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.