Monday, January 30, 2012

Homesteading Ladies - Follow-up

I wanted to post a follow-up to my post on homesteading ladies. First,
let me explain that the reason that I wrote the blog post was due to a
recent private message that I received on facebook. A gal was very
adamant that to be considered feminine a woman needed to be soft and
dainty in her appearance. She mentioned getting her nails done, always
looking her best (complete with make-up) and dressed in feminine
attire. She said that women of the Bible were real women who knew how
to present themselves as such. One mistake that she made to me was
mentioning how feminine the Proverbs 31 woman was. Mistake in that I
was able to use that very example as one that supported my point that a
woman can work hard and still be considered feminine. This gal spoke of
how she goes to the salon every week to have her nails done, pedicure,
and often a facial. In her words, a woman who is feminine never works
as hard as a man. Hmm....... and here I thought women were created to
be a man's helpmeet. (please note the sarcasm in that comment)

There is a huge difference between being feminine or a lady and being a
"girlie-girl." I believe that being feminine is more of an attitude.
It is how you carry yourself. It is in how you talk and act towards
others. Dressing in feminine clothing may help you appear more
feminine, but if you don't walk the walk or talk the talk, no amount of
make-up or frilly clothing is going to make you feminine.

In Biblical times, a woman worked hard. She did not have the
conveniences that women have available to them today. She gleaned in
the fields, milled the grain into flour, made the meals, tended to her
children, made the family's clothing, and all of the typical tasks that
women do to maintain a home and their family's needs. This did not take
away from her feminine nature.

When I was truck driving, I found many times that other drivers would
stop cussing in my presence. Even when talking on the CB radio to other
drivers, they were very respectful of my being a lady. Yes, they knew I
was a truck driver also. They heard the difference however and knew
that I was still a lady in spite of the job I had. On some occasions
when a young trucker would start talking in an inappropriate manner to
me, another driver would verbally dress them down reminding them that
they were talking to a lady, not a tramp. Drivers would hold the door
open for me when I entered or left a truck stop if my beloved wasn't
with me at that moment. They treated me with total respect.

Working hard or doing physical work does not take away from a woman's
feminine nature. Dressing in functional clothing does not take away
from her femininity either. It is our behavior or attitude that can
take away from it. One of the most feminine women that I know is a dear
friend of mine. She is a biker, has tattoos, knows how to use a gun,
has the occasional drink, smokes, and has no fear of telling you what
she is thinking at any given moment. This same gal loves to get all
dolled up for her husband and is absolutely gorgeous. She is one of
most hard working people that I know. Like my beloved, her husband is a
truck driver. She tends their home and property while he is out on the
road. She is also a very feminine lady to the core! She admits
readily to being a girlie-girl, but has no problem with doing dirty,
physical work. She has her own business making soaps, lotions and
such. She also turns old wine bottles into the most beautiful lamps.
The lady has a lot of talent! I adore her and feel blessed to have her
call me friend.

Another example of a hard working woman that I admire is Katie, the
Amish woman I have written about before. At the time I was still living
in Ohio, Katie had 7 children. She raised those children, tended the
home, the family garden, helped with farm chores wherever extra hands
were needed, and even took part in the butchering each autumn. She
worked very hard each day. Her days began early, often before sunrise,
and ended after sunset each night. Being of the Old Order Amish faith,
she did her daily tasks each day without the benefit of modern
technological conveniences. The most modern things that I remember her
using were her kitchen wood stove, canning jars, and a treadle sewing
machine. Unless there was snow on the ground, you often found her
working in her bare feet. She wore shoes in winter, when going to
church meetings, or on outings. The rest of time, she was bare foot.
Katie did all of her work in a long dress with an apron over it. She
was soft spoken, but a tough lady when necessary. She could be found
outdoors working, bare feet covered in mud, sweat beaded on her brow and
still had the quiet elegance of a lady.

My precious Gram was a strong woman. She raised 3 sons during the
Depression years while her husband was often away as a railroad
conductor for an old narrow-gauge railroad company. My father, her
youngest, was born in 1923. They lived and worked on farms owned by
others. She called it share cropping. They worked the farm and in
return were given housing and a small income from the farm's earnings.
Gram had a temper and had no problem letting you know it when she got
her knickers in a not over something. She could hold a grudge tighter
than Scrooge could hold his money. I remember a time when a neighbor
had one of Gram's dishes. The neighbor never returned the dish and Gram
would fuss over that for years to come. There were few who affected her
that way. She held grudges rarely that I knew of. She worked hard. I
remember even after she had a clothes dryer, she would still use her old
Maytag wringer washer and hang out the laundry on the clothesline. I
have no memory of her ever using a more modern washing machine. Gram
was a tough ol' bird in every respect. Gram was also very feminine and
a lady in all the ways that counted. She was an awesome woman. She
went to our Lord in 1983, within weeks of the birth of my first born.
After all these years, I still grieve for her. She was the woman that I
wanted to become.

