Monday, September 26, 2011

Frugal Trucking


Well, the truck finally is finished in getting maintenance. This is a
double edged sword. We love having Joe home, but when the truck wheels
are not going down the road the family doesn't make any money. So, we
are now on our way to OKC to take Joe back to the truck so he can get
rolling again.

We were talking today about the canning that I do for his meals on the
truck. I began doing that about nearly 5 yrs ago. At that time, Joe
was driving truck and spent $600 a month on food & drinks while on the
road. Unfortunately for truckers, eating at truck stops is not cheap.
While you might find some foods at a reasonable price, overall the
expense is high. I started canning pint size jars of homemade soups and
stews for him to take with him. We were shocked to realize that just
this simply thing cut his food/drink expense down to $150 a month.

Now, I send Joe out with at least a month's supply of meals. He has 4
dozen jars of soups, stews, meats, and sometimes desserts. He also
takes with him 2 gallon baggies filled with sandwich baggies of homemade
"instant" oatmeal packets. We make them using rolled oats, brown sugar,
cinnamon, slivered almonds, chopped pecans, and raisins. I measure out
the oats into a baggie and he then adds the rest to satisfy his tastes.
He then cooks the oatmeal in his cooker on the truck and has enough to
share with his student also. A single serving is 1/2 cups of the rolled
oats, but I put in 1 cup so that he has plenty to share.

Sending Joe off with the meals is a blessing also in times when he is
stopped at a place where he cannot buy a meal or when money is tight due
to truck problems. I never have to worry that he is getting enough to
eat. I can rest assured that he is eating well. We also know that he
is not eating foods filled with sodium or other additives that are not
healthy for us.

One thing that Joe does on the truck is make his own coffee. How do you
do that on a truck? You take a coffee filter and place it inside a
funnel. Add your coffee grounds and pour hot water over it. This works
just like a drip coffee machine but goes straight into your thermos or
large 54 ounce insulated mug. I learned this trick years ago. Even
with a stove top coffee pot, I still prefer to use this method. I just
make the coffee to drip into an insulated carafe and have coffee hot
most of the day. Making his coffee on the truck like this saves Joe a
lot of money each month when compared to the cost of buying coffee at a
truck stop.

These simple things that we do are just another way that we are able to
live a frugal and more simply. They are ideas that anyone can use.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Saving Money on a Low Income


What a beautiful week we have been having. Beloved has been home for
his 6 days off. While home, he had the truck in the shop for
maintenance & repairs. Unfortunately, they didn't even begin some of
the repairs until the day he was to head back out. This has given him
an extra 4 days home. We love the extra time, but as anyone familiar
with trucking knows, this is a mixed blessing. You only make money when
the truck is rolling. His dispatcher is not happy with the situation
either, so is trying to get him into another truck on Monday. Will take
some doing, but we hope it will happen. This is one reason why we are
so fervent about the issue of stocking up the pantry and supplies we use
regularly. In situations like this when you know there will be a week
without pay, it is a blessing to know that you have stocked up on
everything you need. It is also one reason why we live a plain and
simple life. By not being loose in our spending, not having loans, and
being off-grid, we are able to handle these challenges without too much

I tell you about this to give you a real-life example of why we stress
the idea of self-reliance and being prepared for hard times. We never
know when these situations will come. They are not something that you
can pencil in on the calendar and prepare for. You must prepare for
them always! Unexpected job changes, illness, and such can throw a
wrench in your family's financial well-being. We knew going into
trucking that it is a feast or famine career. When the truck is running
good and loads are abundant, you can make a very good income. It is in
those times that we stock up, buy any shoes/clothing needs that are
coming up, and take care of repairs. We know that each winter, for
example, that there will be fewer loads and the pay won't be as good.
It is similar to the life of a construction worker who lives in a
climate where winter interferes with the amount of construction jobs
they are able to do.

One skill that I am working on is the one of living below our means even
when income is below normal. This takes a lot of planning and work. It
isn't something that you can just jump into in most cases. The goal is
to have spending so low that even in the lean times, the money made will
only need to be used for the things that I cannot produce at home.
Kerosene for our lamps and propane for the refrigerator are two of the
things I always have to spend money on each month. But there are so
many ways to get by on other things.

