Thursday, December 10, 2009

Dance with a Ram

I finally have been able to get to a library again. It seems lately that I rarely am able to do so. I pray that all of you are doing well.

The Hampshire ram and I had another interesting experience 3 weeks ago. Alas, it will likely be the last time there is not a fence between us. With the daylight hours shorter I had decided to help Joe and let the sheep out to graze a couple of hours prior to his coming home from work. Surely I could manage them for that length of time! An hour after I let them out to graze, they naughty sheep went to the dirt road to graze along it's edges. Micah was napping and Abigail was playing inside so I went out with a large stick in hand to walk behind them to make sure they came back into the yard.

The large ram was 2 car lengths distance from me with the ewe and their yearling ram ahead of him. The larger ram turned around and saw me following slowly behind. What happened next was what I am referring to as our "dance". He ran at a full-out charge, hitting me in the left hip hard enough to knock me off of my feet, landing on my tailbone. I got up and he promptly did it again, knocking me onto my tailbone. By the time it was all over, he had me sitting in the road twice, sitting in a mulch pile once, and staggering numerous times from repeated hits that didn't knock me down. In the end, I took refuge on the back of Joe's little pickup truck where I was trapped for 20 minutes waiting for the ram to leave long enough for me to run into the house.

I came away with lots of swollen bruises, my left hand and hip were the worst, and very stiff & sore muscles. I felt as though I had been in a car accident. I suppose being hit so much & so hard by a 250+ pound ram would have you expect to have some discomfort. LOL

Needless to say, when Joe got home he was ready to make mutton of that ram. We still have him but they are now fed grain and no longer graze openly as before. We believe that the ram was simply asserting dominance - challenging my authority. Unfortunately, he learned that he is stronger and hits harder than I. My interactions with the sheep are now limited to gazing at them through the fence or tossing feed over the fence into their feed bins.

I thank the Lord that the little ones were not outdoors with me. One hit from that ram would have killed or severely injured the children. It is by the Lord's blessing that I was not more severely injured. I am still recovering. One lesson that I have learned from this - when you get older (I am 45) and get injured, you don't bounce back as easily as you do when you are younger... you just bounce! :)

I pray that you all have a wonderful and blessed Christmas season. May it be a time to reflect on the glorious gift of the birth of our Lord and Savior, Christ Jesus. It doesn't matter if you believe that He was born on Christmas Day or not. Christmas is a time when you can focus on this blessed gift from our most precious Father in Heaven.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Thanks & Family News

Greetings! Thank you to all who sent their prayers & comments to my last blog entry about Micah. They were a blessing to read.

We are doing well. I have been working one on one with Micah daily and already see some changes taking place. I can now get him to look me in the eye more often. Usually it happens when I am tickling or playing a little game with him. Our games often are ones where I touch & name things like his toes, his knee, his nose, and always ends with me tickling his belly. When he sees me wiggling my fingers at him, he starts smiling and squirming in anticipation of the game. Another thing we do is repeat anything he says that sounds like a word he may be trying to say. Often it is not seeming to be making a connection in his mind as to what the word means, but when he says "Momma", I take his hand and tap myself with his hand and repeat "Momma" to him. For "ba-ba" I show to him his baby bottle and say the word "bottle". Basically, anything that will help to reinforce what he is saying and help establish connections between the word and it's meaning.

Abigail is doing great. We are going to start working on gifts for her to give at Christmas. We handmake the gifts we give and she is excited to get started on making some. Yesterday, she and Joe found a baby snake when bringing in firewood. The snake was about 7 inches long. I spent some time with her showing her the snake and reinforcing the importance to never pick one up. She got to watch as the snake slithered through a small gap in the stacked firewood to go into the brush on the other side.

Joe and I are getting things ready for winter. It seems to be an ongoing process. Yesterday Joe was able to get the propane line installed in the kitchen for the refrigerator & stove. What a blessing! No more using the small propane bottles like the ones used on grills. We have 2 tanks (100 lb each) outside the house that are now being used to supply the appliances. Next will be putting in a propane line in the back of the house so we can get a small heater. Hmmm........ I don't know what I will do once we have heat back there! LOL In the 4 winters I have been in this house, the bathroom, pantry/laundry area, and our bedroom have been without heat. This will be a new experience! One that I am certain that I will adapt to very quickly.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

The Challenge & Blessing called Autism

Our family has been making some winter preps lately which have kept us busy. I haven't been able to get to the library for about a month!

A little over a month ago, we had a Dr. confirm something that we have been beginning to suspect with our son, Micah. We learned that he has a mild form of Autism. We are so grateful to the Lord that the autism appears to be a mild form and not the very severe type. In that Micah and our family have been greatly blessed.

Several issues led us to have Micah checked out. He is very delayed in some of his development. At 18 months old, he babbles like a 6 month old and doesn't talk as he should be doing. He is unable to feed himself or hold his bottle/cup to drink from it. When he looks at you, eye contact is very fleeting and not a good maintained contact. There are many other signals, such as finger flapping, "zoning out", and obsessive behaviors that are very common autism traits.

Finding out that Micah has autism has been both a blessing and a challenge. It is a blessing to actually know what is going on. Now that we know, we can help him better. It is a challenge though on several levels. We now have to learn what we can do to help Micah to develop and thrive. One of the hard parts though is to grieve and let go of the ideas we had for him before.

All parents have hopes and dreams for their children. When you learn that you have a special needs child, you have to mourn and let go of many of those hopes & dreams. Not because you child will never be able to do those things. You need to do it so that you can better accept things as they are and then effectively work at helping your child to reach attainable goals.

I still have all the hopes and dreams that Micah will grow to be as independent as he is able. I know that with the Lord's help ALL things are possible. We will do what we can for him and trust in the Lord to take care of him.

I am learning to cherish the little things. A couple of months ago, Micah crawled across the floor to me and called me "Momma" for the first time. It was a special moment that to date has not been repeated. That moment was a gift that I am treasuring. When I give him a hug, I don't get the typical hug back but sometimes he will take his hand and squeeze my arm several times as I hug him. That is the way he responds to my hugs.

I am finding that Micah's autism is very eye opening. Through him, I am learning to never take the little things for granted. It is even blessing me in the way I am handling Abigail's 3-yr old moods. It is a slow process but I am gaining more patience. I am taking life in the moment and enjoying it even more than before.

Life with autism can be a challenge but I give the Lord praise in that He has blessed our family. We know that Micah will be fine. He will grow into a young man that the Lord can use to show His love and grace.

May the Lord be with you all.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Sewing & Such

We are doing very well. I have been busy getting the sorting and cleaning done. It is a big task each autumn season. We have to rearrange the furniture in the front room to make room for a supply of firewood to be stored in the house when the cold weather is upon us.I am moving my sewing area to the back of the house again. We are determined to have heat back there this year. The only rooms currently with heat in the winter are the kitchen, front room, and the children's bedroom. They are all heated with the wood stoves. One is a heating type and the other is a small cookstove. Between the two, the front of the house stays very warm. We have a kerosene heater that we can light on the very cold nights to heat the bathrooom and our bedroom if necessary. We don't like using it very much though due to costs.

I am still working on the PIFs. They are taking longer than I had hoped to complete. It seems that daily tasks keep setting back my time to work on them. I am making ..........oops! You thought I would post that before I got them mailed, huh? LOL

I received some old baby quilts recently and am recycling them into new ones for a charity quilt project. I cut away the worn, loose areas if need be then use the old quilts as batting inside a new one. It makes the project go very fast. I have already donated the blankets/quilts that were done. Now, I am starting up a new batch.

A fun project I am doing is the friendship quilt block exchange that I am organizing. It is a fairly simple one. All blocks are 8.5 inch square (allows for a 1/4 inch seam) and each person who sends one to me gets one made by me to add to their own quilt. Can't be simplier. I am doing a combination of appliqued block with some embroidery - name, location, year. I found a pattern in a quilt book for an appliqued oil lamp since that seems to be a good choice representing our non-electric lifestyle.

The garden is still producing zucchini. I mainly use it in breads, cakes, muffins, and pancakes. Just a quick tip - add shredded zucchini & the same spices that you would put into zucchini bread to your pancake batter. Increase the flour content a bit since zucchini can make the batter too thin. The result is a pancake that tastes like the bread. Very yummy!

May the Lord's blessings be with you all.Paula

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Family News

Greetings! I pray that all are doing well.

We are doing good. The weather can't seem to decide if it is going to be hot or cool. Oh it makes me long for autumn's cool days! I am looking forward to that first time I go out and find frost on the ground.

I am starting my autumn cleaning - you know that deep cleaning you do at least twice a year in autumn & spring? Ugh! It wears me out but the end result is always worth it. I am starting in the front of the house and going to work my way towards the back. I figure that if I work on it early this time, I will have more time for sewing this autumn.

One task I have to do sometime soon is refinish the dining table. It needs a good sanding, staining, and then a matte clear coat finish put on it. I plan to work on it on a day when the little ones are visiting their grandparents. Once done, the table will look good for a long time to come.
I want to be able to stop using a table cloth all the time.

Tomorrow we take Micah to the doctor for a check-up. He had an ear infection and this is the follow-up visit. He is such a blessing. Abigail just adores him and is often found playing with him. He really seems to enjoy her too.

