kris began his journey while living in a spiritual New Age community in Scotland, where he studied breathwork with the pioneers of modern breathwork meditation.  He explained that breathwork is an ancient practice that has evolved into methods of connected breathing in our current day.

What is connected breathing?  You’ll have to go to a workshop or contact Kris and Savannah to find out, but as far as I can tell it involves connecting one breath to the next in a specific way.

Kris’ study and practice evolved into a new method of using connected breathing to clear out feelings and come to a place of peace and clarity, which he calls Breakthrough Breathwork Meditation.

“It had such an impact on me that I wanted to share this with others,” Kris says of the year after he developed this new method.  He began teaching it to others.

After 20 years of teaching, Kris met Savannah.  I like how their story becomes sweetly romantic at this point.  Savanna had begun her spiritual journey in her 30s and it had carried her through some difficult times in her life.  She met Kris and began doing some administrative work for his practice.  A spiritual guide encouraged them to work together and this seemed natural to them.  Today she is a certified practitioner and they run the practice together as a married couple.

I went to one of their workshops before the interview and enjoyed it.  It reminded me of the breathing we do in yoga classes, but with more focus and intensity on the breath.  It’s different, but felt familiar enough that I wasn’t completely confused.

I thought it might be helpful to set up a private session with Savanna.  I’ve always liked her.  Both Kris and Savanna are patient, compassionate and listen well; just the sort of people you would want around while you’re delving into difficult parts of your own psyche.

Did I go?  No.  I was … well …. too chicken, as you may say.  After all, I’ve had my share of human and pet losses in the last six years and maybe I’m not ready to look into that.  But you, dear reader, who are braver and ready to change your life can register for an upcoming workshop in the Springs, Denver or even via Skype!

Who knows what you might find that empowers you to connect to others and make the world a better place?

***

©Hungry Chicken Homestead 2015

Join Chickens on the Mailing List to learn about Colorado Springs locally-owned businesses, keep up with local homestead & garden events and read stories about the hilarious homestead chickens

Colorado Springs Local Business – Koru Street

My first statement of the day is a bit of advice.

See this kitty?  Do not let him try on the jewelry.

See this kitty? Do not let him try on the jewelry.

I brought home some remarkable paper jewelry from Koru Street, on Tejon St.  Koru Street, a shop owned by Amy Stretmater, is chock full of items after a homesteader’s heart.  You know how we have piles of old stuff in our backyards, waiting to be made into something new?  Well, Amy’s shop is full of items that prove old stuff can be given new life!

A person can't help but be impressed by the transformation of a useless old plastic bottle into a pretty, painted box!

A person can’t help but be impressed by the transformation of a useless old plastic bottle into a pretty, painted box!

Those same bottle boxes fold up to be used as unusual and stunning gift boxes!

Those same bottle boxes fold up to be used as unusual and stunning gift boxes!

And that’s not the best part!  The best part is that an impoverished person somewhere in the world got paid fairly to make these things!  Amy travels around the world meeting artists and workers, and only sells items made in places she has been, often by people she has met.

The chickens are not sure what to think of this paper mache bowl made from bullion wrappers.

The chickens are not sure what to think of this paper mache bowl made from bullion wrappers.

Amy started this business some years ago when she got laid off in Chicago.  She took six months to travel the world and knew she wanted to do something new when she got home.  She had been impressed with the commitment of people in India to remaking old things into useful new things and began importing and selling them at shows while she looked for a new job.

“The only thing I knew I wasn’t going to do was start my own business,” she quipped, as we talked in her store.  “I didn’t like the selling.”

What do they say ...?  "Life is what happens while you're busy making plans."?

What do they say …? “Life is what happens while you’re busy making plans.”?

About two years ago, Amy figured she’d open a popup store on Tejon St. for the holidays.  As you can see if you visit, the popup store happily became a permanent part of the retail landscape downtown.

Some of the products in the shop are made in Colorado Springs, like these earrings made from recycled items.

Some of the products in the shop are made in Colorado Springs, like these earrings made from recycled items.

Amy knows Koru Street can’t compete with the big chain stores and she doesn’t try.  “I’m the opposite of trendy,” she says.  You won’t find the same old things in her shop.  What you will find is all manner of unique and pretty items.

Guess what these bracelets are made out of! ...Never mind, you'll never guess, so I'll tell you. They are made from old magazine paper!

Guess what these bracelets are made out of! 

And that brings us back to the kitty.  Mr. Patience, a very inquisitive and energetic fellow, wanted to try on the paper bracelets I brought home.

But you know it's not enough to try them on.

But you know it’s not enough for the kitty to try them on.

He couldn’t get them on and, naturally, decided to chew them.  No bracelet can withstand such treatment (which is why you should not chew your bracelets either).  He pulled it apart and looked at me without a bit of remorse.