Gardening, hunting, fishing, canning, or buying foods in bulk when on
sale are a few ways to take care of your pantry needs. The higher that
I see food prices going, the more important I am finding that gardening,
hunting, and fishing will become. Learning to cook from scratch and
eating more simple "farm style" meals can help greatly. You don't need
to eat fancy, just basic foods that are nutritious and filling are
sufficient. If you have a favorite food that you like to eat at a
restaurant or fast food store, look online and find a similar recipe to
make that food at home. I have often bought the large restaurant sized
(#10) cans of tomato sauce or puree to use as the base in making
homemade spaghetti sauce to home can. It costs less than buying
tomatoes from a farmer's market and works as a great back-up when my
garden doesn't produce as well as I hoped. You can also "re-can" things
like the #10 cans of relish, ketchup, fruits, and anything that can be
water-bath processed.

Learning to recycle clothing and other fabric items is another wonderful
way to save money. Cutting old towels into smaller squares and binding
the edges to prevent unraveling will make wash cloths or dish rags. Old
t-shirts are good for cleaning rags. Cutting up old clothing to make
quilts or up-cycle to make into other clothing items is a good
resource. One easy project for a little girl who has out-grown the
length of her jeans but not the waistband is to either add a decorative
cuff to the bottom of the pant leg or cut off the legs to use in a quilt
and add a length of gathered fabric to the upper portion to make a skirt.

The fact is, with some thought, creativity, and a willingness to work
you CAN lower your expenses and live below even the most modest of
incomes. The issue comes down to one thing - are you willing to put in
the effort that it requires. The true waste of resource comes in the
form of conveniences. The easier we make our lives, the higher the
cost. Meals made from scratch require a bit more effort than a packaged
or frozen meal. Sewing is more effort than buying new. Buying paper
towels is easier than having to wash cleaning rags every day. The list
goes on and on. It comes down to the this - you must look at yourself
and decide if the lower expenses is worth your time and effort to do
things in a more cost saving manner.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Altered Books

I have been looking at some really good examples of altered books lately. Some in magazines, and others on websites. Basically an altered book is an artform. You take an old unwanted bok and through paints, decorative papers, rubber stamps, etc., you transform the book into a work of art or a new journal. This idea got me thinking.

Instead of buying a new notebook for a journal, why not make an altered book? You can find old hardcover books with nice bindings at a thrift store or even a yard sale. Decoupage the cover and transform t into a nature journal or other journal that can be used in homeschooling. Letting kids make their own would be a fun project for them. You can choose a theme, such as an old gardening book to use as the base for a nature journal. An old church hymnal could be used for a Bible memory verse journal. The possibilities are endless.

I am going to start looking around for old books at the thrift stores. Making an altered book sounds like a fun and creative way to make journals more personal. Who knows, I may even start with a purchased blank journal that I have at home. Sponge painting some rubber stamp ink onto the pages and basically dressing up the plain white pages. Abbie is wanting to do this also. Looks like we may have yet another Momma/Daughter activity to do together!

Monday, September 19, 2011

Praise & Update

Well, today was the day. My beloved went to the DHS office to talk to
them about the complaint made against us. When he got there, they soon
were reassuring him that they realized that the complaint had no merit.
Praise the Lord! They went ahead and interviewed him anyways, but by
the time it was all said and done, they are ready to close the report as
having been false. Here are the issues that they addressed.

#1 We do not have electricity. In our state, you are not required by
law to have electricity. There was no law broken in this. We let them
know about our solar panel to give me the ability to charge up the cell
phone battery. Other than that, we have no use for electricity.

#2 Our son got a heat rash over the summer. This one was true, but it
is not even a medical issue. Many children and adults get a heat rash
if they spend time outdoors in the summer heat.

#3 Our son is thin. Okay, true but not a medical concern since he is
built like beloved's side of the family. His youngest sister is still
very thin build.

#4 No running water in the house. This was one of 2 lies spoken about
us. We do have running water, however in our state it is not required
by law. In some rural areas, families have to haul in all water they use.

