safe house for hens

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We have worked very hard this week.  We finally made a huge yard for our chickens.  After two years of them pooping on our porch, and all over the concrete barn, they are fenced in.  They are still free-ranging by definition.  The decision will also make it safer for them and easier for us.

I went back and forth about this.  I wanted them to roam, but I wanted them to stay out of my garden too.  They had free-range on our whole twenty-acres, then five, but they never utilized more than a hundred foot areas anyhow.  So space didn’t seem as important anymore.  Safety was also a concern.

There are many, many coyotes where we live.  We hear packs of them almost every night.  The hens now have a yard within a yard.  Double safe.  Now that they are laying solely in the coop, our Pyrenees dog Leia cannot eat their eggs.  That’s her favorite.

She is 100% trust-worthy with the hens, but boy does she love eggs.  She is patrolling happily, and making the safety of our animals even more secure.  She is a sweet and clumsy thing, but her bark is ferocious; she knows those coyotes are bad news.

The kids find it more convenient to check eggs when they know exactly where they’ll be.  Those hens used to lay everywhere.  In the hay, in the coop, in the back of Nick’s truck, in buckets, in twine, everywhere.  Easter egg hunts loose their excitement when everyday is hunting day.

Guess what?  I can now plant flowers to my heart desire too.  Things are always coming along here at the farm.  What improvements have you made lately?

humble homesteading: unexpected tractor

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Mr. Nick, the unexpected farmer was gifted a tractor.  Yes, free.  He can already imagine himself doing all sorts of projects.  His excitement has been dulled by the integrity of the mechanics.  He has worked every spare moment trying to get it to perfect running conditions.  It’s runs, but not well.  He’s been employing the advice from friends and family.  What a blessing this gift is for us.  We were thinking of buying one in about six years.  I like those sorts of plans getting changed.

With most hours devoted to this endeavor, I’ve been on my own with my thoughts.  This is a dangerous thing for me.  I’ve mostly been thinking about what to plant and where.  When, too.  He’s been busy like a regular kid in the candy store.  I’ve been thinking too much with no husband to dump my every idea on.  So, I’ll dump on you instead.

First, these chickens need their own big yard.  We’re all tiring of the poop on the porch.  They’ll have a huge yard.  Don’t worry about that.  I can hardly wait.  I haven’t had flowers planted yet, since those little feather fluffs like to dust themselves in my pots.

My next quandary is what to plant in the garden yard and what to plant next to the house.  Have you a herb garden?  Nick suggests next to the house for easy picking, but I know the fragrances are good insect repellents.  Have you tried herbs as repellents before?  Do they truly help?

The Winter is over, and I feel so behind the farming tasks.  Tilling and weeding and planting have barely started.  I’m feeling the pressure to get things into the ground.  I have many seeds to go through.  It’s time to make some decisions.

I made an impulsive purchase of strawberry roots the other day.  I find myself wondering where I want a permanent patch.  Don’t impulsively buy perennials.  I have eighty onion bulbs and some herbs into the ground now.  Yay!

What are you planting?  Perhaps nothing if you live East.  I for one am feeling that I’m a bit behind.  This Winter has been the warmest I’ve ever experienced.  I pray the summer won’t be brutal.  Lord knows, as soon as I get everything in, we’re going to need some good rain to keep it alive.

 

 

redeem your dirty laundry

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I can’t tell you how often I see people complaining about others “airing out” their dirty laundry.  Many of those same complainers are themselves doing the same.  Whether it’s a complaint about a spouse or friend on Facebook, or a conversation about co workers over coffee, stop airing and start washing!

Seriously, why would anyone literally air out dirty laundry?  Do you know how much time it takes to hang clothes on the laundry line?  Why waste your time?  They are no cleaner, and not a bit less work.

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Redeem your laundry.  Instead of airing out dirty laundry, wash it in the blood of The Lamb.  Cleanse it once and for all.  Fold that up and put it away!  Wear it with confidence, knowing it’s clean.  Don’t wear your clothes to show off either.  It’s not so much, “Look what I did.  I’m clean.”  It’s more like, “God created the water I washed these in, provided the money for the soap and clothes, then he gave me the idea to wash it.”

Forgiveness is a sacrifice of love.  God is love.  True and total forgiveness comes only by the strength and power God gives.

There will always be someone who has or will offend.  Period.  Some of you have been deeply and forever wounded.  Jesus can redeem even that.  Do you trust Him?

Forgive others, for He first forgave you.  Stop spreading the rumors, no matter how true or false.  Be the first to forgive and the last to harbor bitterness.

Can we make an earnest prayer to redeem our laundry?  No more slighting our spouse, complaining about our kids, telling everyone how horrible our boss is, posting petty murmurings on Facebook, and going “off” on tangents.

It’s very unbecoming.  It’s harmful to ourselves and those around us.

Trust me, I’m guilty as well.  It’s so easy to air it out and call it clean.  I want to take the extra effort to offer the sacrifice of love.  To cleanse.

Philippians 4:8

Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things

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What a breath of fresh air that would be.  

how small children do chores

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IMG_1304 IMG_1307The blurriness of these pictures drives me crazy.  That said, it couldn’t be helped.  Josie would not, for any reason, sit still.

The point is, children doing chores is messier and takes longer than you doing the same thing.  It must be done though.  We want them to clean up after themselves when they grow up right?  The only way to learn is to make a mess first.  I guess.  I do wish it weren’t this way, but alas, it is.  

This is Josie putting her bedroom trash into a bag.  Yeah.  Someone didn’t put a bag in before they filled it with trash.  That someone will go unnamed.  

It wasn’t an adult.

Raising young ones is tough on this recovering OCD mom.  I’m self diagnosed by the way.  Wed MD has saved me many trips to the doctor.    

Let go mamas.  By mamas, I mean one mama.  Me.

After all, Isn’t parenting about teaching?  If I do it, she learns nothing.  

If she does it, she learns that making a mess is fun not fun.  She will learn to be a productive member of the family.  Helpful, responsible, orderly are words she will live by.  At least, that’s what I’m telling myself.

What are you letting go of?  

humble homesteading: soapmaking

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IMG_1296 IMG_1298I’m no expert when it comes to soapmaking.  I made four batches a year and a half ago.  Only two turned out well.  That gave us 30 bars of soap.  I noticed a couple of weeks ago that we only had 5 bars left.  So, this week brought on my annual soapmaking frenzy.

If you want to learn all I know about soapmaking, check out Soap Queen TV and Bramble Berry for supplies.

Four things I’ve learned are non-negotiable with making cold-process soap.

One- You must have a scale.  Must.  Measuring volume is way off.  This is why I had 50% success last time.

Two- Patience.  Lots of it.  It took me an hour to stir each batch.  Best done while listening to Pandora.

Three- Thermometers and Lye Calculators are your friend.  Exact temp are imperative. So are Lye amounts. This can make or break it.

Four- Keep the kids away.  Naptime, bedtime are great times to make soap.  It can be dangerous.  If you’re hollering at kids the whole time, the fun is lost for you.

I am so pleased with the success of these 3 batches I made this week.  One didn’t turn out.  That compelled me to finally get a scale.  This is the third scale I’ve bought in four years.  I’m hiding it from children’s reach this time.

All was not lost though.  I grated it up.  I’ll be using it for laundry soap.

Have you ever made soap?  What are your favorite resources and recipes?  I used the “Lots of Lather” recipe from Bramble Berry.

yarn along

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Click the above button to link up with Small Thing’s Yarn Along.

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It’s been a while. I honestly haven’t been knitting as much as usual.  When I have, it’s been on a buttoned-up version of my “Stripe the Squares, Baby!” pattern.  I’m excited to offer this for sale in the future.  My knitting skills have improved greatly over the last four years.  I can’t wait to share the new version.

Books, well, haven’t been read too much lately.  Do you count organic body care books?  Beekeeping books?  Elementary school books on space?  Oh, well then.  I guess I’ve been reading quite a bit.  I did get Little Men from the library.  I hope to start that tonight.  My babies have been so sick lately, it’s been hard to do anything leisurely.

