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.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Pantry Planning

Winter is a great time to take stock of your pantry. Now that we are about the halfway point through the cold season, how are your doing? Did you lay in enough supplies or do you see areas where you should have planned better?

One of the questions that I hear from time to time is how to plan a garden that will feed your family for a year. Growing a garden of that magnitude takes a great deal of thought & planning. You can easily plant too many of some things, while planting not enough of others. With the slower pace of winter, you have the opportunity to take a thorough look at your food supply & garden planning.

A easy place to start is to consider your family's eating habits. Each family has specific vegetables that they enjoy eating and those that they do not. Make a list of the produce and vegetables that you buy on a regular basis. Include the vegetables bought in cans and frozen in this list. If you plan to home can tomatoes, you may also want to consider including things such as spaghetti sauce in the list.

Now, how often do you use these foods each month? If you keep your grocery receipts, you can find this information on them. Another way to know is to write down your weekly menu. I use a combination of these two methods. We do a bulk shopping trip once a month and buy everything for the month's meals except for fresh produce which we buy locally as needed.

Once you have this information, you can now start reading up on the growing of these vegetables. Look in seed catalogs and find varieties that are heavy producers that grow well in your area. The reason I suggest a heavy producer is that it allows you to plant few plants or seeds and still have a large harvest. You can also look on websites such as Hume Seeds that has a wonderful chart that shows how much you need of each vegetable type to feed a family of four. This chart can be altered to fit the size of your family. If you need ideas on how to garden in small spaces, I highly recommend the Square Foot Gardening or container gardening methods.

Dried beans and other items that your family uses, but you may not want or be able to grow can be purchased in bulk. I buy the dried beans, lentils, and grains. I store the dreid beans & lentils in gallon size plastic containers. Each container will hold approximately 6 pounds of dreid beans & lentils. Grains, such as wheat and rice, are stored in 25 lb. buckets. I found a nice food storage calculator online that you can use. You type in teh number of people in your household and it will calculate the amount of dried goods that you will need to feed your family for 1 full year. I used the calculator to see what it recommended for my family. I will have to make several changes in that we do not use processed sugars. I would eliminate the processed sugars and replace them with increased amounts of raw honey & molasses. In the fats category, I could eliminate mayonnaise and salad dressings as I have been collecting recipes to make my own as we need it. You can make similar changes to fit the needs of your family. Overall the calculator does give you a good guideline to go by.

As you plan the pantry for next winter, consider including garden seeds as a part of your pantry. Buy seeds when they are on sale and store for planting next year. This will give you a head start on your garden planning as well as save you money.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

ARGH! That Man!

How many times have you felt that towards your husband. We all do from time to time. We get irritated by something he says or does. That is natural. If we were honest, we would admit that we probably do the same to him. The problem though is how do we respond to these feelings?

How often have your heard, or caught yourself, talking to another woman about some slight that you think your husband has done? It saddens me to hear women discuss their husbands in a negative way. Griping about everything from the income he provides to how little he does to help her with the household tasks or caring for the children. This is a common occurance. Common or not, however it needs to be stopped.

There is great danger in such talk. You de-value your husband. You can cause others to see only his faults, not his strengths. I remember one such couple I knew years ago. The wife complained so much about her husband, whom I had not an occasion to meet, that I prejudged him. When I finally met him, I was visiting their home. He was not anything like she described! What I did see first hand however was how demanding and rude she was towards him! If he tried to help her with something, it was never done right in her eyes. My opinion of him changed completely that day, as did my opinion of her.

Imagine a young newly married couple. Both are learning their way in this new life experience called marriage. Each person was raised with the example of their parents & the teachings received from them. each have expectations that their relationship will be like the one they saw in their parents or one that they have dreamed of. Then reality hits and they are faced with their ideals not being met as they had expected. So, what do many women do? They call a friend and complain about "that man" they married. The more they dwell on the short comings of their husband, the less appealing he is in their eyes.

Fast forward a few years. Let's introduce children into the mixture. The mother is still complaining or talking in a negative fashion about her husband, only now the kids are over hearing it. What affect does this have on the children? If they hear their mother complaining about their father, will they grow up respecting their parents? Surely, they will likely grow to see only the short comings of their father. Often, they will also lose respect for their mother for speaking in such a way of their father. If there are daughters, what example are complaining mothers setting? What are the chances that she will grow up to speak just as disrespectfully of not only her father but her own husband one day?