There are many examples in my life of women who are very feminine and a
lady to the core. Each are strong and hard working. They are adored by
their family. Their husband's cherish them and are grateful for all
that they do for the family. There is nothing about being a hard
working mother that takes away from your femininity. It is in your
nature. Only your own attitude and behavior can take away from it. I
feel sorry for women like the one who contacted me. They see a very
superficial layer to being feminine that puts upon them a pressure that
must be unbearable at times. These are the ones who will suffer greatly
when they begin to show age. We can only pray that they see that their
true feminine nature is not tied to their being primped, dainty and
soft. True femininity is the gentle strength found in women. It is
what gives us the ability to persevere in hard times with grace. It is
what gives us the strength to risk pain of childbirth multiple times.
It is what gives us the steel spine when we need to help our beloved
husband shoulder a rough road. It is within all women.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Quick Tip for Books

Just a quick post this time. If you have favorite reference or
cookbooks that have a paperback type binding, consider taking them to a
print shop or large office supply store that has a printing service.
You can have the covers laminated and the book spiral bound. This will
extend the life of the book and prevent the paperback binding from
failing. If you are like me, you have seen paperback books with pages
falling out. I have begun binding all of my favorite reference and cook
books. The end result is a very durable binding and I am not able to
open the books flat without concern of the binding. You can also use
this idea with any paperback book such as lesson manuals for Sunday
School, devotions, or even your kids' homeschool workbooks.

Just an idea!

Homesteading Ladies

That blog title sound like an oxymoron doesn't it?  I have to admit, it sure does to me.  The past couple of days I have been thinking about something on this topic.  Rather, I have been obsessing over ti because it is a topic that bothers me......a lot!

Think about all of the tasks that you do when living off-grid or modern homesteading.  Gathering firewood, doing all the tasks and chores without the luxury of modern technology.  There is so much more physical work involved each day.  As I have mentioned often, even the simplest of chores can become an event. Let me give you an example of the process it takes for me to wash laundry.

A tote of fire wood is filled and sets near the wood stove in the kitchen.  I stock the stove and have to maintain the fire in it to heat a waterbath canner filled with water to a rolling boil.  While the water is heating, I get the laundry gathered and the washtubs set up near the clothesline.  The laundry is sorted according to how soiled it is.  Lightest soiled is washed first so that I don't have to change out the water as often.  Once the water is heated, it is dumped into the washtubs.  I then finish filling the tubs with cold water.  The waterbath canner is refilled and set back on the stove to heat.  I still maintain the wood in the stove throughout the process.  What water is not needed to do laundry will be used for dishes or other cleaning.  I begin washing the laundry, using the scrub board as needed.  Laundry is wrung out by hand and placed in the wash tub of rinse water.  After I get a load in the rinse tub, I rinse the clothing one piece at a time and run it through the hand-crank wringer.  I place the rinsed laundry into a clothes basket until I have a batch to carry to the clothesline for hanging up.  After it is all washed, rinsed, and hung to dry, the wash tubs are rinsed out and set to dry.  Towards late afternoon, the laundry is taken from the clothesline, folded or hung onto hangers and put away.  If at any time during this process the wash water gets too dirty, I have to stop and clean out the wash tub before refilling it again.  That is only 1 task that I do.

More firewood is brought in before evening to make sure we have enough for the night.  Each day without rain is a day for firewood gathering.  We have downed trees on the property and in our woods that need cleaning up from last year's ice storm.  The fallen tree limbs are dry and ready to use.  We only need to cut it and bring it in.  We keep 2 wooden shipping crates on the porch filled with firewood. These give us a 4-5 day supply of wood.  Keeping it on the porch allows us to have dry firewood should we get rain. 

Amid all of the physical work of a rural lifestyle, I come back to the blog topic, homesteading ladies.  Let's face it.  The work that we do each day is much more physical than the work we did before choosing the rural life.  The days of having your fingernails looking stylish are long gone.  It is hard to have long and pretty nails when you are tossing firewood into crates or using a washboard.  Often, our clothing choices are made according to functionality and comfort more than appearance.  So, here is the question.  How do you do the work of a farmhand each day and still manage to feel feminine?  One woman told me it is a choice.  You can focus on your feminine side or you can live a rural lifestyle.  She believes that you cannot have both.  I disagree with that.  There has to be a way to be feminine without being too "girlie" to do your daily tasks.  I do see a problem however with becoming so focused on doing the work that you don't take time to even notice your own feminine nature. 

So, what are your ideas?  How do you find the balance between being feminine and doing very physical messy work?

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Busy Bags for Kids

Have you ever seen these? I am SO excited about learning about them.
For those who haven't heard of busy bags, let me explain. These are
single activity bags for little ones from toddler age and up. The bags
are designed to entertain the little ones and teach them at the same
time. Here are a few of the ideas that I have seen online and through

A DVD case turned into a mini flannel board. When opened, the inside
front cover is the flannel board while the inside back cover contains
the flannel cut-outs of various felt shapes.

A matching game made of family pictures.

A cute threading activity using a length of cord with a large button
tied to each end. The child threads onto the cord flannel shapes with a
slit cut into the center for the child to thread the button through.