What’s on your needles/hook?  What are you reading?  I do love a great book list.

humble homesteading: heritage breed pigs

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We’ve done it again.  We now have four happy pigs at the farm.  They are Large Blacks.  We had a hard time finding a heritage breed close to us.

These pictures were taken in the first few days of us having them.  They weren’t used to a hyper lady trying to get up in their faces with a big, black, scary camera yet.  Perhaps they never will warm up to that idea.

If you recall, we’ve done this before.  It was a bit of a nightmare.  We were inexperienced and naive.

I’m not concerned about these guys getting out this time around.  We had quite the time getting our operation under control when we had pigs a couple of years ago.  This was solely due to farmer-error.  I’m not saying we’re experts now, I’m just saying we have a better plan than we had before.

The last plan was to make a pen…the night before I picked up the little devils.  This plan was more along the lines of making an impermeable fortress.  What a difference!

The problem with pigs getting out of their area it that the eat everything.  Dog food, chicken food, goat grain, eggs, jack-o-lanterns- everything.  Seriously, everything.  All things eatable.  That costs us around $20 every time they got out.  Crazy expensive pork.

It was delicious though.

That’s why we have them again.  The suffering and expense was worth it.  The first bacon we had we said aloud, “We’re doin’ this again!”

The farm is filling up again.  I’m so thankful for all we have and do here.  It’s so much work sometimes, but it’s a good sort.

yarn along

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~ Two of my favorite things are knitting and reading, and the evidence of this often shows up in my photographs.  I love seeing what other people are knitting and reading as well. So, what are you knitting or crocheting right now? What are you reading? Take a photo and share it either on your blog or on Flickr. Leave a link below to share your photo with the rest of us! ~

From Small Things

IMG_1227 IMG_1218This week, I’ve busied myself with pattern writing.  I can’t quite share them yet, but soon enough you’ll see my surprises. I’m still reading The Buried Book.  I still know I’m a nerd.  I’m okay with that.  Join the yarn along!

humble homesteading: catching up

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IMG_1244 IMG_1249 IMG_1238 IMG_1234 IMG_1232 IMG_1226 IMG_1225 IMG_1219We’ve all been scurrying around lately.  Though we’ve enjoyed winter weather in the 70s, the last load of firewood needed cutting and stacking.  Certainly, the sound of a chainsaw will forever remind me of my cousin.  That builds up emotions.  I found myself in the perfect place for emotional outlet.  Pulling weeds.  Still.

The toddlers “helped” with this.  Half of the onions are planted, along with a bit of garlic.  Most of a second garden bed has been freed of the entangled, cursed grasses.  My hands are blistered, but by golly, we shall have onions and garlic.

We enjoyed some gluten-free pumpkin spice muffins.  Pumpkin from the garden taste better, do they not?  I have four more gallons to use before the next planting begins.  Perhaps we don’t need ten plants this year.

Our ladies (goats) are swelling.  There is just nothing more pleasing to me than assisting in the births.  It’s so precious.  It’s also a gooey mess, but in a wonderful way.  We are all excited to have milk again.  Last year’s season was cut short.  This year we plan on expanding to cheeses and such.

The farm is rearing and ready.  I can’t believe it’s still Winter though.  Will it ever get cold here?  This knitting mama gets robbed of wearing woolins far too much.

How’s your Winter?

humble homesteading: plans and dreams

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Oh, Winter.  The time here on the farm to make plans for the rest of the year.  We have some grand plans for this year.  Gathering knowledge these past (almost) two years has been beneficial.  We have wanted to jump into everything, but thought it better to bide our time.  We finally have a way to get a beef cow.  We are preparing for honey bees.  The pasture has a plan for expansion for more goats.  The chickens are gearing up for their very own yard.  And (Lord help us) we’re making calls to buy pigs again. Many talks have happened here.  The funding is seeming to come through.  Nick has side jobs one after another.

Our neighbors who have had many head of cattle in the past have offered to host one cow of ours.  This is grand news since we haven’t ventured that far due to fence mending we need to do.  Nick is as happy as a clam.  How ever happy that is.

I’ve read no less than four books cover to cover this week on beekeeping.  I stay fascinated by bees.  They are intriguing creations.  I have a feeling they will teach us all some important lessons.  I’ve made calls to local pros and really honed in on the Africanized Bee dilemma.  I am making plans on the best ways to keep them from invading our future colony.  While they really aren’t as scary as the movies dipict, there are reasons why they can be.  We will be keeping bees on our property.  That calls for extra measures of caution.  Any breed of bee can do damage to people and livestock to the point of death.  This is rare.  It can also be nearly preventable by being observant and educated Apiarists.  I don’t take this topic lightly.

Nick has spent the better part of a particularly restless night planning the expansion of our goat pen.  We want our ladies on pasture as soon as we have the funds for the materials.  We are also getting real serious about keeping another one-two girls this year.  We just never seem to have enough milk between ourselves and customers.  I really want to venture into selling goat milk products (soap, cheese ect) this season.  More milk please!

Bottom line with the chickens– I’m done with them pooping on my porch.  They’re getting a nice big yard this year.  Just last week we were late to the library because a certain tiny girl placed her special box on the porch steps while making her way to the car.  I can’t accurately describe the wailing that ensued when she discover it was covered in chicken poop.  Ahhh, the things you never think of when you start a farm from scratch.

This brings us to the pig talk.  I am semi-confident they won’t get out of their pen this year.  Semi.  We’ve learned not to make definitive statements when it comes to this topic.  The plan is do get 4-5 pigs and sell meat this year.  With all the hub-bub going on about pig illness on the East coast, we think the demand will be good for us.  I’m on the search for Heritage Breeds in our area.  Just pray.  Pigs are all they said to be in movies and books.  Except Wilber.  Wilber was a good pig.

Do you have plans and dreams?  Move forward.  These plans are subject to change depending on the provision and direction of God.  We pray and think plenty before we make plans, however we know who’s running this homestead.  We try to stay humble as we keep that in mind.

yarn along

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From Small Things:

~ Two of my favorite things are knitting and reading, and the evidence of this often shows up in my photographs.  I love seeing what other people are knitting and reading as well. So, what are you knitting or crocheting right now? What are you reading? Take a photo and share it either on your blog or on Flickr. Leave a link below to share your photo with the rest of us! ~  


IMG_1212I’m still knit one little row at a time on my Canary hat.  This week’s book is The Buried Book.  I’ve just cracked it open, but I’m really into the concept.  It’s like a buried treasure story; all about a book.  History nerd alert!

What’s on your needles and shelf this week?  Join the yarn along fun!

it’s not about the notepad

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When you first bring home a little bundled up infant, you can never really know how much your life will change.  I took to some of the changes easily.  There were still other adjustments that took much more time.  I still feel like I’m adjusting.  Yesterday I had a break down of pitiful note.  I knew it was silly.  I knew it didn’t matter.  I realized I finally answered a question I’ve asked myself for years, “Why can’t I have anything nice?”  I mean, why can I not have things that kids don’t mess up?  I don’t have the answer yet.

I’m about to be candid with you.  I am not perfect.  I have so many flaws.  I am daily grateful for fresh starts.  Sunday, I showed myself just how petty and selfish I am.  After church we came home, ate lunch, and started preparing for dinner guests.  I went to the store while some stayed home and napped, and others tidied up the yard and house. When the groceries were put away, I strapped on my apron and started to get busy.

The bathroom needed Airwick refills and cleaning.  Done.  The floors needed sweeping; even though I did it twice yesterday.  Done.  The kids needed to pick up their rooms.  This was attracting some resistance.  I needed some coffee.  I looked out the kitchen window to see shoes left on the ground.  I didn’t dare interrupt the small amounts of progress the kids were making in the room.  I went and fetched them myself.  That’s when I saw it.  There in the dirt, disassembled, written on with permentant marker, in a certain child’s writing; my special little notepad– ruined!  There were still salvageable pages, but it was no longer in perfect condition.

I fought anger, which turned into saddness.  I was actually ready to cry about my notepad.  I walked in the house and just handed it to Nick.  I leaned against him and then I did cry.  Parenting is the most humbling experience.  I never knew how hard it would be.  Everything changes.