One thing life has taught me is that frustration towards others always comes from the idea that the individual did not live up to an expectation that I may have for them. Using a very common complaint I have heard as an example, let's say your husband doesn't pick up his dirty clothes & put them in the hamper. You always get frustrated because he never does it. Well, if he never does it why do you continue to have that expectation that he will do it? Your own expectations for his behavior has just set him up for failure in your eyes. If he never picks up his laundry, stop expecting him to do it and save both of you a lot of grief and heartache.

It is alright to seek the counsel of other sisters if done in the proper way. Not just a gripe session, but maybe asking advice of a good Christian sister who you can trust to not carry the conversation to others. Before you open your mouth think on one would I feel if I found out my husband was talking about me to his co-workers or friends in this manner? If you had short comings, would you appreciate your husband speaking to his peers about them?

We should always strive to uplift our husbands. They are a blessing in our life. I believe completely that if you treat your husband as though he was the most clever, hard working, and romantic man you ever met, he will rise to the occasion if he isn't already. Think about it. Doesn't it make you want to try harder to be an even better wife when you hear your husband brag about you? Don't you want to strive to live up to what he tells others? Beloved brags on me to just about everyone he meets, I think. Once at church, our daughter was wearing a little outfit that I had made. Beloved carried her around church talking to people after the services and made sure that everyone knew I had made the outfit. I was horribly embarrassed! It did one thing though. Seeing his pride in my ability to sew has made me want to sew more for the family. Not to hear him brag on it - good heavens No! - but because I saw how much he enjoyed seeing our daughter wear that outfit.

Our husband's are no different. The more we build them up, standing beside them, supporting them in whatever way we are able to do, and making them feel like they are very precious to us, they will respond to it. And you know what? Even if they don't our own attitudes will change. Maybe their dirty laundry on the floor won't seem so important because we know how hard they are working outside the home to put that roof over our family's heads, clothing on our backs, and food in our bellies. Maybe if we start praising or bragging on their strengths, we will cease to see their short comings.

This morning, I read a cute but very appropriate comment that fits this post. "Lord, Keep Your arm around my shoulders, and Your hand over my mouth!"

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Simplifying Painlessly

Often Beloved and I have been asked if we miss the "things" that we have done away with. The most popular being the TV. It is funny to us as there was a time when the thought of not having a television horrified my Beloved. It still baffles people that we do not have electric lights, video games, DVD player, and many of the other things that society has convinced us to be essential to our lives. Making the choices that we have made seem a hardship to many. It doesn't have to be. For those who are considering simplifying their lives, let me share the painless way we have found to do it.

Each household has a certain level of unused items. Things that you hang on to because you may need it one day. The problem is, "one day" never comes. So in the meantime you are storing the items and maintaining them. What a waste of space, time, and money! One way to decide what you truly NEED is to pack seldom or never used items into a box. Store the box under the bed or in some other location that keeps it out of sight. Have a time limit. For us, things can remain packed up for on average 1-2 months. If there never comes an occasion to dig an item out of that box, then we know that we can rid ourselves of the items. Some items are sold, others are simply donated to a local charity. This method has proved to us that the saying "out of sight, out of mind" is true. As long as the things are in our sight, we are tempted to hang on to them. Once we have the items packed away, we actually forget what we packed. The one temptation you have to avoid however is to not look through the box before donating it! That can bring the temptation to pull things out to keep.
There are exceptions to the rule. Tools are never given away or sold. Seasonal items such as clothing that will fit another season, blankets, coats, etc. are all kept until they are no longer serviceable or in the case of clothing they no longer fit.

In deciding what we keep there are 2 criteria, both of which must be met. First, the item must have a purpose. This includes collectibles. We are lucky in that Beloved and I both enjoy collecting things like oil lamps or the antique/old fashioned manual kitchen gadgets such as a butter churn or rotary beaters. The second criteria that must be met is that the item must have a place to be stored neatly. These criteria may seem pretty basic but they have a purpose. By limiting all our possessions to these 2 criteria we are able to avoid clutter.

One email I received asked if our children have toys as toys can become clutter. Yes, our children have toys and books. We are selective though in what we buy. We feel that even though playtime should be fun, we also want to include toys and books that are educational. Not all toys fall into the educational heading, but most of them do. We want to encourage our children to grow up loving to read so we are building up their library of books. In having the toys though, they also fall under the category of "does it have a place to be stored neatly." Once toys are no longer being played with they will be donated to a charity.