Joe is still building more raised beds for the garden. May turn into an all autumn/winter project. He is building them from pallets now that the shipping crates are not available. I am looking forward to being able to use them in early spring. It will be interesting to see how large of a harvest we can get from the raised beds.

I was not able to can as much as I wanted so I am going to start taking advantage fo sales and stocking up on canned goods and other things like flour, sugar, etc. to build up the pantry even more. My goal is to eventually have at least 6 months of food supply in the pantry at all times. LOL I just realized - we don't have a pantry large enough to house that on shelves. I think I may have another challenge ahead figuring out how to store that much supplies!

Saturday, August 22, 2009

What's in the Sewing Basket?

It has been a while since I posted about my sewing projects, so I thought I would catch up on that. In truth, there was little time for sewing for a while. Life is beginning to slow down however and I am planning out my next projects.

One that had been on the "back burner" for too long was making new coverings. I am going to start cutting out the fabric to make new Prayer Kapps to sew. My favorite one is looking a bit worn and being it is my only Prayer Kapp, I need to make some more. This time, I am going to make a special one for outings, such as going to church, and another for daily wear. I also need a nice warm one to wear when outdoors.

I plan to start making some other capes that look a bit like a snood to wear when working about the home or garden. If I find them to be easy enough to make, I will likely sell some along with the Prayer Kapps & Cauls. I will add pictures when I am able to do so.

I have been working on the PIFs and hope to have them ready to send out by the end of next week. I am also drafting up the pattern for my 8.5" square quilt blocks for the Friendship Quilt block exchange I am hosting. The exchange is really fun and easy. You make one 8.5" block to exchange for a block made by another person. Friendship quilt blocks are collected until you have enough to make into a quilt.

I am still finding time in the afternoons when the children are napping & the housework finished to be able to crochet a bit. I am learning to put edgings on handkerchiefs. I am finding it to be much easier than I had thought it to be. One personal project that I am wanting to crochet is a couple pair of wristlets. My wrists and hands get sore in the cold weather, so hopefully these will keep my wrists warm enough to ease the pain.

Soon, thoughts of the holiday season will be becoming more in the forefront. I would like to make table linens in a pretty autumn fabric and maybe a winter design also. I already have fabric, just need to get busy and make them.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Ramblings & Thoughts

Greetings! What a blessing we have been enjoying. Night before last, we had a wonderful night long of thunderstorms. After having excessive heat the rain and cooler temps are a welcome blessing.

I had to buy more canning lids again. I think that I will buy the flat lids in bulk next time. Buying the lids by the small 12-count boxes at the grocery store just gets too pricey at the volume I go through each year. Not that I am complaining about all the canning. I love doing it. I just don't enjoy the frustration of running out of lids just as things are needing to be canned.

I am hoping the weather cools off some more soon. I want to plant more beans, winter squash, and root crops for late autumn harvest. Right now with the temps as hot as it has been lately, the tender little plants would easily be burned up. I just have to be patient a bit longer I guess.

I have been thinking on our non-electric lifestyle alot lately. It seems hard to remember a time when we lived any other way, although it hasn't been THAT long ago that we used electricity for everything. Life is calmer now and has a slower pace that I enjoy. Of course there are always those times when something happens that sets a faster pace, but only for a short time.

The quieter, slower lifestyle has blessed us in many ways. We read alot more, spend time together doing things as a family, and we actually have time to have quiet time with the Lord in prayer and Bible study. Right now, life is busier as we prepare for winter. Soon however, the pace will become slower as winter arrives and brings with it the cold weather. In winter, there is more time for the activities like quilting and other tasks that are not able to be finished when there is more pressing tasks to do in the warmer days.

I have had to awaken as early as 2am to be able to do the heavier tasks (such as laundry & cleaning) in the cool hours of the very early morning. I am considering continuing to do so in the winter months. It will not only give me a chance to get the work done uninterrupted, but also I will be able to better maintain the wood stoves to keep the house warm overnight. The only downside to doing this is that by 7:30pm I am feeling like I am becoming a pumpkin and needing to get some sleep. I go to bed shortly after the little ones....not such a bad thing!

Saturday, August 8, 2009


What a fast response!!! I already have 3 people wanting to participate. Mrs. CW Mouse, Deanna Smith, and Carrie were the first 3 to respond. Carrie, please email me at to give me the address so I can mail out your PIF once it is finished. Thanks!!!

If you are new to PIFs, here is how it works:

I wrote and invitation for 3 people to participate. Each one will receive a handmade item from me. Once I have confirmed who is participating, the participants then post about PIFs on their own blogs and ask for 3 people wanting to join in. They send a handmade item to each person and so on.

The handmade items can be anything. One time, I sent out crocheted dishcloths I had made. This time I am sending out something different. It is really up to the sender what they want to mail out.

There is no rigid time frame, but I recommend that you mail something out within a month so that you don't forget. Most small crafts can be made and shipped in that time frame. Participating in PIFs is a lot of fun....both for the sender and the recipient.

So, in a nutshell, the 3 ladies who are participating in this PIF will be posting on their blogs and asking for 3 people to join in. They will then make & send a handmade item to each participant.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Free Mulch resource & PIFs

I am so excited. this morning, we were blessed with a second dump load of mulch from a tree cutting service. They have been cutting down the trees that have grown too close to power lines along the roads near us. I spoke to them a couple of weeks ago and they agreed to drop off the mulch at our home. This is a free resource that you can check into. Many of the tree cutting service companies look for new places to leave the mulch made from the tree limbs and branches run through the chipper. We now have a small mountain of 2 loads of mulch sitting ready to be put into our garden. They are going to use our home as one of their regular dumping areas. this means that whenever they are in the area working, they will be bringing a load to us periodically.
The mulch works well in compost piles, or simply spread around your garden plants. In autumn, it makes a nice layer to place on your garden soil to add nutrients to the soil as well as prevent weed growth in the early spring. Definately worth checking out the tree cutting service companies in your area.

This morning, I had a comment waiting to be moderated from someone (Mrs. CW Mouse) who had missed out on the first PIF that I had held. For those new to PIF, I gather the names & addresses of 3 people wanting to participate. I send each participant a handmade item. In exchange, they gather from their own blogs the names & addresses of 3 people wanting to participate. They make a handmade item for each and mail it off to them. Each person participating is expected to continue "Paying It Forward" to 3 people on their blogs. If you are interested in participating, please email me at and let me know. Mrs. CW Mouse, I will assume that you are wanting to participate. Please email me to confirm. I then will have room for 2 more participants.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Summer's end approaching

What a blessed week we have had. After temps in the 100* range, we are now getting a break from the heat and lots of rain. My garden is very appreciative. After a slow start with the garden, I now have my fall garden being planted so we will have a harvest in October & November. My beans are sprouting and the zucchini are in bloom. My winter squash seedlings are nearly ready for transplanting.

I have been canning tomatoes. I simply dice them and add a bit of salt & water to the jars before processing. I then use them through out the winter in my homemade soups & such. The tomatoes are nearly done, so I will be able to start working on something else soon.

Beloved and I are finishing up clearing out things we no longer find a need to have. This has been a long process. We found a local charity that will take everything we don't need. Each week, he will be taking boxes of items to them. We are starting to see the end of this task and are looking forward to it being done.

It is hard to believe that we are beginning the process of preparing for winter already. I am working on making quilt blocks to assemble once the weather is cool enough to not get overheated while having the quilt in my lap. I don't have a hoop or frame, so I am planning to quilt as I go and then assemble the quilt on the treadle once all blocks are finished. This method allows me to use the sashing to assemble the blocks.

I have started cutting out some training pants for Micah. I am going to be making 2 styles. Once being pull on and the other having snaps on the side. I am considering using the snap style instead of diapers. I am going to try a couple of pair of them to see how it works out before making him a large batch of them. Funny to think that I am already working on these for him. He is walking really good finally. He still is working on gaining the confidence to let go, but we can see he is nearly ready to do so.

I have been working on my monthly menus to allow for a cooler weather menu. This means lots of soups and stews. I am going to start canning them soon to stock the pantry. Beloved enjoys taking jars of it to work for his lunch and so I try to keep them available.

My next project is working on more holiday items. Decorations and gifts are needing to be made or finished. I am hoping to be stocking the tote soon with finished projects.

Lots to do and I am happiest when busy, so it works out very well. I find that I don't like to be idle for very long. That is one of the aspects of our lifestyle that I enjoy most! There is always something to be done.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009


As some of you may already know, I am preschooling Abbie at home. She has been very interested in the garden plants so I helped her make a little book about the growing cycle of a pea plant. I had some extra garden seeds and she chose the acorn squash. We placed a damp paper napkin in a baggie with 3 seeds placed on the towel. The baggie was taped to the kitchen window.

Over the next week, Abbie excitedly watched and kept checking the seeds to look for changes. On Tuesday this week, the seeds had sprouted and grown so much that they were ready for planting. We carefully planted each seedling in a small container to allow it to continue growing before it is placed in the garden. By Thanksgiving, we will have fresh acorn squash to add to the meal.

I find it amazing to watch her excitement as she explores the world around her. There is so much that we have available for her to learn from. Helping care for her kittens, the garden, and playing with her little brother all are so educational for her - as well as fun. I try to make each situation as fun as possible for her. Granted, there will come a time when she won't find them to be fun, but for now we are enjoying doing things together.