Maybe you’re thinking that I over-reacted.  I agree.  I know it was a combination of hormones, exhaustion, and emotional over-load.  Not to mention my regular self.  It wasn’t about the notepad.  It was about that feeling of being completely out-of-control.  I have no control over my stuff.  I try, but children don’t always listen.  Since we’re dealing with so many personalities it’s inevitable.  Things will go array.  They simply will.

Let’s remember here that in less than thirty minutes we were about to have dinner guests!

I don’t always cry, but when I do it’s the worst possible moment and over the dumbest things.  In this case we have a notepad that happened the last straw.

I went to the bathroom and looked myself in the face.  Obsurd. Red-eyed puffy-faced mess.  Sitting on the toilet I prayed to God.  Give my the strength to endure. I know this is so stupid.  Help me get over my selfishness.  Things don’t matter this much.  Don’t let me shame and scold (the child) but make it a kind teaching.  I soaked my face with cold water.

Exit me.  Enter said child.

Thankfully I pulled it together and was able to loving explain how taking others’ property is not respectful.  Not asking is like stealing ect.  I was also, by God’s grace, able to get over it. This is not my first response normally.  I have a tendency to react instead of direct.  I share this story for a purpose.

Things huge and minuscule happen to all of us.  It’s so easy to give into our emotions and act out.  God’s plan is so much better.  He wants to teach us and grow us.  He wants us to forgive and love and teach those around us.  Mom’s need to have to focus of service and love in their child’s lives.  We all make mistakes.  Treating our children from the perspective of teaching and loving helps us tremendously.  It helps the ones we need to approach even more.

Will you join me?  I want us to look ourselves in the face before we act.  I’m going to walk up to the mirror and look at myself a lot.  When I’m angry, flippant, sad about silly things;  what do I look like to the one I’m about to approach?  Do I look like a loving teacher?  Is there any Christ coming out?  Do I need to sit on the toilet and have a praying time-out?  Do you?  Let’s serve our homes in love.

It’s not about the notepad.  It’s about what we do with the torn up pieces.

yarn along

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It’s time for another yarn along folks.

This week’s knit is yet another of my Canary patterns.  CLICK HERE FOR THE LINK Canary.

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What’s on the book shelf?  Still trying to work my way through War and Peace.  I’m also reading Platform by Michael Hyatt.  I can’t remember if I’ve ever read a self-help book before.  With Josie’s book in the works I needed some direction for promotion and such.

It’s a great book.  I still can’t wait to get back to pleasure reading.

Haven’t finished The Mission of Motherhood yet, either.  I kinda plateaued at chapter 5.  She said a few things that came off wrong to me.  She gave an example of how her kids sometimes comment about other children’s behaviors in public.  They say things like, “Why would that child act that way.”  She responds by saying they aren’t trained correctly.  She brags about how well-behaved her kids are, implying their behaviors are mostly great– that may be.  It’s just felt a little judgmental and arrogant.  I’m sure that wasn’t the intention, but my own kids have been on both sides of the fence.

I’ve been complemented, and I’ve gotten stares of disapproval.

Telling your child you know why another kid acts badly isn’t right.  You just never really know what’s going on in a family.  It’s been hard for me to get back into it after reading that.

She does have very great points in earlier chapters.  I do want to finish.  I just need to get back to the right perspective on this.

I really appreciate how she conveys the serventhood side of mothering.  It’s easy for me to become selfish as a mother.  I mean why do the little dears pick the worst days to act up?  When I’m unusually tired, ambitious about cleaning or sick it seems like a WWF match here.  Lol.

I take parenting books with a grain of salt.  I mostly just like to pray about the ideas that I think will work for our family.  They are tools, not scriptures.  The Bible always trumps what any human can offer me.

What are you reading or making?  Comment here or link up at Small Things.

humble homesteading: preparing the garden

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This week I’ve tried to prepare the garden.  I say “tried” since the duck weed and crab grass are the bane of my garden.  I refuse to use round-up or other chemicals. Sometimes I regret my conscience.  I just can’t do it!  I know it’s wrong.

I’ve raked and pulled, and felt the reality of The Curse.  Thanks Genesis for giving me a person to blame.  Yeah, I know, pathetic.  It’s just help to randomly shout, “Thanks a lot Adam and Eve,” as blisters form on your hands.  It’s therapeutic.

Somewhere in this mess are three garden beds.

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We did all we knew last year to prevent this from happening.  We mowed and weed whacked all around the beds often.  We put that black screen stuff in the bottom and sides of the beds to prevent this.  It happened anyways.  Why?!  I don’t know.  That stuff is just brutal.

Homesteading is humbling.  I never knew the depths of exhaustion I could feel from weeds.  I look forward to planting onions and garlic in a lush garden bed soon.

I’m closing my eyes and dreaming of that now.  *It’s so pretty and yummy*

Yes, that will keep me in that darn bed removing that network of intruders that are trying to make me quit.

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Here’s what it looked like when the raking was done.  Not much better huh?  Now I’ll be soaking the weeds a few more times to loosen the roots.  This is the best tip for digging holes and pulling weeds.  Soak the junk out of it!

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What are you planning for your garden?  Lets dream about weeds disappearing together, shall we?

you’re votes count here!

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Thank you, thank you for each vote!  The winning category is; homesteading adventures and tips.

This weekly segment will be “Humble Homesteading”.  It will feature what we’re up to, planning, and reading in regards to farming.  I will also post linked information and tips. I’m excited to share regularly on this topic.

Check back tomorrow for the first post in this segment.

Thanks for voting.  Thanks for reading.  You are a great bunch of people.

weekend poll: it’s up to you

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If you have followed this blog for any amount of time, you’ll notice how vastly different the topics are.  Part of that is because that is who I am.  I am involved with several things all at once.  I’m reining it in a bit this year.  I want your help.  What topic would you like covered every week?

I will post all the topics from time to time.

You are the reader, you have to say.  The winning topic by the end of Monday will be a weekly feature.  I’m so excited to have your help.  Without you, what would I do?

If you’re new to the blog, you vote as well!

You can select up to three categories.  Have fun, and I’ll see you next week to announce and blog the new feature!

the peace is coming back

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We completed week one of homeschool.  Since the kids were in school we had very little calm or peace in the home.  We are finally getting some of that back.  The workboxes are working great.  

Isabel is back to her creative chef skills.  She’s made dinner, breakfast, and cupcakes.  She has become more affectionate towards me as well.  I see the biggest stress relief with her.

Even the dog looks at peace in this picture.  Never mind that he still tries to chase the UPS guy down the road.  He loves all the kids around him, that counts right?

There adjustments going on here.  For the most part, things are much smoother than they have been.  I’m thankful for that.  Everyday I can see things getting more and more fluid.  This family is getting back to “normal”.  However a “normal” farming family of seven who homeschools looks, that’s what we’re aiming for.  Our normal.

What have you been up to this week?  

multi-leveled and non-consumable curriculum

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We are starting up the New Year with all kids back into homeschooling.  Tomorrow is going to be our first day back.  I certainly have ideals as far as curriculum goes, but we’re filling in blanks here.  This is the plan for the rest of this school year.

One thing I have decided from here on out, is to buy non-consumable curriculum when possible.  Multi-level and non-consumable is an ideal.  I wish that existed in every subject.  It doesn’t.

I have loved and enjoyed Jac Kris Publishing for all our language for the last three years.  Sadly, I just don’t want to have that annual cost anymore.  I have landed on Rod and Staff for writing and grammar.  I’m excited to see how that works out.  Isabel will be the first to try.  We still have enough of the older curriculum for the rest of the little ones this year.

Saxon math is so great.  I love the daily review, and the self-teaching style of new concepts.  I still go through the lesson with each child, but if they forget a part or just need to see it again everything is laid out.  There are daily drills, which I think is very important.  Repetition is a great tool.  There is a need to buy the workbooks each year, but the texts are reusable.  I like this math so much.  I’m willing to buy the workbooks each year.

I had bought Apoligia Science during the summer and we never used it.  We are all eager to start the Astronomy book.  I love that this is multi-level.  We are not buying the notebooks, so it’s also non-consumable.  We will just use a composition book, and make our own.