I guess I’ll have to make something new out of it.

***

©Hungry Chicken Homestead 2015

Join Chickens on the Mailing List to learn about Colorado Springs locally-owned businesses, keep up with local homestead & garden events and read stories about the hilarious homestead chickens.

Happy New Year from Hungry Chicken Homestead

Well … here we are at another January 1st. Does anyone else find this shocking?

Colorado Springs Local Farm Hungry Chicken Homestead Little Red 5

Little Red Hen finds it perplexing, but that’s because she’s only about a year old.

We don’t really make New Year’s resolutions here on the Homestead.  After all, most of us are chickens.  And we could review the year, but that would mean talking about losing five chickens since December 2013.  We’d rather talk about the future.

The future always contains seeds of something bigger, maybe plants and maybe dinner.

The future always contains seeds of something bigger, maybe new plants and maybe dinner.

I like to think about what worked last year, what didn’t work, what we want more of and what we want less of.  Then we make a loose plan.  I say “loose” because everybody here; cats, dogs, people and chickens, are a little opportunistic.  Maybe we planned on eating nothing but feed that day, but then a nice, delicious worm pokes its head out of the ground.  We don’t like to miss an opportunity.

These potatoes that grew in the garden despite being attacked by chickens are a prime example.

These potatoes that grew in the garden despite being attacked by chickens are a prime example.

Anyway, here is what we want more of next year:

  • Blog posts & the newsletter:  These got neglected in 2014 in favor of more businesslike pursuits, but I think it would be better to write more of them.  They help local businesses get known, they help readers know where to shop locally and I like writing them more than I like some of the other things I did in 2014.
  • Food Preservation Classes:  Did you know people consistently ask me when my next classes are?  I love teaching them and besides getting to meet interesting people, I also get to teach people how to preserve the bounty from our local farms.  I’m going to try to offer classes year round.
  • Local Business Advertising:  I’ve done some limited paid promotion of Colorado Springs Local Business blog posts on Facebook and it’s helped people find out about these great businesses we have in town like PeakMed and C2 Alpacas.  It doesn’t cost much and connects local businesses & farms with people in town who want to know about them.  (So .. If your business is headquartered in Colorado and has a presence in the Springs, contact me if you’d like to talk about affordably getting your message out to Colorado Springs shoppers.)
  • Agritourism: The most amazing thing that happened last year was that the Colorado Tourism Office (CTO) contacted me and asked if I wanted to be part of a program to help farms and ranches develop programs for tourists, like overnight stays and farm classes.  You bet I did!!  I signed up and they gave me a project to help C2 Alpacas develop their visitor programs.  I can’t believe how much fun that was!  I got to use all my interview and analytical skills AND I got to pet alpacas!  I want to do more of that this year.

(So, listen … if you have a farm or ranch and have started developing some sort of program for visitors, contact me.  I can help you get signed up with the CTO and they will pay for you to have an expert help you develop the program.  That expert may or may not be me, depending on what you need, but I’m happy to help regardless.  Your program helps our local economy and keeps our agricultural sector in business!)

And there we are.  That’s my loose plan for 2015.

Whatever your plan is, here is a New Year’s wish from the Homestead:  May your new year be full of opportunities, community and sweet-natured hens who lay lots of eggs.

Colorado Springs Local Farms Hungry Chicken Homestead Free Range Hens 5

Colorado Springs Local Farm: C Squared Alpacas

I’ll just start this article by saying that my socks are better than your socks!

My socks are made out of alpaca (for softness) and wool (for warmth). The more I wash them, the softer they get!

My socks are made out of alpaca (for softness) and wool (for warmth). The more I wash them, the softer they get!

I got to visit C Squared Alpacas (a.k.a. C2 Alpacas) in Black Forest several times as part of a contract with the Colorado Department of Tourism.  Owners Chris and Christiann Schade wanted an agritourism marketing plan (which is something Hungry Chicken Homestead does for a living) and I … well, I wanted to pet an alpaca!

My wish was granted!  The C2 alpacas are friendly, silly and very, very soft when you pet them.

My wish was granted! The C2 alpacas are friendly, silly and very, very soft when you pet them.

Chris and Christiann know just about everything about alpacas, from their origins to how to make beautiful clothes & artwork from their fur.

Other animals live on the ranch too, like this llama and a pony who gives pony cart rides.

Other animals live on the ranch too, like this llama and a pony who gives pony cart rides.

You can visit the ranch on Saturdays and Sundays.  If you bring children, they can enjoy pony cart rides, taking an alpaca through an obstacle course and, of course, petting the alpacas.  Homeschoolers can make appointments for tours and educational experiences by calling the ranch.

The alpacas seem to enjoy the petting too.