One area where clutter can take over is the wardrobe. There are 7 days a week. If you do laundry once a week, how many outfits do you need to get through the week? One way to really make your clothing budget go far is to coordinate your wardrobe. If you wear separates (slacks, skirts, tops), choose items that will allow you to mix and match. Avoid choosing colors that can only be worn with one item. If you wear dresses, you can easily manage with 6 work dresses and 2 nice dresses for attending church or outings. Having a limited amount of clothing makes it so much easier to get ready each day. No more having to stand in front of the closet and decide what you will wear. I realize there will be women cringing at the thought of not having a closet full of clothing. That is fine. I am giving an option for those who truly wish to simplify their lives. One concern about clothing is that if you are doing your household tasks in a dress, how do you keep them clean. The answer is as simple as wearing an apron that is made large enough to cover the dress properly. If you work outside the home, you may want to consider having a selection of clothing for work and ones for home. If you apply the same idea of limiting the number of dresses or getting separates that mix & match well, you can still simplify your wardrobe and still have the selection you would need. My Beloved has his clothing for work, clothing for home, and a couple of suits for church. Our children are still young enough for cloth diapers & training pants so they have extra clothing for those times when their outfit has to be changed during the day. The main point is to really be honest about the true need versus the "wants" in your wardrobe.

In the kitchen, you can also find clutter. How many people are in your household? Now, how many place settings do you have in your dishes set? We have 4 people in our household. There is no need for a service of 12. Having the extra dishes makes it easy to let the dishes go until you have a sink full. I have 1 heavy stoneware plate that we use as a warming plate in the oven. I also have 4 dinner plates on the shelf. We have more plates, but I have them stored in the pantry for when we have guests. I have done the same with the glasses, coffee mugs, etc. This has been a blessing. Now, the shelf has a much neater appearance and the task of washing dishes is not so large. It forces you to do dishes after each meal, which makes your household tasks more efficient. We still have the extra settings for the times we need them, but they are kept stored in the pantry.

You can apply these ideas to other areas of the home. The key is to start with the simple things and work your way towards the harder ones. As you make progress, you find that you want to do more. We have found that be eliminating the clutter, the home is easier to maintain and we have more time to spend doing other things. We don't miss the things we have given up. Now that they are gone, we have had no desire to replace them. I truly feel that the method that we use to simplify has been one of the key reasons. We first prove to ourselves that the items are not necessary. Once that is done, it is easy to part with them.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Laundering Cloth Diapers

Okay, so you have made the cloth diapers from recycled fabrics to help cut down costs. Now, you are faced with a problem.....laundering them. Depending on how many diapers you made, you will be needing to wash them each day or every 2 days. I recommend that you have no less than 2 dozen diapers if you are not wanting to wash them each day. Along with the diapers, I make an equal number of doublers. Two dozen diapers is about what you would need for a 2-day supply for a newborn. As the baby gets older, this amount will last longer. It is best to have more than you think you will need. There often will be times when the extra diapers are handy to have.

Because of a baby's sensitive skin, you need to be cautious in how you launder the diapers. When I wash our infant's diapers and toddler's training pants, I use a mild soap. This means a soap that has no dyes or fragrances. I add a cup of white vinegar to the rinse water. This will remove any soap residue left on the clothing. No commercial fabric softeners are used in the rinse. They lessen the absorbency of the diaper fabric.

When I dry the diapers, I hang them on the line whenever possible. The only times I do not hang them on the line is if I am running short on diapers and need them dried quickly or if the weather is not cooperating. There are several advantages to drying diapers on a clothesline. One obvious advantage is the cost. Drying them on a line is free. You do not have to pay for the energy used. Another is that the diapers are more thoroughly dried. Have you ever noticed that a towel or clothing dried on a clothesline is stiff while the machine dried ones are soft? The tumbling action helps to soften the fabric as well as a small amount of moisture remaining in the fabric. Line dried items are dried through evaporation without the humidity factor that exists in the clothes dryer. The sunlight also will naturally bleach out any stains in the diapers.

The question remains though. How do you avoid using the clothes dryer in bad weather? Well, I have been working on that specific question. One way is to use a drying rack like the expandable free-standing ones made from dowels. These are great as they can be moved to a location where they will do the most good. If you have a wood stove, you can place the drying rack near the stove so that the diapers get the best amount of heat. The moisture evaporating from the diapers as they dry will also help add humidity into the air. Limited on space and cannot use a drying rack? How about using the retractable clotheslines. Installed to be stretched over the bathtub, the diapers will be out of the way while drying. If you live in a rental and cannot install the retractable clothesline, there is another easy & interesting option. I found a blog today that has the directions for making a small cloth diaper drying rack that will fit on your clothes dryer or table. This rack, made from PVC pipe, would be great also for small items such as underclothes, hand towels, wash cloths, dishcloths, socks, etc. If making a rack for your prefold diapers, just measure the longest edge of the diaper and divide the measurement in half. Take that measurement and add about 2 inches to get the height of the drying rack. This will provide plenty of room for the diapers to not be dragging on the table surface as they dry.