Geography will be light, but we’re going to start the Expedition Earth from Confessions of a Homeschooler.  I chose World Geography so that we can pick out countries that are directly in-line with what we’ll be learning in History.  This covers most grades.  It’s consumable.  I will need to print activity pages for each child.

Mystery of History Volume One will be coming our way soon.  I’m beyond thrilled to start this.  It goes chronologically mixing Biblical and secular history.  I can’t tell you how great this is to me.  Talk about relieving the confusion between these two, and showing the relationship of them.  This is also multi-level and non-consumable, K-12.  There are four volumes in all.  From creation to the capture and death of Bin Laden.

Spelling Power is also a K-12 Spelling book, non-consumable.  I plan on getting that as soon as the budget allows.  There are worksheet to print occasionally.

What are your favorite curriculum picks for multi-level teaching?  Have you tried any of the mentioned picks?  What did you like or not like about them?

Pass the coffee and chocolate.  I’m a full-time teacher again.

5 winter knits: a linked pattern list

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Knitting.  I love it.  Unfortunately the winters here are so very mild.  My kids are playing outside without jackets right now.  It’s January.  I sometimes I feel like I have a love affair with the wrong craft.

I cannot recover though.  I refuse.  So, I knit and I knit.  Here’s a linked list to free patterns I wish I could justify spending the time knitting.  Perhaps you knit or know someone who does and it’s quite cold where you live.  Good for you.  Here are some marvelous patterns I want to share.

:: Drop Stitch Cowl by Spider Woman Knits

:: Antifreeze by Knitty

:: Laura’s Cowl (hooded) by Red Heart

:: Bulky Cabled Leg Warmers by Knit Freedom

:: Moss Stitch Headband by Drops Designs

resolutions you won’t break

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People like I set resolutions this time if year. Last year Mine was to buy more active wear and be inactive in it.  I’m serious, and I did that.  But then I broke my goal and took up running.  Do you sense a theory here?  I set a goal I knew I could reach, and then I realized I’m made of more than that.  What I love I must do.  I need goals to reach, and setting real goals is important to me this year; more than any other year.

We should all set the goal of moving forward.  Whatever you have dreamed of doing and have never done, why not give it a shot?  When I was a teenager I first believed myself a writer.  I never knew if I was very good or not; all I knew is that every word I wrote needed to be as true and real as I could make it.

I have never stopped writing.  Even after I became a Christian and my writing changed dramatically, it never stopped.  I just love it, and I just need it.  I have to write whether anyone cares, whether or not I’m great at it, whether or not I feel like it.  I must write because I’m a writer.

My resolutions, goals, whatever you want to label them include making some solid plans.  I want something to reach for, even if it feels impossible or too hard.  Dreams are only made true by taking action.

1.  Get Josie’s book published- However this happens, I’m spending this year to focus on this.

2.  Keep blogging- 2-3 times a week is my goal:  Be consistent and have something worthy to say.

3.  Keep writing- about everything

4.  Make homeschooling more fun- patience is usually the key here; along with a sacrificial perspective.

5.  Expand the farm- time to take it up a notch around here

What are your goals?  Write them down and make them real.  Don’t hid your gifts, talents and interests.  God created us the way he did for a reason.  What’s yours? When you’re passionate about it, you won’t give up.

josie bean books

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It seems like forever since I penned the first words of the series, Josie Bean Books.  Finally after over a year of tweaking and being timid about putting myself and book “out there”, I have finally submitted the first book to agents.

Lots of prayers and and dreams have gone into the writing of these children’s books about our very own Josie.  The whole purpose of the series is to bring awareness and recognition to the dwarfism community, while capturing Josie’s sassy personality.  There are no other books like it on the market.  None.  In fact I wrote them because I saw a void in the market.  How could author have written about everything except this?  It’s amazing how much we humans have not figured out yet.

I certainly have done much research on different ways to go about publishing.  After completeing the manuscript, I feel like that was the easy part.  Figuring out a market I only now the bookstore end of has been daunting.  It’s overwhelming how many companies are out there, and how many ways to publish there are.

I have decided the best thing for these books is traditional publishing.  First, I need an agent.  Then the agent gets me a book deal.  They do all the work, and I pay nothing out-of-pocket.  This is the best case scenario.  If this doesn’t happen, I will look into the many facets of self-publishing.

I have learned one thing.  Patience is a very hard virtue.

According to several sites, I need to build myself a good following of people who know me and support this idea.  Will you please be one of them?  I would very much appreciate all the support I can get.  “Like” Josie Bean Books on Facebook.  Please follow my Twitter account.  Most importantly, keep checking back here for updates on the process as they come in.

You have been so kind to stay with me all these years.  Don’t stop now.  Thank you so very much for being around and supporting this cause.

{this moment}

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{this moment}

A Friday ritual. A single photo – no words – capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember. If you’re inspired to do the same, leave a link to your ‘moment’ in the comments for all to find and see.

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Inspired by soulemama.

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workboxes: get rid of the whining in the classroom

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A few of the sites I love for free homeschooling printables keep talking about Workboxes.  I hadn’t ventured into finding out what that meant until recently.  So, I ordered Sue Patrick’s Workboxes; A User’s Guide last week.  I read the book in about three hours.  I am so excited about using them.  Let me tell you why.

They give children a visual motivation to get through school.  They can easily see how much they have left and what it is.  No whining about that.

Everything is organized and tidy.  No tearing apart the house for materials needed at the last minute, or children wandering around “looking” for things.  These both waste time.

Things that we would never get to such as art, science experiments, games, ect, are part of the boxes.  We won’t be skipping anything ever again.  There was time for those things, just not the motivation for the children to get through the essentials in order to have extra time.  I felt we were always waiting on someone to get done, and no one ever seemed to do that quickly enough.

This system teaches self-motivation.  It gives one on one time with mom for those who need it.  Everyone has scheduled time with mom instead of running from kid to kid to kid.  No one waits for mom either.  If she’s busy, work on the next box until she’s done.

I have done tot trays/busy bags for Desmond, and this is a more structured version.  If I need to have him working independently I can set the timer for how long he’s needs to do each box.

It’s very easy to have everyone gather for group subjects, without disrupting their work.  When we’re done everyone goes back to their box.  Easy-peasy.

I’m really excited about implementing this system in our schoolroom in January. Josie an Desmond have been doing this for a couple weeks already.  Desmond stays contented while I do one on one with Josie, and vise-versa.  

How will I start this amazing system?

I love the 10-drawer rolling carts.  Sue Patrick suggests a shoe rack and bins for each child.  I don’t like the look and I don’t have the space.  I pinned some inventive ideas onto my Pintrest Board; along with a video tutorial.  

I have chosen the drawers for our permanent system; unfortunately, I need four full systems and one toddler version.  These are on my wish list for each child. These are too expensive for me to buy at once.  We will slowing get them for each child.  Maybe one a month.  

I love that they roll.  We don’t have a separate school room anymore, but we do have a massive closet we put all our books and supplies in.  These can easily come out to the kitchen table and roll right back in and out-of-the-way when school’s done.

For now, I have Josie set up in the few random things we had already, and Desmond has his own section on shelves.  Not the prettiest, but it is the cheapest :)  Setting up our temporary systems has been going on these last two weeks.  I’m preparing for the three older to come home from public school.

I am going to put the older three children’s systems in a plastic crate.  I happen to have three of those already.  This is my favorite example of the workbox system using file boxes.  As we get going on school, I will decide who needs the most motivation/organization  and get their rolling cart first.

The logic behind the system is to keep kids motivated to finish by putting fun activities ans snacks ect. into boxes that follow harder or less excited boxes.  I really urge you to read what others have posted about this system.  If you decide to buy the book, used will do.  You don’t get the access to the printables, but dozens of bloggers have made their own and offer them for free.  Endless creative designs are available.  I pinned some free printable examples on to the Pinterest Board.

If you feel your children are always asking when they’ll be done, saying it’s boring, or are very s l o w at school, this system, or one like it, could be your answer.