We have begun a ministry making charity quilts that we will distribute this fall. I am doing the sewing, then once the quilts are assembled, we will work as a family to tie the quilts & finish them. This will provide another opportunity for Abbie. At 3 yrs old, she is old enough to teach how to tie the yarn into a knot. We can use the needle & thread the yarn through the quilt, then let Abbie help tie it off. It is important to us to allow her (and later Micah) to take part in the project.

I am already planning to have a small garden area set aside for Abbie next spring. A raised bed that she can easily reach and care for. It will have the kinds of veggies that she enjoys snacking on, such as cherry tomatoes. I find that the more I have her with me as I go about my tasks, the more she wants to help and take part. In teaching good work ethics to children, this is a critical time. The more I allow her to help now, the better her work ethics will be later on. Of course there are times when her efforts make the task take longer, but the rewards are priceless.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Thinking Ahead

Greetings! During all these very warm - 108*F. yesterday - days of summer, my thoughts are already on the cooler days of winter. I have been giving thought to the holiday season. Before you think I am silly for thinking of the holidays so early, let me explain.

Nearly any gift given is handmade. This requires that I think ahead and plan early. Many of the gifts involve sewing. This year it seems that quilts are the ones desired most. There are also other smaller gifts that I am sewing or crocheting.

Another reason for planning ahead is to prepare decorations. I am wanting to make seasonal table linens - placemats, cloth napkins, and potholders. Another decoration that I am working on is coming up with a handmade ornament for each of us. I am wanting to have the tradition for the children of having a new ornament each year to commemorate the year.

Making the gifts can seem a daunting task if left late in the season. By planning ahead, you can take more time to enjoy the process. I love making the gifts. As I work on each item, I am thinking of that person. It is a very personal thing. Handmade gifts can be as simple or as detailed as you choose. Everything from making bath items to artwork. You are only limited by your talent and time. When making gifts instead of buying them, you have the additional blessing of a less frazzled holiday season.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Nearly Free Garden Fence

Greetings! In a previous post, I spoke of my husband using wooden shipping crates as raised garden beds. Well, here is an idea that we are implementing.

We get the shipping crates free from a business in town that receives their manufacturing supplies in them. Normally, the business would burn the crates so they are happy to have us take them off their hands. Another free item that we get are old wooden pallets. We are setting up the border of the garden with alternating pallets & crates. The crates help to stabilize the pallets to make a very strong fence to keep wildlife and errant livestock from eating the garden's vegetable plants.

The pallets serve both as fence material and can be used as a trellis to support climbing plants or those such as tomatoes that need the support. The crates serve as raised garden beds as well as compost bins. Once we have the entire perimeter of the garden fenced with the pallets and crates, we will be adding rows of crates inside the garden for next year's planting.

The wood is weather treated so it will last a long time before needing replaced. The crates are tall enough (waist high) that we can easily tend the garden without getting sore. The height is great also for keeping many of the smaller animals such as rabbits away from the plants. If we run out of crates, we can easily make some using 4 pallets held together with metal strapping & screws.

Is this a rustic method, certainly. It is a wonderful way to recycle the materials though as well as provide excellent protection to the garden at very low cost. Our fencing & crates are costing us only the price of the screws used to attach the pallets to the crates and the time & fuel used to bring the materials home.

We are filling the crates about 2/3 full of old hay as a filler before adding the soil. In future years we will only need to ammend the soil by adding compost or other materials to fortify the soil. In all, it is a very easy method that will serve us well for many years to come.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Staying Cool without Electricity

Greetings! I pray that everyone is doing well.

Summer heat has settled in now. We are having temps reaching the low 100*s on a daily basis and often with very little breeze. The focus is becoming the issue of how to deal with summer's heat without fans or air conditioning.

One of the way we combat the heat is to drink lots of fluids! Water and lemonade are always available & kept cold in the refrigerator.

I have started the habit of having a cool bubble bath available for the kids all afternoon. In the late morning, I run about 2-3 inches of water in the tub with a bit of baby wash. At any time in the afternoon when the children are getting too hot, they play in the tub. This works out better than having a small pool outdoors. The wasps love the outdoor kiddie pool as much (if not more than) the little ones! This has been working out very well. The little ones are able to cool off and also we can wash off the sweat & dirt from their playing all at once.

The most strenuous work is done in the mornings only. This will help to prevent becoming overheated & sick from the high temps. The past few days, the radio has announced heat advisories and by early afternoon you can certainly feel it! I now understand the reasons behind the idea of taking a siesta in the hot afternoons.

A recent change that helps greatly with keeping cooler is to not cook in the warm part of day. We now are eating foods cooked on the grill, sandwiches, salads, and a variety of roll-ups instead of cooking a hot meal each day. Things like a layered bean dip (refried beans, taco meat, and assorted toppings common on burritos or tacos) can be made early in the morning then refrigerated until ready to serve. Homemade potato or macaroni salads also can be made in the evening and refrigerated overnight.

We bought expandable screens to put in the windows that did now have any form of screens. This goes far in helping to take advantage of any breeze that happens to be present.

One common tip that we have tried in the past is to put foil in the upper windows. The idea is to reflect the sunlight away from the windows. We take a large piece of cardboard that is large enough to fit the upper half of the window. The cardboard is covered in foil with the shiny side facing outward. The cardboard is then placed in the window. It is important to note that you do not want to fully cover your windows with foil. This will darken the room and turn it into a nice cool, dark enviroment that spiders love! For this reason, we only do the top half of the windows. The bottom half has the window screens which allow both light and air flow.

What are your favorite tips for staying cool in the summer?

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

New Adventures

Greetings! We are starting to get the hot summer weather already. It is an interesting experience to be going through our first summer without a fan or air conditioner. We are finding the heat is not too bad, but the humidity is a challenge. We are managing during the day. It is hard to sleep at night though when there is little to no breeze.

I am finally getting my energy levels back up and starting to be able to do more each day than I have in recent weeks. All the rains in April & May affected my fibromyalgia and had me slowing down. Even though the humidity is still high some days, I am doing much better! Praise the Lord!!!

We are beginning a new phase to our homestead life. We are taking steps to start teaching classes to others on topics related to self-sufficient & low-cost living. I am preparing the classes and flyers. The flyers will be distributed to the churches & organizations in our area to get the word out about the classes available. We are looking forward to this. There has been much interest in these classes so we are hoping that we will be able to get them going soon.

I got a large amount of fleece last week after a neighbor sheared his sheep. I have 2 1/2 very large bags of it! I am working on cleaning them to prepare for selling as well as to begin working with them myself. In all, there is fleece from approximately 35 sheep.

I am going to make myself some drop spindles to use to spin the wool. Drop spindles are very easy and affordable to make. They take a bit of practice to use, but are not hard to learn. I will post more about working with raw fleece in a future post.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Baby Slings

Recently, I received an email about a blog post that I made in the past. I had posted about a website where I found the directions for making your own baby sling. The lady who had the website no longer has the site available so I wanted to share a different site that may be of help to those wanting to make their own baby slings.

Jan Andrea has a wonderful free resource for making not only baby slings but other items that would be of interest. Her site has links for both the pouch and ring-sling styles. The ring-sling that I made is most similar to the Sling-A-Ma-Bob sling. I made mine from a single layer of linen fabric which is very sturdy, yet comfortable. Micah now weighs 22 lbs. and is still very easy to carry in this sling.

I hope that this helps those who have been looking for a free sling pattern resource.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Homestead Update

Greetings from the homestead! I pray that all are doing well.

Beloved began his vacation today. It is such a blessing. We are going to spend the time not only having fun with the kids, but will also be taking care of our garden & other tasks.

Our outdoor cat finally brought out her 4 kittens to greet the family. She had 3 black males and 1 gray female. They are adorable. We only have her and her mate now, so these kittens are a blessing.

The non-electric lifestyle is very interesting. We are enjoying it and learn more each day. Now that summer is bringing the longer daylight hours, we are able to go without using the kerosene lamps as often. It is a blessing also that the days are so warm that laundry is drying much faster on the line. By July, I will be able to fill the lines twice in a day if need be and still have everything dry by nightfall.

One project that Beloved is working on over his vacation is setting up an outdoor kitchen. Basically it is a BBQ area but with enough area on the fire pit to allow us to also cook with cast iron. The addition of this kitchen will cut back on propane usage during the months when the temps are too hot for my using the wood cookstove.

Today, we have signed up Miss Abigail for the library summer reading program. We read to her and Micah each day, so this will be a fun activity for her. Both she and Micah enjoy the times we read to them. The library we go to allows us to check out 60 books at a time. We have yet to reach that limit in one trip, but once we begin homeschooling in a couple of years, I am sure we will do our best to reach that limit. LOL

Last month, I canned a month's supply of meat for the first time. What a blessing that became! I am so thrilled with the results. We were able to store the meat very well and the flavor was good. I am looking forward to when Beloved is able to go hunting for deer in the fall. I will be able to can the meat and not have to worry about how to store it. I was very happy with how easily it was canned and the flavor of it afterwords.