#5 A floor in the house was collapsing. This was the second outright
lie. Our home is old, but there are no collapsing floor. We were able
to let them see for themselves that the floor is intact.

While the first 3 items were true, they were not things that could
constitute abuse or neglect. The issue about water was a non-issue due
to the fact that as long as you have access to clean water, there is no
law to require that you have running water in the home. The only item
on the list that was even remotely an issue was the lie about the
"collapsed" floor. Due to Micah's being special needs, the state law
is requiring DHS (child protection services) to assess any reports that
come in. The good news now is that the report is being closed and we
are fine. They now know that we are knowledgeable about this lifestyle
and how to manage heat and other issues in a healthy way.

So, what do we do now? We first and foremost is to forgive the one who
filed the complaint & pray that their heart be softened. Just as we
would wish to be forgiven of our wrong doings, we must be willing to
forgive others. To not forgive would bring about pain and bitterness
into our lives. The Lord doesn't want that for us. He is generous with
His forgiveness in our own lives. How can we call ourselves Christians
and not be willing to forgive as the Lord would have us do?

There have been some who have had concerns about not only the situation
but whether or not it would cause us to quit blogging and sharing our
lives. Rest assured, that we will only close down our blogs when the
Lord leads us to do so. Until that time, we will continue to share just
as we always have. We will not allow this attack against our family to
silence us. We must continue for as long as the Lord leads us to write
and share. There is a purpose in it and the Lord is helping many
through our blogs and facebook.

I am so grateful to the Lord for seeing our family through this
challenge. I am especially grateful for His influence and helping me to
set aside my human-ness to find the desire to forgive the one who lied
about us. I am grateful to the Lord for having a husband who is so
supportive and strong throughout this whole ordeal. And finally, I am
grateful to all those who have written emails and shown support to our


Sunday, September 18, 2011

Praising the Lord in Challenging Times

It has been a difficult time recently. It would seem that our lifestyle
has ruffled a few feathers. In my human-ness, my first reaction was one
of shock and disbelief that we would be singled out and attacked. We
have broken no law and rest easy in that knowledge. The fact is
however, that someone disagreed with our lifestyle and reported us to
child protection services. As I mentioned, there are no laws broken and
the complaints were more on our simple lifestyle & the fact that our son
is built like his Dad's side of the family, who are thin. The children
are happy and healthy. We are going to be fine through this challenge.
Joe and I talked often about this, including late into the night his
first night back home. We have chosen to praise the Lord for this
challenge! Sound strange? Think about it. How often in times of
struggle and challenge did the Apostle Paul praise the Lord for those

When we accept the Lord into our lives and are baptized, we are in
essence allowing the Lord to come into our life completely. As we give
control of our life over to the Lord, we become more aware of the Lord's
influence in our life. He is a part of everything we say and do. If
you truly have given yourself to the Lord, there is no way to
compartmentalize your life into portions - this part is me, this part is
for the Lord. To do so is to serve 2 masters - the Lord and your own
human nature.

When Joe and I chose to be off-grid several years ago, we were following
the Lord's leading. We believe in not allowing ourselves to be put into
bondage voluntarily. I have discussed this before. In our belief, if
you are hooked up to a power company's service, you are in bondage to
that company if you want electricity. They own the pole, meter, and
lines. If you want their service, you must pay whatever amount they
require to get it. You cannot comparison shop for a better price. You
are bound to that company and are forced to step in line with their
demands. The same goes for all public utilities. Unless you have the
ability to choose from whom you will buy the service, you are in
bondage to the company that provides in your area. For this reason, we
gave up electricity. We realized just how dependent we had become on
them. For us, that dependence was not good. It was a form of bondage
and one that we had the ability to remove from our lives. The Lord
showed us that we could easily make the changes. He allowed events to
play out in our lives that made the change easier. He has blessed us in
that change as we followed the leading He gave us.

Through our blogs and Facebook, Joe and I are very open about our
lives. It has been a ministry of ours to help others to learn how to
live a more simple lifestyle. We never preach that our way is the only
way. Each person must pray and ask for the Lord's leading for their own
family, then follow where He wants them to be. Whether you live a
simple, Plain life as we are striving towards or not, our hope is that
we can provide information that will bless others. To censor ourselves
is to censor what the Lord is guiding us to do. When I write my blogs,
I do so only if prompted by the Lord and say only what the Spirit leads
me to say. I cannot censor the Lord or the Holy Spirit. To do so would
go against what the Lord has asked of me.