I love the concept of this drying rack. It is not glued together, thus you are able to remove the leg portions to store it between uses. Being a PVC material, it is easy to wash and will not develop mold. For many who wish to cut expenses, this rack may be a good investment & project to do.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Homemade Prefold Diapers from Recycled Clothing

I wanted to post the instructions for how I am making my son's prefold diapers from recycled t-shirts and sweatshirts.

Here is the website that inspired me.

Here are the measurements for the sizes of prefold diapers. The measurement is the finished diaper size. Please note that the measurement does not include room for shrinkage if you are using new fabric.

Newborn: 11" x 11" when fully shrunk, Fits newborn to about 6 weeks or 2 months, or fits about 5-10 pounds

Small: 12" wide x 14.25" long when fully shrunk, Fits 10 pounds to about 6 months old

Medium: 14" wide x 16" long, fits ages 5-6 months or so and older.

Large: 15" wide x 17" long, fits larger babies or age 12 months through toddler.

Toddler: 15.5" wide x 20" long, for age 18 months, or for a night diaper for over age 9 months to potty learning age

Diaper Doublers: These are the inserts that you can add into a diaper to make them even more absorbent, especially good for night time use. These are typically a double layer of polar fleece or other absorbent soft material. A double layer of sweatshirt material works great. I just cut them from the sweatshirt sleeves. and use the body of the sweatshirt for making the diaper.

Small: 11" x 4"
Large: 12" x 5"

When I make the diapers, I lay the t-shirts out flat and cut the diaper about 1/2" larger all around than the finished diaper will be, cutting through all layers at the same time. This will give me the front and back of the diaper. If you wanted, you could mix and match the diaper fabric using a t-shirt for the outside and a sweatshirt on the inside. It is up to you. Either way, you will want 2 layers for the diaper.

Now, here is where I do things a bit differently than the website I listed. Instead of overlapping the fabrics, I cut 2 rectangles of fleece (sweatshirt) 5 inches wide and long enough to extend the entire length of the diaper. I stack these and center them down the middle of the the 2 layers of the diaper material and top stitch them in place.

Last step is to either zigzag stitch or serge with your overloc machine around the outside edges, 1/2 inch from the edge of the diaper. Trim fabric if necessary.
That's it!

Now, if you are wanting to use the doublers, simply cut them from the sweatshirt (2 layers of fabric) and zigzag or serge around the edges. To use the doublers, just lay on inside the diaper in the middle to increase the absorbency.

Once you get everything cut out to make these diapers and doublers, they sew up really fast. You can easily make a stack of them in one afternoon.

If you have any questions about making these, feel free to ask me.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009


Have you ever heard this term? It was a new one to me. I saw the term "upcycling" for the first time today. I looked it up and had to chuckle. Upcycling is a fancy and nicer sounding word for something that people have done for generations. Upcycling is taking something old or worn out and transforming it into something new and serviceable. With the economy in such a mess and the new law that is to take affect February 10th that will in effect cause all thrift stores & consignment stores to stop selling clothing, toys, or other items for children 12 yrs old or younger, upcycling may become popular again.

I have been upcycling clothing for years. Taking old clothing and cutting it apart so that I could use the fabric to make other clothing, quilts, or other items that we needed. There are women who find good wool sweaters in a thrift store and carefully cut the seams so that they can unravel the knitting/crocheting and harvest the wool yarn to use on new projects. A wool sweater can be purposely shrunk down (felted) by washing it in hot water, then drying in the clothes dryer. The felting process tightens the weave of the sweater and makes a wonderful cloth to make winter hats and gloves from. Recently, I had a wonderful idea shared with me from a man who knew I was wanting to make a warm bunting for my 9 month old son, Micah. He told me that a young woman's wool sweater shrunk by washing in hot water & drying in the dryer comes out just the right size to fit an infant as a bunting.