I wanted to post a quick tip for anyone who uses a lot of dried herbs in their cooking, but does not grow their own. If you have access to a health food store that provides bulk bins that you can buy your foods from, see if they also have bulk containers of the dried herbs and seasonings. The store we go to has this and we are able to buy about a 1/2 cup quantity of dried herbs & seasonings for about 20 cents. This is far less than the small containers that you buy in the grocery stores! Last month, I bought a 1/2 cup quantity of dried Sweet Basil for 17 cents - that amount would have cost over $2.00 in the bottles sold in the grocery stores.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Recycled Container Gardening

As I mentioned previously, the Lord has been blessing us abundantly with rain. We have had a 18 day stretch of rain daily. Some days more than others, but thoughts of having Beloved build an ark were beginning to take place. LOL

We have started putting wooden shipping crates in the garden to use as planting boxes. We put old hay in the bottom with top soil on the top. These are going to work out great. They end up being about waist high which will eliminate the problem of aching backs or knees from weeding the garden. We are putting weed barrier cloth - a black plastic with tiny holes in it to allow water to drian through - on top of the soil before planting our seedlings. This will further eliminate the need to be weeding the garden so much. The weed barrier also will help to hold in the moisture in the soil. One word of caution however - always place some mulch on top of the plastic if you have very hot summers! If you neglect to do this, you tomato and other plants can get too hot and be burned.

We have plans to add to the number of crates each year. We may end up building some from old pallets also if we run out of crates. Our garden area is about 88' x 108' in size. The crates are about 4' square. We can place a lot of these crates in that area. I am planning to have a portion of the garden area for the vining plants to be planted directly in the ground. Most likely they will be in the back portion.

If you live near a business that receives product in the wooden shipping crates, you may want to consider talking to the owner or manager. Some businesses will burn or otherwise destroy the crates even though they are in very good condition. You may be able to get the crates for a very low cost or free. If you are handy with hand tools, you can also make your own crates using old wood pallets. In our area, the local Ace Hardware & Lumber Stores give away the old wooden pallets. Be sure to specify the old ones as they also have new ones which they sell. We have often gone to their store and loaded up a trailer with a full load of pallets for free.

Looking around, you can find many recycleable containers that would be suitable for gardening. The only criteria being that they can hold the soil & water. Bakeries and restaurants often have plastic buckets that they recieve food products in. These often get thrown away unless people ask for the containers. Put a few drainage holes in the bottom and you have a nice container for your tomatoes or other plants.

Be creative. You may find that there is a vast array of options available to you.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

When it pours

......and pours, and pours! Such is the way of it the last few weeks. The Lord saw a need for us to have rain and over the past weeks has been blessing us.....abundantly! With the rain has come new challenges and lessons to learn.

The first has been how to dry laundry without being able to hang it out on a clothesline. That has been a challenge for me. One solution has been to take advantage of the cooler temps brought by the rains and to light the wood stove. I hang the laundry on hangers to be placed on a clothes rack near the stove to dry. I also have a wooden dowel type drying rack that fits perfectly on top of the stove for drying additional items. We are planning to add a clothes drying area in the laundry room at some point this summer to prepare for winter when line drying is more difficult.

Another challenge has been the garden. Alas, with all the blessings of rain has come a serious delay in the tilling & planting of the garden. I had seeds already started and have had to rethink where to plant so that I could get the seedlings out of the containers before they became root bound. I finally found a nice area in the side yard where the seedlings are now set out and will grow well. Not the first choice of a garden area, but we are making use of what we can. Once the spring rains are over and the garden area can be tilled, we will set about planting the summer garden. The seed varieties that I have not been able to set out due to the rains now will be planted in late summer to give me a nice autumn garden crop. We are already making plans to attend farmers markets in the region to buy what we are unable to grow this season. This will allow me to be able to can and stock our pantry in preparation for winter.

Abigail is getting so "grown up" in her play and how she interacts with others. She has been working on preschool level workbooks for a couple of months now. Yesterday, she began writing the capital letter "A" and did quite well. I had to hold her hand steady at first while she made the letter, but she picked it up pretty fast. We are going to buy her some writing tablets for her age level so that she can practice her letters easier.

Micah is finally walking! Whoo Hoo!!!!! He is so funny. As he walks, he laughs and is really enjoying it. Now, he only needs to gain the confidence to let go of our hands.

The lamb is growing very nicely and grazes most of the time now. He is such a funny little guy to watch. When he runs and is excited, he jumps and hops as he runs. We are looking forward to expanding the herd a little more so that we can start raising them for meat.

Thank you for all the comments and pen pal letters that I have been receiving. I am thoroughly enjoying them. My Beloved has set up my prepay cell phone to accept and send emails, so if you have my email address @ gmail, feel free to write. I truly enjoy being able to stay in touch.

May the Lord's blessings be with you,

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Close Encounter with Nature

You know, I have always for a weird fascination with women who are able to scream. Not just a little one, but the blood curdling screams like those of a horror movie. I have never been able to do that....thankfully! Well, on April 26th I had the perfect opportunity to learn that skill.

We had attended a local church that morning. After returning home, I went into our bedroom to change into a different dress before preparing lunch. As you walk into the bedroom, beside the doorway on the right side is a large chest of drawers. As I passed the chest, I heard a sound. I looked back to see a rattlesnake on top of the dresser! I had passed within 2 feet of it! I gave my best effort of the horror movie scream. Not planned, but for some reason the situation pulled the scream out of me. Was it the horror movie quality? Not by a long shot, but it was enough to have my Beloved come running!

The snake had dropped off the chest and so we (okay my Beloved) had to search for it. I estimated that it was about 2 ft. long. I then remembered that his sock drawer had been partially opened. He took a look in there and sure enough, the snake was coiled up in tha back corner of his sock drawer.

Much to my fright, my husband carefully pulled the drawer out and carried the drawer - snake and all - through the house to the back porch where he carefully set it down. The snake was a curiosity to the cats, but one quick attempt to strike at the cat was enough to get them to expercise caution. Beloved went through the house and back out through the front door in an attempt to get in a position where he could properly deal with the snake without risk of being bitten. In the time it took for him to do so, the snake got away.

The snake, we believe, had come through the hole in the ceiling above the cheast of drawers. We are making repairs and that area had not be finished up yet. There was a very large firewood pile in front of the house that had been moved and stacked along a fence. We think the snake must have been using that wood pile as a home, but left when the firewood was being moved to it's new location.

So many things could have gone wrong that day. The snake could have struck myself or Beloved very easily as we were each well within strike range. It could also have hidden in the house only to be found by one of the children. The Lord watched over our family that day. He blessed us with protection.

Did I ever acheive that horror film quality of a scream? Nope! But I did get to meet a rattlesnake up close, which is an event I hope never to repeat!

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Back at the Homestead.....

First, I want to thank everyone for the prayers and well wishes. I am doing much better now. My leg still acts up if I over work, but it is improving more each day.

Recently, we learned a valuable piece of information about our sheep. During the times of year when grazing is plentiful, we only have feed on hand for the days when weather is bad or when we will be away from home for the day & unable to let the sheep graze. We give them a mixture of 14% creep and corn. In the winter, they also get hay to give them the bulk and roughage that they need.

Last weekend, the feed store we normally go to was closed by the time we arrived so we had to go to the other feed store in town to buy the creep. That is where we learned a hard lesson. The creep was a different brand than the one they are used to. Well, turns out that when you change feed brands or types the sheep don't always tolerate it very well. Both the ram & ewe became sick & were "off their feed" for a couple of days. They laid around, the ewe only standing up to nurse her lamb. We talked to a friend who let us know the change in feed was the problem. We stopped giving them the new creep and gave them corn and the creep brand that they were used to instead. Within a couple of days, they were feeling much better. After about 4 days of not trying to graze, they began grazing again and are now back to their healthy selves again.

When changing feed brands or types, it is highly recommended that you gradually mix in the new feed into their regular feed. Over a period of 3-4 days, you slowly increase the percentage of the new feed in the mixture until you are able to give them the new feed without the old type/brand mixed in. This allows their digestive system to become accustomed to the new feed without having a bad reaction.

In the garden: the seedlings are popping up very well. Some better than others, but the garden plants are starting to grow. I am looking forward to getting the rest of the seeds planted once the garden is tilled. Our neighbor is planning to come by with his farm tractor to make quick work of it for us. The main garden area is 108' x 88' in size. In addition, to that garden we will have the herbs planted in & around the front yard. I am looking forward to seeing how much we can produce from that garden area. It is the largest we have had to date.

In a couple of weeks, I am planning to have a canning spree. A friend who doesn't know how to can is wanting to learn. She is a single mom and we feel the canning will help her out quite a bit in saving money on her food budget each month. We are going to be canning a lot of meals in pint size jars for her to take home. This will give her a nice supply of quick to prepare meals to stock her pantry with. Homemade soups, stews, and such will be the main things canned. Over the week, I will get a jump start and do some of the canning ahead of time. The goal is to have a month's worth of meals canned for her to take home that day. While I am doing all that canning for her, I am going to be doing the same meals in quart size jars for our own pantry. Over the winter, our pantry became quite depleted, so I am anxious to get a good supply back in there. Having the easy to prepare meals canned and ready to use are a blessing once the garden starts being harvested and the canning from the garden is underway. Often, my Beloved will take a pint jar of a home canned stew or soup with him to work for his lunch. It gives him a break for having sandwiches all the time.