Do you use this system?  What do you do differently from the book?

can you relate?

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I feel our horizons have broadened since we’ve lived on the farm. Some of you may romantize the farm life. Perhaps your dream is to live in a farm of your own someday. You dream of scrambling up eggs you just collected, and enjoying some ice cream made from the milk of your own goat. You can’t wait to never buy produce from the store again, since you’ll have so much canned from your own garden to get you through the dry seasons.

I was like you once.

While many of these things have happened here, they come with reality checks and lots of hard work. We certainly love our life here, but I thought I’d share some of the more bizarre, funny, and strange things that no book can prepare you for. It’s not just our chores that have changed here either, it’s the way we think too.

One of Desmond’s first phases was, “Hey goats.” Not the usual you’ve experienced, huh?  It’s even possible that most people have never said this in their whole lives.

Olivia our little princess stated one night at dinner, “Is this our pig? It’s so delicious!”  How many our your princesses would be fine with fresh pork?

Just a few days ago I heard light knocking at the door. I wondered who it was. Nope. Chicken pecking it.

Our children aren’t afraid of the boogie man or people/monsters under the beds and in closets, they’re afraid of coyotes and rattlesnakes.  We have seen and heard plenty of both here.

I can’t be sure how many times I’ve hollered, “Stop throwing goat poop at people!” To a certain couple of boys.

We’ve all become aware that chickens poop everywhere. Watch where you step. Now on the list if weekly chores is scrubbing poo off the porch.

Crying over spilled milk had happened, more than once.  It was me.  After spending much time and energy on milking two does, only to have the last goat kick it over in the last few squirts, I disagree that there’s no use crying about it.

Cats that come with toys are of no use here.  Mousers only, please.

Cleaning out the frig is a chicken’s favorite day.  Nothing goes to waste here.  Now, if you walk out of the house with anything in your hand at all, you’ll be followed by twenty-three hens, one rooster, and three turkeys.  I feel like Snow White in the forest.  Except I can’t sing, the animal don’t help me dust, and we live n the desert.

“Screaming like a stuck pig,” this is for reals.  I haven’t ever heard one actually being hurt, but if it’s anything like the sound they make when you’re trying to shove them back into their pen for the fiftieth time, it’s deafening.

Goat birthing is so exciting and miraculous.  It’s also a gooey mess.  All children process this differently.  Desmond still remembers with excitement the day he saw the baby goats “come out of her butt”.

Isn’t is all so romantic?  Ahh.  I am glad our children have had all these experiences, even if it means that we have to answer the, “Is this our animal?” question at every meal.

If you’re a city person, this may all simply horrify you.  This is our life.  Some can relate, some can’t.

i gave in: homeschool mama confessions, part 2

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First, if you haven’t read Part 1, please do so now.  If you have, welcome back and thanks for reading.

So, our summer wasn’t exactly fun.  It was very stressful.  I did what some may call “soul searching” after returning from a two-week stay up North.  I say this lightly, since I know very well my purpose in life.  Seek and serve Jesus.  I really meant, how am I going to turn this grief into good.  Out of this tragedy, what is God telling me?  What is He calling me to?

During the last 5.5 months, I have done so much growing.  I have gotten zealous for the right things, and the wrong things.  I started running to expel those swirling thoughts right out of my head, and to work off some grief.  I even ran my first 5K. I’ve signed up for college, and then dropped out.  My motivation for that was purely fear (what if Nick dies and leaves me destitute?).  I’ve gardened, pulling weeds is SO therapeutic.  I’ve knit, I’ve sewn, I’ve distracted myself, and I’ve faced myself.

The kids went to school.

I read at least 4 books.

I had my gallbladder removed.

While searching for my next book on my recovery bed, a title caught my eye.  Desparate: for the mom who needs to breath.  Okay, I’ll bite.  I’ve heard of this blogger before so I went for it.  I posted about my review of this book here.  That’s what God used to show me clearly, precisely what I was spending so much time and energy looking for.  The end of chapter three was a concrete wall.  I ran straight into it.  Whack!  God spoke to me, “You gave up.”

I really did.

The tears came.

Why was I searching everywhere for my new fresh purpose?  My children are my purpose.  I suppose I became discontent with that being all.  Can I just say right here, discontentment is very dangerous.  It drives people in such an oppostite direction, then where the Lord is leading.  I’m thankful that I listened when God called me back at this point.  Discontentment can go farther.  Much farther.  I’ve seen it myself, with people I love.

Discontentment drives people into depression, into adultress relationships, into a money-focused lifestyle.  It drives people to leave their family, into selfishness, into addiction, into separation with God.  Our hearts are the limit here, and they are a bottomless pit of SELF.

Jerimiah 17:9 The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?

Please pray if you think this is taking root in your life.

For me, it drove me to send my kids away, and made my personal call to homeschool void.  I was driven to self-service.  I was looking out for number one.  You may or may not be called to homeschool, but I am.  I know I am.

After a month or so of praying and talking with Nick, we’re back to square one.  I have come full-circle on homeschooling.   I have given in to the Holy Spirit’s convictions.  This is the best possible being to give in to.  I have realized that I didn’t need to give up in the first place.  I needed to seek support for the hard times.

Titus 2:4  And so train the young women to love their husbands and children…

I needed some encouragement to persevere.  That’s all.  I hope you have someone in your life who speaks truth to you, who encourages you in your walk with Jesus. Someone who is honest in the difficulties that moms of young children face.

It’s not easy!

As humans, can we just admit our reality?  Our one picture of daily greatness on Facebook or Instagram, doesn’t happen every moment of our lives.  We aren’t picture perfect.  We aren’t perfect at all.  Our clean houses, happy husbands, and well-mannered children take LOTS of hard mundane work- everyday!

Can we also admit that our houses aren’t always clean, our husbands aren’t always happy, and our children can act down-right uncivilized too?

Thank you.  Doesn’t that feel better?

We don’t have it all together.  No one is a supermom!  Some are close, but everyone has struggles.  I have many.

We are all works in progress.  We need each other.  We’re meant to encourage each other.

So, the Garcia kids are finishing this last week of public school.  It will be a nice end, with parties and plays.  Then, in January, the real test comes.  Will I drink a full pot of coffee a day again, after weaning myself to 1-2 cups?  We shall see.

What are your mama struggles?  What do you need a fresh perspective on?  Why have you not read this above book yet?

Persevere friends.  You will be glad you did.  Be honest.  Be who God created you to be.  As a mom, person, dog, or whoever you amazing people who read this are.

Let the planning begin!

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i gave up: homeschool mama confessions part1

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Some of you may have picked up on the fact that we homeschool.  When Isabel was two months into Kindergarten, we decided it wasn’t working for us.  Her heart was changing- being super mean and lashing out at everyone.  She he already knew how to write letters and say their sounds.  We found that ministry and family life was a struggle.  Everything seemed to revolve around a school schedule.  These reasons and more brought us to the decision to homeschool.  We stayed this course for five years.  But, as you will read, things began to fall apart.

I love learning.  When I started out with Isabel, things came easily.  She picked up right away, did every worksheet I gave her quickly, and correctly.  She seemed a natural student.  I saw homeschooling as the best way the teach my children to love learning, just as I did.  So far, the plan was flawless.  Kindergarten was a breeze.  It was peaceful and fun.  Just the was I knew it would be.

*insert moving to another town and starting a church here*

When Andre entered the mix the following year, now K and 1st being taught, things got a bit tougher.  If you have taught 1st, you know there are many foundational skills that every other grade build off.  We still kept at it.  Andre was doing great, and he didn’t need too much one on one.  I had time to focus on Isabel.  We did school during the time that Liv and Josie napped.  That worked out great.

*insert moving into a new house here*

Things started to get much more challenging after that.  Andre was in first and Isabel was in second.  This is the year we had to switch to morning school.  The little girls no longer took two naps.  They needed more play and action in their day.  So, they joined us in the school room.  I felt like I was running around like a chicken with my head cut off.  Things got busy, busy, busy.  I was also pregnant with Desmond.  All I wanted to do was sleep.  Why didn’t everyone else think this was a great idea?