To be dealing our latest challenge, Joe and I are realizing that our
words and lives making an impact. Praise the Lord! We are touching
lives in His name and are helping to bring about changes that are
pleasing to the Lord. Our obedience in being willing to be open will
not make the evil one pleased. Surely, the evil one will want to find a
way to silence us. He will desire to make us doubt the Lord's being
Sovereign and in control. We cannot allow this. We will continue to be
bold in our praising of the Lord. If anything, this will strengthen us
to become even more bold! We are humbled and give praise to the Lord
for the impact He is making with others through the words He gives us to
write or say.

We are fully aware that our boldness, in spite of the evil one's
attempts to silence us, will ruffle even more feathers and make us a
target for his actions. There may be more attempts to silence us. We
know that the Lord is faithful and is in control. If we are challenged
due to our boldness, it is NOT because we are doing something wrong. It
is because we are doing what the Lord has asked of us. In our obedience
to the Lord - the evil one will never be happy. The focus for us
however is to keep our hearts open to the Lord's will and have the trust
in HIM to bless our family.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Autumn Canning

Root crop season is upon us. Cool weather crops are soon going to be
harvested. Root vegetables, cabbages, and winter squash of various
types will be coming into season. This is the season of that last big
canning binge. Produce prices are rising quickly due to crop failures,
drought, etc.

I am watching closely the produce prices for the autumn and root crops.
As I see something at a low price, I am buying as much as we can afford
that week and canning it up to add to the pantry. I am even going the
route of buying #10 cans of some foods and repackaging them. I found a
#10 can of sliced beets very cheap and repackaged them to make pickled
beets. Having the juice on them already, it was only a matter of adding
the seasonings then repacking them in jars and water bath canning them.
If tomatoes didn't do well, check for the #10 cans of tomato sauce at
the store. I use it to make large batches of spaghetti sauces to can
and add to the pantry. I have been pleasantly surprised at how well it
works out both in flavor and in price.

Often, you can find in the larger stores, such as Sam's Club, the bulk
size bags of frozen vegetables at a fair price. I slightly cook these
to reduce the shrinkage that occurs as a vegetable cooks in the canning
process. Next, I pack the jars just as I would with fresh produce
adding water and canning salt, then processing as usual.

Hunting season will soon be here. Already, I have been hearing the
sounds of neighbors shooting targets in preparation for deer season.
For farming families, it is also butchering season. You can also watch
for meat sales. I love to can up chunks of meat; chicken, beef,
venison, to use in meals later in the year. I make stew meats, taco
meat, add the meat to spaghetti sauce, make beef or venison stew with
vegetables, BBQ shredded meat, or simply can it in a marinade or broth
to be added to pasta or rice later on.

Typically, autumn is that last push for getting your pantries in order
before winter. How are you prepared for the upcoming winter? If you
were to be caught in a winter storm situation or simply one of life's
storms like a job loss or illness, would you be ready for it? Recently,
we had the opportunity to see how well we would fare through such a
situation when Joe's truck kept breaking down for a 2-month period. We
literally had no pay some weeks and I was unable to go to the grocery
store for 3 weeks at the worst point. We were blessed however to have
been prepared. We were lacking some things, but the essentials needed
were there. I learned from that experience where I need to build up the
pantry more and in what areas we are doing good. The greatest blessing
was that we didn't have to worry about how we were going to find a way
to eat. There was always food in the house.

I am so grateful to the Lord for blessing me with a heart for stocking
up and a husband who supports me in doing it.

Our Modified Homeschool Workboxes

Using workboxes for a few months last school year, we tried using them
according to Sue Patrick's instructions. While we ended up not using
them for a time, it was long enough to see where we needed to make
adjustments to better fit our family. Most of the basic ideas Ms.
Patrick shared in her book are still being used, but I needed to change
a couple of things.