This year, I am going to do something new. I will be keeping an inventory list of all home canned foods that I do. This will hopefully be a help in the future when planning my garden and pantry in future seasons. I have always had a pantry inventory but this time along with the canning list, I am going to have notes tracking how much produce came from the garden and how much (if any) had to be purchased at a farmer's market. By tracking the amount of produce, I can better plan out the amount of garden seed I will need to plant to supply my family with the food we need for the winter. The goal that I have is to grow as close to 100% of our food as possible.

If you keep inventory of your pantry & canning, I would love to read your thoughts and ideas. Feel free to add a comment with your favorite tips for tracking your pantry inventory & garden planning or any questions that you may have. I will try to answer your questions next time I post.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Oh Good Grief!

Last night, I had to go to the Emergency room. I had bruised the inside of my right leg just slightly above the knee nearly a week ago and thought nothing of it. Night before last, I started having "electrical shock" sensations in the area. The sensation was quite strong and painful, occurring 3 times within an hour. So, after Beloved got home from work, I went to the hospital to get it checked out. They found that I had pinched a nerve. I am now having to wear an immobilizer on the leg and use crutches for the next 1-2 weeks. {insert rolling eyes here}
Beloved took the day off today to drive me to town and to help out. Starting tomorrow, I will have help so Beloved will be going back to work.

This has really brought to the forefront the thought of what happens when one person is sick or recovering from an injury when you live off-grid? It isn't as easy to work around as it is when you have electricity and the daily tasks are done by machines.

I can see that we will have to have some kind of plan set in place for the future. Not that we are looking forward to another such incident, but to be prepared. When you do everything the "old way" and do not use laundry machines or other conveniences there has to be a preplanned alternative for how things get done. We are lucky this time in that we have a family member who was already planned to visit for a month and is arriving today.

Families with older children have the help of their children to pick up the slack when Momma or Papa are recoving from illness or injury. If there are no older children or other relatives nearby to help, you must have a plan of action. This is one area of our lifestyle we have not had need to address yet, but are going to start working on very soon.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Life Off-Grid

Greetings! I finally got to a library to have a chance to update the blog. Thank you to all who have stayed in touch via snail mail. I love receiving and answering the letters.

Life off-grid has been a wonderful change in our lives. It is such a blessing in ways that we hadn't planned on. We are getting into a smooth routine now that makes in many ways our lifestyle feel effortless. Yeah, I know...... that is hard to imagine! LOL

Our ewe had a baby ram about a month ago. He was all black when born but is now showing signs of his wool lightening. Soon, he will be the cream (off-white) color of his parents with a black face & legs. We have yet to name him. We have 2 ewe lambs on order to be companions for the new ram. This is mainly to avoid him trying to breed with his momma in the fall. The adult breeding pair, the new ram, and the 2 new ewe lambs will complete our breeding stock. We also will be getting a third lamb that we will raise over the summer to be butchered in the late autumn.

We have been given great news. Our 1890 home is not in a bad of shape as we thought so we are remodeling it as originally planned. We are following our dream of remodeling it as closely to what it may have been like in the 1890's. Not having electricity, that is even easier now.

Ever want to confuse your power company? Try convincing them over the phone that you want them to remove the electric meter and cable from your house! It was so funny. First I talked to them & they simply couldn't work their mind around the idea of someone choosing to not have access to electricity. They tried everything to talk me into keeping the meter box & cable. Not getting anywhere with them, Beloved had to call them the next day and get firm about it. Next morning, the worker showed up and kept asking "Are you sure about this?" I was so sure about it that I helped to remove the cable! In less than 10 minutes, we were 100% off-grid.

The first day was surreal. I am amazed at how much background noise that appliances make. It was so quiet that I was able to sit and listen to the birds outside even though all windows and doors were shut. A few weeks later when we had large fluffy snow falling, you could actually hear the snowflakes hitting the windows.

Our garden will be plowed soon by our neighbor with his large farm tractor. Once done, we will start preparing to plant. Our last frost can occur in the last week of April, so we will only be planting the root and cool weather crops at first. The garden is going to be larger than any previously planted. We are going to be canning as much as possible to supply our pantry for the winter months. I am also going to start canning meat. I checked with the local OSU Cooperative Extension Service and received printouts of all the instructions and information needed to safely can meat for pantry storage.

About 2 weeks ago, we were able to find a treadle Singer sewing machine that needed refinishing and minor repair for a very low cost. We bought it and I have refinished the cabinet. Beloved helped me to oil and remove rust from the sewing machine to get it back up and running. Now, we only have to get the tensions & possibly the timing adjusted. I found someone who is going to do it at no cost, so I just need to find a time to take it to him. He will adjust it while we are there.

We do have 4 out buildings to be built this spring & summer. The first is an outdoor privy and a small outdoor shower room. With our needing to remodel the bathroom (including repairing the floor) we will need the outdoor facilities while the work is being done. We also will be building a cougar-proof chicken coop and a storage shed.

I am so thrilled with the way our lifestyle has been changing. There is so much peace and contentment in it. I love the simplicity of the Plain life.

I will try to update the blog more frequently. Now that we are getting into our routine, there will be more opportunity to come to the library. Thank you for the prayers and encouragements.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Going Off-Grid

We are going off-grid much earlier than planned. As of tomorrow, we will be off-grid. I will not be able to post any new blogs unless I get to a library, which would be once a month at the most. I have the addresses for the Pay It Forward ladies and will be in touch via the postal service very soon.

I am feeling very at peace right now. This will be a change for us, but we have been laying the foundations for this for several months now. The Lord is in control and we are simply following along with where He wants us to go. It will be autumn before we are able to get the wind-solar system set up, unless the Lord's time table is faster and opportunities are presented before autumn.

I will post again as soon as opportunity allows.

May the Lord's blessings be with you.


Today's "Good Morning"

Today, I awoke to the sounds of our ewe & ram near the house. Not good! The ram gets aggressive with me and is not very cooperative unless Beloved is with me. I got Abbie settled with a bowl of cereal and Micah was playing in his crib, so I went out to put the sheep in their grazing pen, which is the larger of the 2 enclosures. Well, they were having none of that! The ram kept dropping his head down and hitting me again. I had a stick that I bumped him with a few times to keep him away but he seemed to take that as a challenge and got worse. I was able to avoid more hits, but had to keep side stepping him while directing the ewe into their stable. The ram finally joined her and I was able temporarily fix the gate that they had knocked down. I gave them a good feeding of hay & grain to keep them happy for a while. At least until the gate can get repaired when Beloved gets home. If I am able to, I will repair the gate myself once the little ones are napping after lunch.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Oklahoma Storms

I first want to thank those who have emailed me asking if we were affected by the tornado & storms. Today, Beloved and I were at Oklahoma City to meet with our state legislators at the "Capital Day" event for homeschooling families. Each year, the homeschoolers spend a day at the state capital building to meet and speak with their legislators. We also have an opportunity to watch a legislative session and have lunch with our legislators. We had a wonderful time at the capital building. We met our district's state representative and state senator. It was a very interesting and informative experience.

As we were leaving, the tornado sirens went off. We watched the sky getting very dark towards the Yukon area. We were heading a different direction, so while being watchful, we still were not too concerned for our safety. We stopped at a health food store to buy wheat and their cash registers (computerized) stopped working. So, off we went to Walmart for a few perishables that we wanted to get while we were in town. We had just got into the store and the sirens went off again. We had to stand in the middle of the store until the sirens stopped. We did our shopping and left for home.

What a day! Tonight, we are having thunderstorms & rain. Luckily nothing too serious at this point. I had to start the wood stove tonight as the temperature is to drop due to the storms. I am so grateful that we were able to travel in safety.

Tomorrow, I am going to work on some projects that need finishing. After the long day we had today, I am going to be doing more restful activities such as my sewing. After an all-day outing, it takes me a day or so to recuperate. Nothing major, just one of the side effects of having fibromyalgia. You can feel fine with the normal pace of your daily routine, but if you are suddenly doing more or a different type of activity your body reacts to it.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Raised Bed Garden Idea

One of our on again, off again topics here has been whether or not we will be able to plant a garden this spring. With the new building project that will be taking place, we just haven't been certain that we will have the time to spend on a large garden. There is also the fact that the truck with building materials would be driving right through the area where the garden is always located. So, it was beginning to look like we may not be able to have a large garden. If we have to wait until the garden area is no longer being used as an access to the build site, I would miss the window of opportunity to plant many of the cooler weather crops such as leaf lettuce, spinach, mustard, and swiss chard. I also would not be able to put out cabbage, iceberg lettuce, and my tomatoes. The vegetables that I could plant would be the faster growing ones like zucchini that are relatively no-maintenance and can be planted in early summer. The other issue has been the time spent tending the garden. With us focusing on getting the house closed in and made ready enough to move in by fall, Beloved won't have time to help me with the garden. Nor will I have as much time to tend it as I will be doing other tasks to prepare for the new house also.

Today, an idea came to me that may just work. For some time now, I have been thinking about gardening in raised beds. Raised beds are easier on your back and knees. You also have much less weeding to do since you are not having to weed the paths in between the garden rows. Typically with a raised bed garden, it is faster, easier, and cheaper to prepare the garden beds from one season to the next. You only have to ammend the soil in the raised bed whereas in a traditional garden you are ammending all the garden area including the paths in between your plantings. If you need a cold frame, you can easily set one up by building a little dome-type structure to place over the raised bed. This can be as simple as using old fencing and forming an arch to support clear tarp plastic. Poking the ends of the fencing into the sides of the raised bed is often enough to hold it in place. You can also do the same along one side of the raised bed to form a trellis for your vining plants.