The alpacas seem to enjoy the petting too.

Adults won’t be left out when visiting.  Chris has a wealth of knowledge about raising alpacas and you can buy animals to start your own herd.  He also raises the Maremma guardian dogs who protect the alpaca herd.

And Christiann is an artist who can teach you about felting with their big wet felting and dry felting machines!

Fiber art is well represented in the Fancy Fiber Farmstand on the property where you can buy alpaca hats, stunningly soft alpaca sweaters and my personal favorite, the alpaca-wool socks!  If you’re out holiday shopping anyway, why not include alpaca-petting in your plans and do some of the shopping at the farmstand?

(I’ll tell you why.  Because some people just end up buying soft socks for themselves.  That’s why!)

This alpaca is scolding me for forgetting to take pictures of the machines.  They are impressive!

This alpaca is scolding me for spending all my money on socks.

The Schades have big plans for their ranch.  Keep your eyes open for opportunities to stay in a Bed & Breakfast on their beautiful Black Forest property.  They also plan to offer wet felting and dry felting classes, as well as educational events for homeschoolers.

Everyone is welcome on the weekends, as this Maremma Dog is so beautifully expressing.

Everyone is welcome on the weekends, as this Maremma Dog is so beautifully expressing.

Visit their website or call the ranch at (719) 339-5229 for information.  It’s only about a 45 minute drive from downtown Colorado Springs and a lovely way to spend an afternoon.  You’ll come home with lots of soft, happy memories.

And socks.

***

©Hungry Chicken Homestead 2014

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Colorado Springs Local Business: PeakMed Primary Care

I arrived at 9:33 (I was late).  And I left at 10:48.  What did I do while I was there?

I checked in.  I waited three minutes.  And then I spent an hour talking to the doctor.

And I wasn't even sick!

And I wasn’t even sick!

You read that right.  I visited PeakMed Primary Care just to visit with the doctor and decide if I wanted to be a patient at this Primary Care clinic.  And he talked with me for an hour.

I asked Dr. Mark Tomasulo how this was possible and he explained how PeakMed does business.

You join PeakMed the way you would join a gym.  They charge you every month and you go whenever you want.

You join PeakMed the way you would join a gym. They charge you every month and you go whenever you want.

You see, doctors don’t really like the current system with insurance either.  Most primary care physicians became doctors because they wanted to help people maintain their health and that’s difficult to do when you have to see 35 patients a day just to support your insurance-billing infrastructure.  Insurance requires a lot of paperwork and doctors offices pay people to support that paperwork.  It’s expensive and none of that really makes anyone healthier, plus it puts a lot of pressure on the doctors to earn enough money to pay for all the infrastructure needed just to get paid.

Seems like a crazy system when you think about it that way, doesn’t it?

Dr. Tomasulo thinks so.  He moved to Colorado Springs with his family to start a different kind of practice.  It basically works like this:

1.  You sign up and give them a credit card number.  The clinic charges you a fixed rate every month, just like the gym or the newspaper.

2.  You are assigned a doctor and that person is your doctor as long as you’re a member of the clinic.

3.  When you want to see the doctor, you can email him or call the office to set up an appointment.

4.  When you don’t want to see the doctor, but you have a medical question, you can call him on the phone, just like he was a regular guy.  Or you can email him.

A friend of mine who is also a PeakMed member related a story of emailing the doctor a picture of a mild injury her son had sustained.  She received advice via telephone and never had to set foot in the office!  I love that!

5.  If you need medication, PeakMed orders it for you.  Dr. Tomasulo told me they charge the patient whatever the medication costs them.  As I’m sure you’re aware, they are allowed to charge extra and many practices and pharmacies do.  This is a huge financial benefit to being a member if you take any regular medication.

6.  When you don’t want to be a member anymore, you call and tell them to stop billing you.

It's ridiculously simple and kind of old fashioned.

It’s ridiculously simple and kind of old fashioned.

I thought about all this today when I stopped by to pick up a prescription.  My doctor, Dr. Eric Hetzel, was at the desk when I came in and I mentioned that I thought I might be getting a cold.

“Oh, come on back!”, he said.  We headed back to an exam room where he determined that I am not getting a cold.  And then we spent fifteen minutes discussing how best to keep from getting colds and whether I get enough rest after CrossFit and several other things I had been wondering about.

I took this picture in the lab just before they drew some blood for me one day.

I took this picture in the lab just before they drew some blood for me one day.

Check out the clinic and do it in the next week or two.  The insurance Open Enrollment period is right now, which means you might be able to save money by joining PeakMed and choosing a high-deductible insurance plan.  You can call them at 719-460-2159 or email Dr. Mark at drmark@peakmed.md to set up a visit.

Just be sure to give yourself enough time.

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©Hungry Chicken Homestead 2014

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