Abbie's work area includes a desk with a small bookcase beside it. The
bookcase contains 3 shelves, not including the top. On the top of the
bookcase, I set up a small 3-drawer organizer to hold her pencils,
erasers, pencil sharpener, color pencils, and crayons. She also has a
ruler and an old pencil box for other items like scissors and glue
sticks. The next 2 shelves contain all 12 of her workboxes. The
workboxes are clear shoe boxes with lids. I have them stacked 2 boxes
high with 3 stacks across the shelf. These fit nicely that way.

The workboxes are labeled using clear pouches that are adhesive backed
and labeled. The pouch has a pocket that you place the workbox number
and information into. Being that Abbie loves Tinkerbell, I have
Tinkerbell themed workbox number cards. I cut them in half so that the
Tinkerbell picture will go in the pouch beside the number portion of the
card. I have a second set of the cards laminated with a card in its
corresponding workbox. These cards have a velcro dot on the back.
There is a 12-box grid of squares sized to fit a Tinkerbell card. The
cards are placed inside its workbox. When Abbie completes a workbox,
she takes out the card and attaches it to the grid. Her finished work
is set aside and she takes out the next box.

She seems to enjoy this system. Abbie is learning to be self-directing
and independent. She takes breaks and is learning time management
skills that will benefit her later in life. I am putting together a
portable system for days when we have a day away from home. I am
binding some pocket portfolios together to make a little book. In the
pockets I will be placing worksheets and fun activity pages for her to
do when we are at Micah's therapy sessions or other outings. She has
been asking to take homeschool with us and this will be a nice break
from the usual, but still give her the work she is wanting to do. In
the past, we have taken file folder games with us. Those were fun for
her also. Abbie loves to play but I am seeing a growing desire in her
to look at her books and do schoolwork. In that way she is much like
me, I guess. I would have preferred to have my nose in a book than do
anything else when I was a kid. I had to have my mind challenged in
that way. I am still that way today and am happiest when I am
researching something.

Taming the Snack Monster

"Can I have a snack?" is a common phrase when you have children. It
doesn't matter how much they eat at meals, there is going to be a
request for snacking. This can become either a good habit, or it could
become a parent's worst nightmare. The deciding factor is in how you
prepare for it.

When you look around the stores, vending machines, and other venues
where snacks can be found, it is easy to find the fun snacks that kids
find so appealing. Snacks laden with high fructose corn syrup and
sodium are abundant. All are packaged in a way to draw the child's
attention. For many children, the idea of eating a healthy snack is
just plain boring. So, how does a parent handle this influx of junk
that the kids find so attractive?

It begins with you. There is no way that you will convince a child to
eat carrot sticks dipped in peanut butter if you are eating a sugar
coated snack cake or a bag of chips. Like every lesson in life that we
teach our children, the example should be given through our own
behavior. Let me give you a tip - kids will not respect the "do as I
say and not as I do" approach. While you may browbeat them into
obedience with that tactic, they will not respect it and your authority
over them can even be damaged. Now, this is not to say that there are
not times when you need that approach. One being when teaching them the
negative aspects of an addiction or other behavior that you worked hard
to overcome. In this instance though, getting a child to eat something
healthier than you are willing to eat is seldom effective.

We chose early to only allow healthy snacks at home. There are times
when unhealthy ones have been available, but not for long periods.
Snacks usually involve a fruit or vegetable. At times, the kids are
given more unhealthy choices when visiting others and even will bring
these snacks home after the visit. We don't toss them out. Rather, I
have started portioning the snack out into sandwich baggies and putting
them into a container. Once in a while, the kids are given one of these
baggies as a treat. Not everyday, but maybe a couple of times a week.
The snacks that I offer most days are much more healthy. Here is a
partial list of their favorites.

carrot sticks with a small amount of peanut butter mixed with a bit of
honey to dip the carrot sticks into
cottage cheese (our daughter especially loves this and asks for it quite
fresh fruit (apples, bananas, grapes, cantaloupe, and berries of all types)
dried fruits (I use these to mix up our own trail mixes)
celery sticks with peanut butter
cucumber slices (our daughter enjoys these dipped in ranch dressing)
cherry tomatoes

Whatever the snack we choose, we are trying to make it something
healthy. It is our hope that by providing the healthier options, the
children will learn to make wise choices themselves.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Basic Home First Aid

It is strange, the twists and turns that life throws your way. One
moment you are walking across the floor, and the next you are fighting
back the tears as you tend to an injury. At moments like this, your
first thought should never be, "Do I have the first aid supplies to deal
with this?"