So, where is this all going? Out in our yard we have several large wooden shipping crates. Beloved is using some of them for storing scrap wood and also the smaller lengths of firewood that we use in the cookstove. He has access to more of these crates and could bring some home. The crates stand anywhere from 3-4 feet tall and are about 5 feet square. The wood slats have just enough room to allow for drainage in some of the crates while others have wood slats that are a bit further apart. I am thinking that if we fill the crates about 3/4 full of old hay, topped with a layer of some type of material that would prevent the hay from sprouting, then finish filling with a good planting mix we could use the crates for raised bed gardening. The crates with the wider gaps in between the side slats would also have some weed barrier plastic or other material lining the inside of the box to prevent planting mix from spilling through.

If we use a good soil mixture, we can avoid the problems of having lots of weeds to tend to. Adding mulch around the plants would also limit the weeding and help to hold moisture in the soil. Because the raised beds are not completely filled with soil, it will be much easier to scoop the soil out into a wheelbarrow and move the crate to a more permanent location should we decide to do so. As the hay and soil settle into the crate over the season, we will be able to add to the crate the following season when we prepare the crates for the next planting.

For a gardening plan, I am referencing the Square Foot Gardening website. I have gardened by this method before with good results. If we are unable to do the garden this way in the spring, it will be something that I will want to pursue as soon as we are able to do so. If nothing else, I could plant a few things in late summer for a fall harvest.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Supply Run

One of the tasks that we have each month is a trip to Tulsa for supplies. It is about 1.5 hours drive from home to get there, but I am able to get all of our supplies for the month in one trip. There are smaller towns in between, but they do not have everything we are needing to buy. By making the journey to Tulsa, I am able to get all of our dry goods, check the thrift stores for anything we are needing, and most of all, I am able to go to a health food store to get the specialty items that typical grocery stores do not carry.

Tomorrow is my shopping day. Micah and I will be taking our bagged recyclables to the recycling center in Sapulpa. It is one that will accept nearly all household trash that we have. Basically, if we can't burn it in our burn pit, the recycling center takes it. It has been great. We have been without trash service since early last summer and have not missed it at all.

Today, I did an inventory of our pantry to see what all we were getting low on. Surprisingly, we are in pretty good shape where the dry goods are concerned. I am going to be stocking up more on the frozen vegetables and such this trip. Our garden didn't do as well as we would have liked last year. Now, I just stock up on the frozen vegetables. Some, I end up canning to save space in the refrigerator's freezer. All in all, it works out great.

At the Whole Foods Market in Tulsa, they have a large bulk foods selection. I love to shop that area. They have a wide assortment of items including the various grains, mixes and seasonings. Something that they do that is different from many stores is to have the plastic deli containers in the bulk area instead of bags. The containers are in pint and quart size. They also have plastic bottles for the things like syrups or honey. I like this as I am able to reuse these containers each time I go. In the spices and herbs section, they have large jars of the dried spices & herbs that you can measure out into little baggies. The price for the seasonings there is much cheaper than the cost of the bottles & jars of seasonings at the grocery store. I buy the amount that I need and it costs under 25 cents. Instead of using the little bags however, I have found a better solution. The Parents Choice baby food has the fruit in small plastic cups with very tight fitting snap on lids. Each cup holds about 1/4 cup. I am saving these for the bulk seasonings and spices. The containers are very light, like the deli containers, and will hold more than the smallest sized bottles of spices that you find in the grocery store.

So, tonight, I am gathering up all the containers and frozen food tote bags to prepare for the shopping trip. I am going to take note of how many bags I end up using from the store so that next month, I can have that many fabric tote bags on hand. I am really wanting to get away from bringing home the plastic bags. Beloved bringing home a few during the month is fine. We reuse them as trash bags in the smaller trash cans and other purposes. I do however want to limit the number of them that we bring home so that we don't get over run by them.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Rude Comments

I guess it was only a matter of time. If you have a blog long enough, you are bound to start getting very rude and attacking comments posted to it. Tonight I began getting them. I moderate all comments that get posted. These, due to their attacking nature, have been rejected. The person who posted them said nothing in the comments that had any value. Childish name calling and disrespect won't be tolerated in the comments posted.

"Anonymous" (the person never gave a name) obviously has issues with our lifestyle. All I can say is that this person is welcome to not agree with how we live our lives. Each family must decide for themselves what is best for their own family. Just because we choose to life this way does not mean we feel it is right for everyone. It happens to be what we enjoy though.

If someone has a problem with our way of life or that I refer to my husband as Beloved, that is their right to have their own opinion. I also have the right to live my life as I choose. If that includes referring to my husband as Beloved, that is my right. Just for reference, Webster's dictionary gives the meaning of "beloved" to mean "dearly loved, dear to the heart." That is what my husband is to me. He is dear to my heart. Yes, I capitalize it, just as others would capitalize any other endearment that they used to refer to their loved one. Nothing "disturbing" about that.

Some of the changes that we have made in going from using all the modern conveniences to doing things more like the "old way" have been ones made together. Other changes, such as my choice to do laundry by hand have been my own. I enjoy doing the laundry by hand. It is not the drudgery that many people think it is. Currently, we do still have an electric washer & dryer that I can use anytime I decide to. I just prefer to not use them. I find it relaxing to wash by hand. There are times when I do use the machines, but not as often as I used to. I do know however that if I told Beloved that I wanted to give up doing laundry by hand he would be very supportive of it.

There are always going to be decisions that we make that will cause people to fuss. Please get a grip! We are not asking everyone to make the choices that we have made. Good grief. Yes, we are enjoying that we don't have much of the modern technology in our home. There are some things, such as the computer, however that will stay as long as we have a purpose for it. Right now, the computer & internet provide us with a way to stay in touch with family & friends, research, and to earn a bit of extra money from time to time. If the computer ever lost it's purpose we would get rid of it too. I find it funny that there are people who actually think we are odd for still having a computer & internet when we have given up so many other things.

The point is, this blog is a tool to share the journey we are on to simplify our lives. There are decisions that we will make that others would never choose for themselves or their families. That is fine. What is not fine however is for people to take it upon themselves to make rude remarks and childish name calling in comments to my blog. I do not judge you or your lifestyle. You are free to live as you see best. I ask that you offer me the same respect and not judge me or my family.

I will be saying a prayer for the one who posted the nasty comments tonight. This person needs prayer.

Grain Mill Discouragement

I have the Blendtec (formerly called K-Tec) Grain Mill. I have been using it for nearly 3 years now. In warm weather the mill grinds wheat very quickly and I can mill a week's worth of wheat without any problems.

During the winter however, I am having difficulties. The mill gets so warm while milling the grain that it causes humidity. The humidity is built up in the mill causing the flour to cake up on the underside of the the top (the actual mill portion) and also in the air flow areas. If you look at the picture, on the right hand side of the mill there is a small air flow outlet that has a sponge-type piece stuck into it to prevent any flour from blowing out the vent. That area gets very gummed up with flour each time I mill during cold months.

This problem is a real hinderance to my baking & cooking. We do not use white flour. Instead, I mill whole wheat flour. It is much healthier and also losts less than buying an equal quantity of wheat flour. So, now I am wondering how to solve this problem at least for the rest of this winter. We heat with wood, so the house is rarely as warm as a home with central heating would be. I have tried milling in both a cooler area and a warm area of the home with the same results. I can only mill about 6 cups of grain before having to thoroughly clean out the mill, letting it completely air out for a few hours to evaporate any moisture inside the mill, then mill another 6 cups of grain. A tasks that only takes 30 minutes at the most during the summer now takes all day.

If anyone has experience with such a problem and has found a way to help lessen it, I would love to hear from you. I am hoping to save up enough before fall to get a non-electric grain mill to use as we are going to be going non-electric. It will require me to mill wheat as I need it instead of milling a week's worth at one time, but that is fine. For now, I am just trying to find a way to get through the rest of winter with this mill not giving me such a problem.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Current Sewing Projects

Have you ever worked on a craft or sewing project that just made you smile? That is what I have been working on the past few days. First sewing project I finished was a pair of slippers for Abigail. She is constantly going around without slippers on. Too much like her Momma, I guess. I can't stand wearing hard soled shoes either. So, I made her a pair of soft soled slippers. When she saw them a couple of days ago, she had just woke up from her map. She immediately put them on and has worn them each day since. I will have to make her a couple more pair for when one pair is in the laundry. The pattern that I used is the homespun slipper pattern from Candle on the Hill. The pattern pack has all sizes from infant to adult in one packet. I have a pair cut out and ready to sew for Micah. I am thoroughly enjoying making these for the family. Seeing how much Abigail enjoys her pair makes it worth any time involved in making them.

I am working on another fun project I am sewing is the Pay It Forwards. I showed them to my mother-in-law and she liked them. I may make an extra one for her as it is something that she would use. Can't say what they are yet since i haven't mailed them to the Pay It Forward recipients but I was thrilled that my mother-in-law liked them.

My next project is some aprons and head coverings. I also am going to be making a new dress. Beloved has been wanting me to make myself a new cape dress, so I am finally getting one made. Yikes! I haven't made myself a dress in quite some time. I always seem to find things to make for others that takes priority. Beloved is determined though that I make a dress for myself this time.