Ever since Beloved and I gave up trash service last summer and began recycling everything, we have been upcycling the packaging and other items that previously would have been tossed in the trash. Plastic peanut butter jars become storage containers, for example. Yogurt containers become little seed starter pots. Paper egg cartons can be packed with dryer lint, then add some olive or other oil. This makes a wonderful fire starter for our wood cookstove. My old boot style slippers though the sole is worn out, the suede on the boot part is still in good condition for reusing as the soles for Micah or Abigail's slippers.

On February 10th, a new law will be going into affect in the US. The law prohibits the sale of any product (clothing, toys, etc.) for children 12 yrs old and younger that the manufacturer has not had testing for lead. This affects all stores & businesses including thrift & consignment stores. Home based businesses such as the WAHMs who make and sell cloth diapers and such will be essentially out of business.

Due to the new law and the current economic issues facing the nation, many more people will have to learn to make do or upcycle. A popular phrase from the Great Depression time period will become the mindset again. "Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without!"

I am so grateful for those in my youth who influenced me and gave me the skills I would need at a time such as this. The skills of knowing how to sew from recycled fabric, cooking from scratch, and the homesteading skills needed to help my Beloved as we use the homestead to sustain our family.

Sunday, January 4, 2009


As some may already know from the earlier blog entries, I have fibromyalgia. I first began having problems with chronic pain in 1992. The first doctor referred to it as an arthritis of the soft tissue. Over the years, the pain began affecting various parts of my body. Some days more than others.

In 2005, during my pregnancy with our daughter, I had a large increase in the pain. This we believe was brought on by the hormonal changes caused by the pregnancy. After she was born, the pain continues to worsen. I had mobility problems along with the pain. I began to have to use a cane to walk, and later had to use a walker. By late summer, 2006, I was having to use the motorized carts at the stores because I was unable to walk the distance necessary to do the grocery or other shopping. October, 2006, I had to go to the emergency room due to chest pains. They checked me over thinking it may be a heart attack. Praise to the Lord, it was only the fibromyalgia. The pain was in the chest wall muscles, causing them to contract which in turn caused breathing difficulty.

In January, 2007, I began getting concerned. Our daughter was reaching the age where soon she would be crawling and becoming more mobile. How was I going to keep up? I started researching on my own for ways to treat the fibromyalgia without taking all the medications. I didn't like the typical routine of prescription medications. I felt that they interfered too much with my abilities to tend to my daughter.

I prayed about the problem and asked the Lord to help me find the answers that I needed. In my searches on the Internet, I found references that kept talking about the connection between diet and your health. A common belief was that reducing or eliminating refined & processed foods from your diet can help. Some went as far as to suggest a vegetarian diet. I began eating a vegetarian diet, not eating anything that was processed or refined. The results were amazing. Two weeks after I started the vegetarian diet, I was pain-free for the first time in about 14 yrs. I was walking without any aid and spent the next several months building up my endurance again.

Since that time, I have tried on occassions to eat meat again. Each time I have tried, I have had the same results.......the pain and mobility problems return. Sometimes, the affect happens within a couple of hours after eating the meat. Other times, I may be able to eat meat for a few times before the affect takes place. In the end however, the results are the same. Once I eat the vegetarian diet again for a couple of weeks, the pain and mobility problems are gone again.

I still get flare-ups occasionally from other causes. The other triggers for my fibromyalgia flare-ups are the cold weather, over working/being exhausted, or if I get another injury such as when the sheep roughed me up a bit last autumn. Thankfully, most of the causes are ones that I can prevent. I do have my moments when I try to do something that I shouldn't. One example is eating turkey at Christmas. I knew better, but it smelled so good and I love turkey meat. I ate too much of it and within an hour it began affecting me. I laid down for a while and when I got up, my body was stiff and painful with inflammation. It has taken me 2 weeks to get back to beig pain-free again.

My Beloved, made a very loving decision. We are now eating only a vegetarian diet at home. He loves meat, but decided to only have it when away from home. He has meat available to him for his lunches at work and he will be able to eat meat when we have an opportunity to eat out. The only food that he and our little ones will eat that I cannot eat very often is eggs.

My recipe blog will be seeing changes with this diet change. I will be starting to post more vegetarian recipes. The good thing about vegetarian cooking is that most of the meals can be enjoyed by anyone. I don't use tofu very often since it is not something that my Beloved enjoys. One thing I have learned in the past 2 years though is that Greek and Middle Eastern recipes are wonderful for vegetarians. They do not eat meat as frequently as we do here in our country. Kosher recipes are another good source for vegetarian recipes.

I am looking forward to the diet change. I know the affect it has on my health. It will be interesting to see what affect it has on the rest of the family.