Late in the afternoon on Saturday, I was working on sorting through some
boxes in my bedroom. The flooring is a very old hardwood that has small
little areas where the edge of the boards are starting to splinter. As
I turned to place something on the bed, my bare foot caught on one of
these splintered pieces and got embedded into my foot. The "splinter"
continued breaking from the board and ended up 4" long. The most narrow
part is what got caught in my foot and went bone deep, going into the
tissue just below my toes and nearly exiting out at the point where the
arch of my foot begins. I pulled out the splinter and found that 2
inches in length had been in my foot. Luckily, the entire thing came
out and nothing remained behind. It bled for nearly 15 minutes, even
with pressure being put on it. This was a good thing in that any
impurities were removed also. Once I got the bleeding stopped, I
cleaned it up and put a bandage over it. By bedtime that night, I could
barely walk on it and my foot was swollen. Thankfully, there is no
infection or redness. The pain only being from the injured tissue and

I tell you of this for a purpose. If such an injury should happen to
you or another in your home, would you know how to take care of it and
have the supplies to do so? Living in a rural setting, first aid
knowledge and supplies are as important as having food & water. If you
have children, the value of this information is even greater. In many
cases, homesteading/farming families live a long enough distance from
medical help that the trip could be life threatening. Could you manage
to aid someone even if while waiting until help arrived?

Think about the livestock you raise, the tools you use, and the general
daily life situations where an accident could happen. Something that is
not uncommon around here is to see a row of stacked firewood collapse.
It can be standing tall one day and a section laying in a mess on the
ground the next. What if you or a child were near that firewood when it
fell. What about serious burns around an old fashioned wood burning
cook stove? Where there is firewood, you often have ax, hatchets, or a
chainsaw. These accidents are more gruesome to deal with and much more
life threatening, but they can happen.

When we still had our sheep, the ram got territorial one day when they
had got loose and charged at me. He hit me many times from a flat out
run. Now, I am not a small woman, but he hit me hard enough to lift me
off my feet and have me land on my back a couple feet away. I was
knocked to the ground 3 times and hit in the hips, legs and lower back
several others before I was able to get in the back of our pickup truck
for safety. My body was bruised and battered by the end of it. When he
left the truck after a time, I ran to the house where our nearly 4 yr
old daughter was watching from the window. Thank heavens the ram chose
to come after me and not her! One hit alone could have killed a child
that young. The following summer, we sold the sheep. Situations like
this can happen easily when you have especially the larger breed
livestock. Are you prepared to handle such an incident?

It is easy to find good books on first aid at any bookstore. I would
highly recommend that you consider taking classes through the Red Cross
or another venue if you have never done so. Educate yourself as much as
possible. I have a large tackle box with several shelves with
individual compartments for various fishing gear. I cleaned it up and
am turning it into a well stocked first aid kit. Survival guides and
first aid books often have a shopping list of items to stick in your
first aid kit. The idea is to have it all together in one place so that
if there is a need, you can grab it quickly. Include a copy of a good
first aid manual in the kit to use as a reference. It may help to keep
an inventory of everything you plan to have in the kit, including
quantities of each item. Each time you go to the store buy a couple of
items to add to the kit. Even if money is tight, you will have your kit
stocked soon enough. On your inventory sheet, include expiration dates
of any medications, creams, salves, etc that you add to the kit. This
will help to remind you when to rotate and replace the item.

I am so grateful that both knew how to handle my foot injury and had the
supplies on hand to take care of it. There is still no sign of
infection, It is still swollen enough to make walking difficult and
painful, but it could have been so much worse. I am really proud of
Miss Abbie. She saw it happen and kept a clear head, following
instructions that I gave her even though the sight of the injury and
blood was upsetting to her. She never broke down and even cleaned up
the blood from the floor without being asked. Awesome for a 5 yr old!