I am so glad that Beloved has been encouraging me to sew more. I find it to be calming most of the time. There is a satisfaction in knowing that I am able to make things for the family. I am so grateful to the Lord for putting my Grandmother and Katie Swartentruber in my life at a time when I was so impressionable. Their teachings and bits of knowledge that they shared with me in my youth have blessed my family so much.

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Pay It Forward Update

What a fast response! Lanita and "Scrappy Quilter" were the first 2 people to sign up. There is room for 1 more person. Lanita, I will be emailing you shortly. Scrappy Quilter, could you please contact me via email? I need to know where to ship your item. My email address is listed on the blog page under the "About Me" link.

I started working on the items that i am going to be sending. Won't give it away yet. I want to wait until they are ready to post. I think you will like them though.

Thanks again to Andrea for giving me the idea for the Pay It Forward and letting me join in your exchange. I am enjoying this a lot.

May the Lord's blessings be with thee.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Pay It Forward

One of my favorite blogs to read is Andrea's blog called Welsh Quilter. She shares wonderful samples of her quilts and other projects that she has been making. On her current blog entry, she posted a fun activity that is going around the blogs called Pay It Forward. How it works is that the first 3 people who sign up for it are sent a handmade item from me. After signing up, they post about Pay It Forward on their own blogs and do the same, making and sending a handmade item to 3 people who sign up. And so it continues on with each person.

Pay It Forwards can be any handmade item or craft that you choose to send. The items do not have to be large, just something that you have made. According to the rules, you have 365 days to make & send the PIFs but most send them out much sooner. If you are interested in signing up, send a email or post a comment saying so. Once I contact you to let you know that you are one of the first 3 to sign up, you can then go ahead and post on your own blog about Pay It Forward. It sounds like a lot of fun and I am looking forward to doing this.

Anyone interested in signing up?

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Waiting on the Lord

Lamentations 3:24-26 (New International Version)

24 I say to myself, "The LORD is my portion; therefore I will wait for him."
25 The LORD is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him;
26 it is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the LORD.

"Patience is a virtue." How often have we heard or said that. We try to instill in our children the ability to have patience. Yet, how often in our life are we in a hurry. We go to the Lord in prayer asking His guidance and blessing. Often, His answer does not come right away. We have to wait for His answer.

How often in the waiting do we act like an impatient child? We fret over whether or not the Lord has heard our prayers. We grumble that He is ignoring our prayers. We despair that He has turned away from us. All because we were to wait.

Many times, we are too impatient with the Lord. We are quick to acknowledge that the Lord does things in His own time, yet are we willing to allow that? Are we content to continue our prayers and doing what we can while we wait on the Lord to provide His answer? What if His answer is "not now"? Are we willing to wait until the time is right? Or do we decide for ourselves that the Lord is working too slow and we should go forward anyways?

Currently, our church congregation is anticipating a change. The lease for the building we have been meeting in is going to be changing and it is time now for our congregation to find a building to purchase. Our pastor has asked the members to keep the church in prayer. We know that the Lord has already chosen where He wants us to be. The Lord knows what neighborhood would be best served by our church being there available to help minister to the needs of that neighborhood community. He has been cautioning us as a congregation to be prepared to make sacrifices. The building the Lord has chosen may not be what some would expect for the church. We all have our own ideas of what we would like to see, but we have to keep in the forefront of our minds and hearts that this is the Lord's church, not ours. The Lord will lead us to where He can best use us to bless the people of the community. The timing of when we will find a building is fully in the Lord's hands. It must be! There is no other way to do it. If the church leaders were to buy a building in the wrong area, we would be able to work in that community but our efforts would not be as effective since we are following "our" whims and not the will of our Lord. So, we wait. We are watchful and asking for prayers that the building the Lord has chosen for us be made known to the leaders.

Psalm 27:13-14 (New International Version)

13 I am still confident of this: I will see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living.
14 Wait for the LORD; be strong and take heart and wait for the LORD.

This passage is of particular significance as it serves to remind us that the Lord's way is good and we only need to wait on Him. During times of change, especially if the change is a very good one, you will have more interference from Satan. Satan hates all that is good. Remembering to be strong and take heart as we wait is important.

Whether it is a prayer for your church or for yourself & your family, the process is always the same. Pray! Do all that you can to prepare yourself for the answer - even humbling yourself to accept answers that may not be what you wold have wanted. Then patiently wait on the Lord to direct your steps and words. It is not always easy to wait on the Lord, but the blessings for doing so are great.

It is my prayer that we all learn to wait for the Lord.

May the Lord's blessings be with thee,

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Green Living Laundry Tips & Ideas

I am excited. I had been trying to find the good old fashioned metal wash tubs and was getting discouraged by the high prices. To buy the galvanised metal tubs from a farming supply costs over $65 for the size tub needed for washing laundry. Well, yesterday I made a discovery. At Lowe's Home Improvement Center, they have large round galvanised metal washtubs in their paint supply area for under $15 each. What a find! I had just bought an old washtub just like these at a flea market for $2 which needed some sylicone put into the small holes in the bottom of the washtub. Right there in the same isle of the store were the same size wash tubs. I now know where I am going to buy my washtubs from now on. I am still happy to have found the one I bought at the flea market. If the sylicone I got doesn't fill in the holes, it will make a great container for my garden. I will eventually get 2 wash tubs, one for washing the other for rinsing. Then, we will be able to remove the washer & dryer from the house and set up a low table or bench for me to set the wash tubs on when doing the laundry. I am quite happy about the changes. At first, doing laundry by hand for a family seemed a daunting task. Especially with 2 little ones, one in cloth diapers and the other in cloth training pants. I am finding however that the task is much easier than I originally thought. If I presoak the laundry in hot soapy water to soften the soil, the laundry is washed faster than in a machine. I have posted in an earlier post the steps that I take in doing laundry by hand.

One of the challenges of drying laundry without a dryer is finding creative ways to dry the laundry. Issues such as space, cost for setting up, and weather can be a challenge. There is a small investment in setting up a line drying system. The simpliest and cheapest is to string a clothesline rope between 2 trees or posts that are already in place. Many who plan on line drying exclusively prefer a more permanent setup such as the metal T-posts set in the ground with concrete footers or an umbrella clothesline that can be set up when needed and removed when not in use. There are countless options for indoor clotheslines also. You can find dryer racks of various sizes and materials readily available at most stores or online.

An option that we are implementing for now is using a portable clothes rack. We have an area in our family room near the wood stove that we are able to set the clothes rack. Under the rack, I will have the large washable fabric pads like you see for using on beds. These will catch any drips and prevent the water from making a mess on the floor. I found 6 of these at a thrift store and was able to buy them in new condition for under $4.00 for all 6 of them. I will be using some recycled fabric to add onto the quilted side to give it a stronger fabric & prevent the rack from tearing them. By hanging the laundry on hangers, I can dry more items in a smaller space. The laundry, once dried, will be ready to hang up to put them away.

A simple and effective clothesline that you can run across your room from one wall to another is a dog chain. These chains are designed to be used outdoors where they will be exposed to rain and not rust. As long as the links are large enough to allow a hanger to be hung onto a link, with the hanger's hook going through the link, you can use the dog chain. You can attach the chain to the wall using a metal hook. Be certain to use a hook that is heavy enough and is well attached to the wall stud. Add another hook on the opposite wall and slip the ends of the chain onto the hooks when the line is in use. When not in use, you can remove the chain from one hook and slip it onto the opposite hook so the chain hangs down the wall out of the way. Another advantage of using a chain for your clothesline is that if you are using it outdoors on a windy day, your laundry on hangers will not be easily blown off the line. For heavy items such as a blanket or quilt, you can still use the chain, just drape the blanket over the chain. It should not cause any stains or rust on the fabric if the chain is the metal that is rust-proof.

You can find clothes dryer racks that are made from dowels in many online stores and find similar racks in department stores. If you are creative and have a drill, you can make your own using the simple directions on the Handyman Wire website. The instructions given are for a large rack. If you have access to an old baby crib that has seen better days, you can make your own rack that is suspended from the ceiling using the crib side rails for the drying rack.

On Korey Atterberry's blog, she posted a tutorial for making a drying rack for cloth diapers using 1/2 inch PVC pipe. This is a very easy project that nearly anyone can accomplish. This rack is a nice size for things like dish towels, socks, and other small items. I am thinking that it would be a great project to try and make from wooden dowels instead of the PVC so that I can set the rack directly on top of the wood stove we heat with. Our wood stove has the entire top vented to allow the heat to rise. By placing a rack built to fit the wood stove, I would be able to dry cloth diapers and other small items very quickly. To make a fast project, you can use the wooden stretcher bar frames like those used for embroidery or needlepoint. These frames are 4-sided and fit together easily. No tools needed to assemble them. When put together, they look similar to a picture frame. You can use wood glue to hold the corners together at the joint. Drill your dowel holes (same diameter as your dowels for a tight fit) along one frame edge. It may be helpful to tape the 2 frames together and drill through both at once to make sure the holes on both frames line up correctly. This edge will be at the top of your rack. For added stability, you can add a couple of dowel holes in the bottom edge near the corners to add a stabilizing dowel at these corners. Place a dowel in each hole of one of the frames. Then, line up the other frame and slip the dowels into the holes. Push the dowels through until the ends are even with the outside edge of the frames. This will make a very sturdy rack that will give you a lot of use. QUICK NOTE: You can make this same wooden rack using 1/4 or 3/8 inch dowels on a smaller frame to make a drying rack for homemade pasta or for using on your counter to hang dish cloths & towel between uses.