Year three: Andre started early in school and it started to become noticable.  We did 1st and a half with him.  Not quite ready to move on and needed some extra time.  Isabel third grade.  Both starting to need much more explaining in new concepts, and both starting to get complainy.  Too hard, too much, when will it end type stuff.  The girls were a handful and Desmond was an infant.  I flip-flopped between the two.  We implemented having to raise hands and no talking rules.

I ran from toddler to toddler to baby in the school room, trying to keep everyone happy and quiet with toys and books, while keeping myself available to the olders (who did need direct instruction from me for each subject).  It was exhausting.  I did find a good amount of relief through the discovery of “busy bags” for the little ones.  I also added more incentives for the olders, such as candy and tickets for toys if they finished well without complaining.

That year was so, so, busy.  Draining, exhausting, time-consuming, also come to mind.  This is the year I became a very awful housekeeper.  I was so tired by the afternoon, I felt like I was part of the “undead” community.  No matter how many cleaning schedules I printed and posted, I never had enough energy for anything but washing and drying clothes (rarely folding) and cooking.

The following year looked just like this.  I searched for “better” curriculum in efforts to make things more fluid and more fun for everyone.  After about half the year, I realized curriculum wasn’t really the issue.  Great curriculum can make things better, but the same attitudes and exhaustion crept back in.  I longed for a tidy house.  I was embarrassed to have people over, but I loved to have people over. So, they just saw all the mess.

*insert moving to and starting a farm here*

Now, that brings us to last year.  This Part 1 post will paint a picture for the decision we made for our current school year.  First, lets review last year.

Okay, last year looked like this:  Isabel grade 4, Andre grade 2, Olivia K, Josie Pre-K, Desmond wild and crazy.

To say that I “had it” at this point, is an understatement.  I longed to be the fun exciting teacher that makes each child run to the table eager to learn.  The reality is that I was more like the tired, burned-out homeschool mom, who longed for silence and a break from the little dears she so very much loves.  I decided after all these years it was time for some me time.  This was the key to feeling like a human again.

I went to once a month girls night/craft days, took days to myself while Nick watched kids, went shopping alone as much as possible.  Hid in my room during quiet time.  What happened is I fed my selfishness.  I just wanted more me time. I’m not saying these things were bad, I’m saying my heart was bad while doing them.  I wasn’t seeking the spiritual encouragement I needed.  I was escaping from this pressure instead of finding ways to cope with it.

By the end of the school year, with the approaching new year coming in just months, I was done.  I told myself that someone else could do better, they’ll listen to someone else, I’ve put in my time, we can’t afford the books that will make everything better.  It’s just too much.  I need a break.  I convinced myself and my husband that I could be a better mom, wife, and housekeeper if the went to public school.

So, it was decided.  We picked a wonderful K-8 school with only 40 students.  We filled out all the paperwork, with relief and hope in our hearts.  They were scheduled to start August 1st.  I made plans to make this summer the most fun ever.  I think that I was trying to let them know that I loved them.  When they weren’t in school from here on out, we were going to have the best family time possible together.

Four out of five kids would be in school.  I could almost hear the sound of the waves crashing on the shore.  My life was about to become a vacation.

That was all said and done, before we all had the worst summer of our lives. Everything I knew about myself as a mother and human was about to change.

To read Part 2 click here.

josie’s first surgery

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Wednesday AM is Josie’s first surgery.  I had high hopes that when we first found out about all the complications that can happen with her form of Dwarfism, she would be one of the lucky few who wouldn’t need surgery.

Years later, I find myself almost relieved that she is getting surgery.  She is quite knock-kneed, and has frequent pain because of it.  A decade or so ago, this type of procedure would involve splitting the bone in her knees and placing metal plates in place.  Thankfully, she is not getting this type.  She is getting Eight Plates put in.  I think it’s a fascinating way of using her growth pattern to guide the knees to a straighter position.  How cool it that?  Using mother nature to her advantage, this surgery in a one night stay at the hospital, and an expected recovery time of 1-2 weeks.  Amazing!

She will likely be getting screws put in her hips the stabilize that area too.  This will be decided the AM of the surgery, when up-to-the-minute X-Rays are taken.

Josie is pretty excited for this as well.  I’m sure that as she enters the room she will feel scared and overwhelmed, but right now she’s happy that her future will involve less pain.

So, if you would be so kind as to pray for our Josie we would be ever grateful. She will certainly be uncomfortable and limited in movement.  Thank you so much friends.  Have a wonderful few days, as I will be busy tending to my girl.

I have had many offers from friends to help in any way I need.  I feel so blessed to have so many people in our lives that truly care.  Thank you to you all as well.

cold weather reading

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Last Fall Nick finished reading the entire Chronicles of Narnia to the kids.  We immediately bought The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings.  Nick finished The Hobbit, and now they’re nearly done with the first book in The Lord of the Rings Trilogy.

Family reading happens more often in the colder months, when gathering early in the evening by fire or candlelight ,is an unavoidable draw.  I am usually cleaning up the kitchen, while the younger three color or do puzzles, while they listen to the story.  The older two cuddle up next to Nick, and take turns reading the little poems and songs scattered throughout the tale.

Later I join in and keep the littles busy.  I can sneak in some Christmas knitting on most evening.

Yesterday, we started Avent reading using The Jesus Storybook Bible.  Each evening a story is read and discussed.  I printed out this schedule, but it’s just the first 24 stories starting December first.

What do you read to your children in these cozy cooler months?  Please leave a comment.  We just may get a lovely list of reads to work our way through.

Foggy, misty

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We enjoyed nearly a full day of beautiful fog.  I expected it to clear within an hour or so, but it lingered on.  I love the images from a re-create the hazy, misty, foggy day.  The perfect filters are those created bt nature.  The birds are back too.  I have never seen the Sandhill Cranes fly as low as they did this day.  We enjoy them here from October to March.  They migrate from as far as Siberia!

This was our first hard freeze if the season. I really love days like this.  Reading, warm drinks, many things to be thankful for in all seasons.  Most of all this one, I think.  Everyday I’m thankful that we live here, on the farm.  The lessons and joys and hard times we experience here are worth the sacrifices we’ve made here.  Days like this fill my heart with the beauty of the Lord.  He paints the pictures I love most of all.

doodle tops

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I don’t really know where this came from, but somehow we were given a doodle top.  I thought I’d share since I’ve never seen one before.  These are great entertainers for little ones, as well as older kids.  Des used this for about 30 minutes.  I admit to playing too :)

autumn, finally

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IMG_1013 IMG_1014 IMG_1015 IMG_1017 IMG_1019 IMG_1020 I know some of you may have already experienced the first blanket of snow, or a night around the fire.  We haven’t.  The first storm is rolling in today, so we have officially started the season.  Autumn is my most favorite season.  I love the colored and the changes in the wind.  I love how it brings everyone in.  Cozy blankets, hot drinks, plenty of reading and movies.  It’s the only season I really get into baking.  Soup is very common.  I just love Autumn.  Don’t you? Autumn is when our goats get bred.  I can’t wait for fresh milk again.  Our turkeys will soon be processed and frozen.  Last year’s turkey is in the frig defrosting. The garden is cleared and needing tending for the fall planting.  The jackets and coats are coming out.  The dresses and shorts are set aside.  The nights are longer, the days shorter.  The hens aren’t laying so much.  Things are getting quiet around the farm.

pumpkins, pumpkins

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We grew pumpkin pie pumpkins this year.  Lots of them.  I guess I got carried away.  When I plant little seeds into the ground, I don’t expect them to all survive.  They did this year.  I pureed four gallons and froze it.  Then I sold some.  I still have twenty-two!

I have many pumpkin recipes pinned here.  Last Saturday, I made some pumpkin waffles.  Basically, just add pumpkin purée to your favorite waffle mix/recipe.

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I love waffles.  Much more than pancakes.  Not as much as Leslie Knoppe does.

yarn along

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It’s been awhile, but I think it’s time we yarn along. I am working on a hat for a Christmas gift. I made up the pattern, so no link for that. The book is The Mission of Motherhood by Sally Clarkson. It’s very good so far. Unlike many parenting books, it’s really about the hearts of the matters (mom and child) versus how-to. I love this new perspective of motherhood I’ve been discovering lately. Such a burden and task free approach. It’s all about the heart! I’m on chapter three now.