I have been quite surprized to learn that in many neighborhoods across the nation, home owners associations or cities themselves are banning the use of outdoor clotheslines. A common reason being that they feel that it lowers property values. For some reason they feel that line drying our laundry is only done by those in poverty situations. Good grief! The Boston Globe has a wonderful article that explains the situation. In a time when people are concerned with global warming, energy conservation, and the rising cost of energy, you would think that a person would be free to make the choice for themselves on how to do their laundry. It makes no sense to me that any group or city government can dictate whether or not a person can line dry their laundry. There are some legislators trying to change this, but it would seem that other legislators are not wanting to upset the home owners associations. Check to see if your area has such a ban. If you are wanting to exercise your option to use clotheslines and are unable to, write to your legislators and let them know how you feel about it.

Do you have a creative way of drying your laundry by line drying? Feel free to share your ideas. If you live in a neighborhood that does not allow the use of outdoor clotheslines and still dry your clothing without a machine, please share your stories. There may be others in such a neighborhood that is needing ideas on how to line dry without the outdoor clotheslines.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Answers to Your Questions

I want to thank those who read my blog and have been writing to me with questions. I am recieving so many that I thought I would answer a few of them here.

Security Lights: for night time lighting, there are many options in solar lighting. We are planning to utilize some of these to light the areas near the home. It will also be a possibility for lighting around the animal stables & poultry coop.

Computer: We are looking into the build-your-own types of alternaitive solar & wind power systems. This would power our computer and also any small appliances, such as my wheat grinder and slow cooker.

Indoor Lighting: currently we use oil lamps for our primary lighting source with jar candles as a secondary source. We have a coleman lantern that we are finding is much cheaper & provides better lighting than the oil lamps. We are going to start using it more. It is a dual-fuel lantern which allows for using unleaded gas as a fuel alternative which is much less expensive than the cans of coleman lantern fuel. The overall fuel cost for the lantern less than 50% of the cost of lamp oil. A lighting option that we are looking into is the portable solar lanterns. These would make an excellent option in that there would be no need for puchasing fuel. They are also a safe option for leaving on overnight as a nightlight for the children or for carrying out to the stables to tend the animals. Joe has even talked about having the solar lights along the path to the privy, possibly even solar lighting inside the privy also.

Doing Laundry by Hand: One question that I am often asked is how long it takes to do laundry by hand when compared to an electric washing machine. When I do the laundry, I do about 3 loads at a time. One day, I had some heavy quilts to wash, so I decided to see how the 2 methods compared. I start the hand washing by running a bath tub of hot soapy water and soaking the clothing for about 30 minutes. This will soften and loosen any dirt in the fibers of the fabric. After it had soaked, I put a quilt in the washing machine. Unfortunately only one fits at a time. I then started the machine and began hand washing the laundry in the tub using a scrub board. As I washed each item, I wring it out and set it aside in a basket. Once all the laundry was washed, I drain & rinse out the bath tub and refill with more hot water to rinse all the laundry. By the time I had washed and rinsed each item, I had hand washed 3 machine loads worth of laundry. This included our clothing, towels, and wash cloths. As I was finishing up the last of the laundry, having less than half a machine load left to rinse, the washing machine finished the final spin cycle of the quilt I had put in. I had nearly completed washing 3 loads in the time it took the machine to wash a single load! I wasn't trying to play "beat the clock" and working faster than usual. We don't have heavily soiled clothing. The work we do is not that messy. On the occassions we do have heavily soiled clothing, I simply boil them for a little while to soften the dirt well before I wash them. All in all, the time spent soaking/boiling laundry, the time I spend actually hand washing & rinsing the laundry, and hanging them on the line to dry takes less time than a machine does to do the same amount of laundry. The only way I would get the task done faster is if I were to go to a laundromat and use multiple machines.

Function in Furnishings: A common topic for questions I receive in emails concerns our purging and declutteing. Many of the emails express the ideas of what are we keeping? How can we get rid of so much? Here is the way we look at it. If you have something in your home that does not have a specific function that you utilize on a regular basis, then it is not an essential item to keep. The moment any items in your home lose their function or purpose they become clutter and unnecessary. Have you ever looked at pictures or toured museums that had a reconstructed home from the colonial or pioneer days? These homes were not overly furnished. Any items in that home served a specific purpose or function. One home we toured in Marietta, Ohio, had a kitchen that contained only the large wooden table, a couple of chairs, a side table for storing table linens and the like, and the wall which contained the large fireplace was decorated with the various cooking tools of the day. All were hung in easy reach for the person cooking on the fire. There was a butter churn in the corner and very little decoration on the walls. To look at that room, you could easily see the function of each and every item. This was clearly the heart of the home. The family not only prepared and shared meals in this room, but would spend time in the evenings around that table. In each of the bedrooms of that home, you would find a bed, possibly a chest of drawers, a little board on the wall that contained hooks for hanging clothing onto, and possibly a cedar chest for storing extra blankets or other items. Again, each item had a function or purpose. This is not to say that the children didn't have toys or a way to entertain themselves. They simply did not have the large quantity of toys that is common in many homes today. Homes of that period often had a formal sitting room for entertaining guests, but it was not something found in every home.

In our home, our goal is to focus on function more than quantity. In the kitchen, I am scaling things back to only the items I use on a daily or weekly basis. It is amazing how much you think you need, but in truth can do without. If you clean your dishes after each meal, you do not need as many utensils for example. I have a few favorite kitchen utensils that I find myself using each day. The rest simply sit in the crock and never are used. The same thing applies to my sewing supplies, crochet, and every other aspect of my lifestyle. My husband is doing the same. He is gradually sorting through his belongings and donating or disposing of things that no longer serve a purpose.

Our lifestyle is becoming one of minimal possessions. It is so liberating to do this. Where once we would have cringed at the thought of not having our convenience items and other things we were holding on to, we now cringe at the idea of continuing to hold on to those things. We see the blessing of simplicity.

Today, I am making major headway. I am completely rearranging the family room and tossing the things that have been sitting around stored in there. The room is looking empty, which is how I like it. Only the things used daily are remaining in there. I am doing the same with the kitchen. I love it. Beloved may be in need of CPR when he sees how much I did today, but he will enjoy the results of the work I am certain. LOL

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

By and by.....

It is becoming a reality and I am loving every moment of it. The Lord is giving us an other opportunity for a blessing. Our electric dryer that I have been using over the winter has a heating element going out. Our electric washing machine's aitator is making knocking noise. Praise the Lord!!!! I am soon going to be doing our laundry without electricity. Yes! This is a blessing! We are planning on having our home off-grid next fall. We had considered getting a propane dryer, but I am seeing that this will be an unnecessary expense. I am SO excited. This weekend, we are getting a drying rack & stringing up a clothesline in the bathroom so that I will have a warm place to hang laundry on the cold winter days. Yes, the laundry can be hung outdoors and dry, but this will be faster. In hanging laundry out on the line in the cold winter, the clothing freezes. If you want to speed up the drying process, you take a stick or something and hit the frozen laundry to knock off any ice that is on them. Once the ice is gone, the moisture can evaporate off the laundry faster. It still takes much longer to dry though than hanging in a warm room of the home. We heat the bathroom, so that will be an ideal place to hang the clothesline over the bathtub. The drying rack will be in the kitchen where there is more space for it.

Today, I am packing up more excess. You would think it would all be gone by now. Each time we think we have got rid of all excess, we have a time of contentment and then start seeing where we can get rid of more. Such is the case today. We now are looking at everything with the attitude of what we are wanting to keep for the other home. There is actually very little that I want to keep. It is making it easier to purge the remaining excess.

My dream home is one that Joe and I saw at a museum in Marietta, Ohio. It was a historical home that the museum had move to their property & furnished as it would have looked back in that time period. The home was very sparsely furnished. No excess of any kind! The main room of the home was the kitchen which also contained the dining table. You could see in this home that the heart of the home was the kitchen. It was the place where the family congregated. Our home will be the same. Other than bedrooms & a combination bath/laundry room, the home will have one large room that will serve as a kitchen, dining area, and family room.

With our plans to be off-grid, there is so much that we will not need. Our lives are focused around our Lord, our family and homestead - in that order. We don't need a TV or other distractions that take our attention away from those things. The only thing of the modern technonology that will remain in the home will be the computer. Sound like a contradiction? Not really. The computer offers us a means to stay in touch with others, a way of researching, and a way to earn a bit of extra money for the family. Because it serves to meet some needs for the family, it will remain. We just don't allow it to become a distracton or a main focus in our lives.

I am redoubling my efforts to find the things we will need when off-grid. I am especially looking for a treadle sewing machine so that I may be able to continue sewing for the family. There are a couple of other items that I am looking for, such as a Dazey butter churn, that would make things easier but they will come in time.

I am so grateful to the Lord for giving us the knowledge to be able to make the transition to living an off-grid lifestyle. The work is such a blessing. It is so amazing to realise just how much of what society teaches us is essential is actually unnecesary to our lives and well-being.