To participate in the Yarn Along, hosted by Small Things, click the icon in the side bar. 

when we drift

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Driftwood. How many miles does it go? How far did it take to reach that point? Questions for a curious mind. In the Bible we are warned of drifting from our Lord. My heart has been full of sorrow as of late. A couple that are dear to our hearts and lives have drifted apart. The circumstances are unimportant. The end, the “straw that broke the camel’s back” isn’t important in this message. I have prayed and thought over their situation for the last week. I always take on such sorrows and losses as a time for growth and examination in my heart. Divorce is ugly. It effects everyone that knows the couple.

Do friends stop loving them? Do both sides of the family automatically decide that they can no longer care for the other person? Certainly not. It is painful and hard for everyone. It’s such a loss. A severing of two worlds that are joined. I have come to this conclusion: we are all just a breath away from destroying ourselves without Jesus. Every word spoken, movie watched, time spent, book read, are making up how we think and feel. They influence us in such subtle ways. We reap what we sow. We are what we do and think. We get what we put in. I want to sow truth. I want to do the Lord’s will, I want to fill my life with Jesus.

My husband and I have talked over the last week. We want to check our time spent with each other. Are we growing closer, or just being next to each other. Maybe we should watch less shows together, and just talk to each other. We value or marriage. We know it’s a fight to stay humble, serve each other, encourage each other. We have committed to being aware of our weaknesses and draw our strength and wisdom from Jesus.

In this particular couple’s lives, it would be easy for friends to be angry or even hateful to one of them. It’s such a good reminder and a good opportunity to remember the scriptures.

Romans 3:23  For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. 

What is sin?  Read Matthew 5.  Are we not ALL guilty of these?  With Jesus there is always hope.

In ministry we see the ugly side of people.  People in their brokenness, addiction, selfishness, greed, lust, pride.   Being involved with the hearts of man can be a discouraging life.  I have grown to not be surprised by what people do and say.  I’m not easily shocked.  We’ve seen so much!  I have learned to never underestimate the power of the enemy.  I have also seen God work in the mightiest of ways.  I wish I didn’t underestimate the power of Jesus in people.  Sometimes I do.  I’m so thankful He doesn’t give up on them or me.

How can one come against the enemy?  Let God have rein in every part of your heart.  Don’t let your guard down.  We all need Jesus.  Everyday, all day.  Thank goodness he has an open door ministry.  He meets us right where we’re at.  In our darkest, ugliest moments.

 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.

Philippians 4:8-9

 

desparate

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It’s not often I can say that a parenting book changed the way I viewed parenting. In fact, I’ve spent several hours of my life reading “Christian” books on parenting. The Strong-Willed Child, To Train up a Child, Babywise, ect. You get the picture. None of these books really speak to the heart of a mother. They are all designed to give you a formula on how-to. The problem with that is the formula falls apart. The child has special needs, the mom gets exhausted following structures, none of them assume that God have given a mother instincts for her children. Are they based on prayer or reliance on Jesus…no! Are they giving structures for how God deals with us? They do not speak from a gracious, nurturing perspective; but a view of a totalitarian parent. They are written from a follow-this-and-you-will-have-a-perfect-child mentality. This is not reality. Thank goodness Desperate is on the market. Don’t we just need to be refreshed sometimes? It’s like having a cup of tea with a friend who’s telling you, “You can do this, God is with you”.

For the mom who is exhausted, spent, drowning in a sea of laundry, feeling like a failure because the others moms have it all together, wanting so badly to please her Lord in her role, not understanding why it doesn’t work for her kid, feeling like some days she doesn’t want to be a mom (*gasp*), where is the realistic book? Where is there encouragement? Where are the mom’s who aren’t pretending and who are real? Who will speak truth into the heart of a desperate mom? This book does! Finally the encouragement Christians should be giving each other. Coming along, encouraging, banding together, speaking love and truth, the Titus 2 format.

I just finished this book. Laying in bed for several days can do that. I finally feel better. Now, I am encouraged in my spirit. I’m ready to dive into my role as mama with a renewed sense of perspective. A godly minded intention for parenting. A fresh mind. I hope you get this book and let the encouraging words rest on your heart. God created our roles as moms to bring joy into our lives and our homes.

I receive not perks for plugging this book. I merely share this in hopes that you will benefit from it as I have. Have a wonderful weekend friend.

apple butter

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There are so many apple butter recipes out there, that it’s nearly pointless to tell you another. I will, however share with you my method.
First, I fill a crock pot of sliced, cored apples.IMG_0894

I cook this on high for around 6 hours. Lunch time is a goo time to start this.

Once they’re nice and soft, I drain the water out, and peel the skins off. You can skip the skinning part if you cored and peeled with a fancy “apple corer peeler”. If you have an extra one of those, send it to me :)

This is when I add sugar, spices ect.

Cook over night on the “low” setting. It will get dark brown.

In the AM, take the lid off. Stir. Turn on “high” for a couple of hours, or until thick.

While this is cooking, I throw my jars and lids in the dishwasher to sanitize them. By the time the apple butter’s done, the jars are clean and hot.

Scoop butter into jar, wipe rim clean, put on the lid and band. Repeat until all apple butter is gone. The bits of leftovers go straight into my mouth. If you have self-control, put them in the frig for immediate use.

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What to do with apple butter: use as jelly, pour over vanilla ice cream, use as a fruit dip, add to oatmeal cookie, put on oatmeal. What are some of the ways you use apple butter?

apples

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Today, I have worked on the apples we picked from Annie’s Apple Orchard.  We have no less that 25 pounds of them.   Some of my favorite recipes for apples are apple cake, apple pie, and apple butter.

First up, apple pie.  No I didn’t feel like making a top crust so I just covered it the whole time with foil.  I’m such a cheater, I know.

The recipe come from a very old cookbook I picked up at a garage sale called The American Women’s Cookbook.  I really love using this cookbook.  I have already posted our favorite apple pie and crust recipes here.  Please enjoy them.

What are you favorite apple recipes?  Leave a link in the comments to share with everyone.

when silence is broken

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Oh.  My.  To say it’s been a while is an understatement.  The computer is finally fixed!  Now let’s move on.

There is no way I’ll be able to catch you up in a single post.  I will trickle in the info over the next few weeks.  I have thought long and hard about how to approach the following life update.  I’m not sure I’ll even come close to relaying all there is to say.  I will try to do my best to put into words one of the most life-changing things that’s ever happened to me.

I have lost people in my life.  I have lost family and friends.  I have lost them in different ways.  Suddenly, knowingly, harshly, gently.  Until June 30, 2013 I never lost anyone that has effected me so deeply.  I’m speaking of the 19 lives that were lost in the Yarnell Hill Fire.  My cousin was one of them.  Because this event is so well-known, and I do not wish to be the cause of any media hounding any of my family members, I will not say his name.

I will not compromise on this.  If you know me personally, you know.  If you don’t, please don’t pry.

When you hear news like this, it’s never easy.  I think back on that night on the phone with my mom, and I can tell you truthfully, the desperation in the despair is like nothing I’ve experienced.  I never cried so loud, hard, completely in my life.

Looking back I can say that as the weeks following that night crept forward like the longest and fastest days I’ve had, something inside me was changing.  Family I hadn’t seen in years were surrounding each other.  Tension, tears, even laughs exchanged.  We were all like sleep-deprived shells walking about trying to function and comfort each other.  We tried to distract ourselves from the pain, and give-in to it completely.  It’s a process for sure.

Have you ever experienced this sort of grief?  It is so strange.  I expected his wife to be an inconsolable wreck.  I’m sure she (more than any of us) had these moments, but there is a strength that people rouse in grief, right in the middle of completely falling apart.  I never imagined until I saw it, that grief was so vast and complex.  One moment we could all be laughing together, speaking of times past or something totally unrelated, the next someone would just go ghost-like and weep.  With understanding grins we would hug, knowing the pain they felt, but not always joining in the despair.  Next thing you know it’s you.

You try to rationalize it.  You become very logical when you attempt to conjure up the best possible reason that death so tragic happens.  You land on a certain fact, and when you’re nearly convinced, you realize its horrid and nothing you think can make it make sense.

There are no days of the week.  If you thought you knew, it passed yesterday, or isn’t until tomorrow.  Sleep is an abstract thought.  You never feel like eating, and then realize you are starving.

There’s one thing that always stayed steady inside me through ups and downs of the first few weeks.  God’s presence.  I just felt him there.  I saw his mercies through the acts of people in the community.  I heard his calm reassurance in those moments when falling asleep tortured my with memories and thoughts of how each family member would deal with a future without  their husband, father, brother, nephew, grandson, cousin, friend.  God was there.

I knew he always has been, but I felt Him.  He was the only thing that gave me comfort.  Everything else was chaos and heartbreak.  What I felt was hope.  There is always hope when you’re with Jesus.

This is my new life-focus.  share the hope with each member of my family.  In some way or another, I have to.

“You aren’t guaranteed tomorrow”

“Life is so short”

“I never thought anything like this would happen to me”

“Tell the people you love how much they mean to you”

These mean something deeply personal to me now.  Things I’ve heard said, known were true, but never acted on them until now.

I am changing so much through this.  I regret deeply YEARS that I missed in my cousin’s life.  I assumed there would be a next time.  There wasn’t.  I hate that.  I have come to grips with it, but it stops now.  I am trying to live more intentionally.  If I mean to say, do, call, see, I am so going to do all I can to make it happen.

With the shifting of the wind nineteen families changed forever.  Entire families.  Hundreds or people will never be the same again.  That breaks my heart.  Truly broken.  My prayer is that each of them find the hope that is in Jesus alone.  I pray their death has meaning.  A purpose in the pain.  Eternal life in Christ is what I pray for.  Anything less is a waste.  These are strong words, but I believe them with every fiber of my being.

A heavy post for such a long absence.  There was no way around it.  We have a “normal” life again.  We have a daily schedule, chores, work, school, fun family times, animals to tend, and ministry to run, and yes knitting.  The grief remains in all these things.  it has changed how I view them.  As anyone that lives with grief, it doesn’t always consume you.  It appears in unexpected, often inconvenient places.  You truly do live with it.  It’s there even if you don’t always feel it intensely.  It changes often.

In my living I choose to live for Christ.   

Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me.  And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

1 Corinthians 12:8-10

 

Finding beauty

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It is easy when one blogs, to portray a perfect life that consists of only happiness and fun. It has never been my intention to do that here. We are a real family, though many of you don’t know us personally, I assure you that we are. I believe that my children are wonderful, but I can’t pretend they are perfect.

They fight, steal, lie, disrespect,and even as I type this I am correcting them for ugly things they are saying to each other. This is life. Real life. Our lives have changed greatly over this last year on the farm. We all have more physical work. This sometimes, or perhaps often, leads to crankiness in us all.

Through the added responsibilities we are also learning many lessons on on the importance of grace and forgiveness. Towards each other and from God towards us, we are experiencing grace and forgiveness. In the middle of all the work and family and ministry we do each week, I just try to keep my eyes open for moments of beauty and happiness.

These are the things that make it here. Sweet memories of children, little projects completed, reflections of what God has illuminated to me (most times these are obvious to everyone but me…slow learner), and tips we’ve learned along the way.

Where do you find beauty? Maybe while weeding your garden (figuratively or literally) as I did today. Weeding is necessary in both cases. Might as well enjoy the flowers.

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seasons: spring

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As I’ve hung clothes on the line again (thank you warm weather), I have really been pondering the seasons’ changes on the farm.  We have been out here in the country for a full year now, and I’m barely feeling like I have a better understanding of what each season brings.

We are coming from winter, which is the least busy of all the seasons.  The main goal is get animals bred, stay warm, and rest from the hard work of the rest of the year.  I see it as the stay inside and fatten up period.  Baking becomes frequent, and reading is plenty.

When you are stagnant for so long, it’s very difficult to kick into full gear Spring.  We made it through baby goat births and building garden boxes, and now we’re gearing up for planting the seeds and selling the babies.  This requires paperwork, advertising, disbudding, castrating ect.  In just a few short weeks I’ll be back to milking twice a day.  We have drip systems to fix, fencing to build, and trees to trim.  It’s about time to decide which hens are no longer laying and, therefore; need to processed.  Spring is the busiest and most work here.  

I very much enjoy the rest of the Winter, but I am definitely ready to begin the work of Spring, so as to profit from the harvest in the Summer.  Things are picking up here.  We are praying for a blessing on this little farm.  May He give the increase for our labor. 

 

around here

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Around here we are busing ourselves with all the preparations that make spring so wonderful.  House projects, garden projects, and looking closer to the arrival of baby goats.

I am so very excited about the babies coming, and in a deep corner of my heart I harbor the knowledge that tragedy could strike.  I am becoming quite obsessed with researching all possibilities, so as to avoid such a sadness.  I truly feel just as excited as if a human was being born into the family.  I am, however, much more nervous as there are no doctors to help in trouble.  I am the help in trouble.  That is a heavy burden, but oddly one I am looking forward to.  Pray friends.  It is only a slight chance of danger, but one I must have my wits for.  In just a few short weeks we will, God-willing, be posting plenty of pictures of cute furry goats. 

Children have been dirtier, as they have been thoroughly enjoying warms days of play out of doors, while adults paint the house and prepare for the season.  I must remind myself continually that this is great for them, however bad it is to the house.

I’m confident that we will plant a garden this year.  So far, that’s all I can promise.  The garden beds are made and filled.  Just a bit more compost for the top, and planting will commence.  I am hopeful, and above all, prayerful for success.

I can hardly describe the changes of humility and knowledge that have occurred within, in nearly a year of living on the farm.  I am in constant reminder of my need to pray.  For strength, wisdom, mercies of all sorts, and thankfulness.  The responsibility to our animals is heavy on me always.  Not in an oppressive way, simply in the fact that they depend on us for so much, like an infant does it’s mother.  Though it’s not a daily demand of overwhelming work, it’s very important work  We must decide the best feed, shelter, grooming, safety for them.  If these are not met properly, it is none but our fault how it affects our animals.

I may have had a notion that this would be easy, because I read a book on it, and it made sense.  I referred above to humility, enter that here.  I am in complete and total understanding that good farmers and good husbandman are bred of education and intelligence.  One really must have so much understanding of everything, from plumbing to medicine to chemistry to mechanics.  We are far from a large farm…we are minute, really.  The fact is we have worlds more to know.  I pleasure in a life of constant growth.  Both spiritually and mentally, I am sure our lessons from the farm will last our lives through.

Around here the excitement, hardships, joy, satisfaction, beauty, growth, and chores are a never-ending swirl of life.

red is best

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A birthday weekend was spent doing what mama enjoys so very much…knitting.  I’m officially in my thirties now.  The older I get the less I feel like roughing out the cold; and with a trip to Colorado soon approaching, something needed to be done for the hands.

The pattern is Red is Best, by one of my favorite pattern writers Jane Richmond Designs.  It was a lovely weekend, even though we have been struck with illness here for the third time since the new year.

This means lots of sitting which, most assuredly, lends to more knitting…stay tuned.

 

yarn along

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Wednesdays are for yarn alongs.  Join the fun, hosted by Small Things.   In her words:

~ Two of my favorite things are knitting and reading, and the evidence of this often shows up in my photographs.  I love seeing what other people are knitting and reading as well. So, what are you knitting or crocheting right now? What are you reading? Take a photo and share it either on your blog or on Flickr. Leave a link below to share your photo with the rest of us! ~

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Well, would you look at that!  Nick has, nearly, a pair of socks, as opposed to the single sock that’s been in his possession for over a year. The pattern is Seafarer’s Socks found on Ravelry for free.

The Scarlet Letter is over half read, and I’m liking it more and more with each turning of the electronic page, that is ibooks.  I’m revisiting Natural Beekeeping, to prepare for our Spring plans.

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