A gel bag for "finger painting" using a gallon size baggie with colored
hair gel mixed with a little glitter. Remove the air bubbles then seal
the bag. Add packing tape at the bag top to secure. The child can draw
in the gel through the bag without making a mess.

A laminated photograph or picture cut into strips to make into a puzzle.

Lace up cards

A deli bowl with a round hole cut into the lid and a handful of colorful
pom poms. The child takes the pom poms and drops them into the bowl
through the hole in it's lid.

Many of the activities that can be put into these busy bags are perfect
for use not only with Little Miss, but as TEACCH workbox tasks for
Little Man. They teach a variety of skills from cognitive to physical
development. For Little Man, the activity of placing pom poms through
an opening in the bowl lid aids in fine motor skills, eye-hand
coordination, and sensory stimulation from the fuzzy texture of the pom
pom. To make the activity grow with him, we can change out the bowl to
be a set of small potato chip canisters that are painted various
colors. He would then sort the pom poms into the matching can and place
them through the opening in the can lid.

Little Miss can have fun with the bags also. Making her puzzles, memory
match games using pictures from a book or unit study theme, a small
plastic canvas stitching activity, a scrap of fabric in a small
embroidery hoop for her to sew decorative buttons onto, a mini flannel
board with tangram shapes along with a few design cards to recreate in
the felt shapes, and some blank bookmarks or note cards with little
rubber stampers.

The ideas are limited only to your creativity and imagination. One idea
that I particularly loved was a mom using the pencil bags for 3-ring
binders as her child's busy bags. She bought the pencil bags that have
a clear front to make it easy to see what was in each. This idea would
make a great travel games portfolio. With spring break and later summer
vacation times approaching, it is the perfect time to start putting
these together. Make up the little activity bags and fill a binder for
each child. These would be great for doctor appointments or any other
outing where the child has to wait and becomes easily bored.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Planning for a Craft Show

Thanks to my son-in-law, I have found out 5 months in advance that there
will be a craft show in a nearby town in late June. The local volunteer
fire departments of our county are having a Chili Cook-off at a city
park. This year, they have really expanded it to include the craft show
and other attractions. With that in mind, I am now planning ahead for
the show.

It has been many years since I have prepared for and sold at a craft
show. The crafts sold have changed since I did them on the west coast.
I have found that geography also brings about changes. What was popular
at shows where I lived back then are not popular here. So, I am having
to really take a good look at the options I have. About the time of the
craft show, the town has their Pioneer Days celebration and a folk Music
Festival within weeks of each other. There is generally craft shows
scheduled around those events. Those events give me the best ideas of
what to make.

So, I am now planning it out and making choices. I have a few crafts
that I am considering. I need to make samples to see how much time they
take and calculate costs to see what would be best. I have already
planned on some that will use recycled items. One is a little girl's
crocheted purse with a small baby doll inside. The purse is a simple
craft that uses the bottom portion of a plastic bottle to form part of
the purse. I remember having one like it as a child and loved it.

One part of craft show preparations from years before that I will be
doing again is being sensible in both the craft choices and the quantity
of each. I make only items that I can use or can give as gifts if they
do not sell. I keep the number of each item low enough also that I
won't be left with a tote full of crafts to store if I don't sell as
many as hoped. Another quick tip that always served me well was to have
a small item for boys and girls that costs 50¢ or less. Kids love to be
able to buy a small item and the sales for those can add up quickly.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Starting Tomato Seeds

It is that time again. I am getting ready to start my garden seeds
indoors. We have been blessed with a very mild winter this year. On
Monday, my car will be getting the new timing belt & water pump. The
belt went out on it about 3 weeks ago and it has taken this long to get
an appointment. The wait is worth it though as it is a very good family
owned shop that we have used for many years. As soon as I get the car
back, I will be purchasing some potting mix to start my tomato seeds. I
can hardly wait! I will starting a few other plants as well.

The garden won't be as filled with variety as in previously planned
years, but the basics that we enjoy will be there. I am experimenting
this year. We are going to plant a raised bed garden in an area of yard
that is partially shaded. This will allow the plants to receive more
than ample light in the cooler part of the summer days, but the shade
needed to protect them from the summer's heat. I am hoping that this
will be the answer that we have needed to have a successful garden this

If you have never tried growing your own tomato plants from seed, give
it a go. The plants grow very easily and as long as you give them
plenty of sunlight during the day, they will not become "leggy" having a
long thin stem with few leaves. A single packet of seeds can cost about
$2.00 depending on where you buy them. In that packet however, you will
get a couple dozen or more plants.

I am considering starting quite a few plants from seed this year and
then selling the little plants that I don't need in my garden. I use
organic and open-pollinated seeds only. If it goes as previous years
have, I should do well.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Gardening Plans for 2012

Well, the gardening plans are in the works. As I mentioned recently, I
am cutting back the garden to contain fewer varieties of plants. When I
think back, there was a year that I bought 68 different varieties of
vegetables. That was crazy! I am all for trying something new, but 68
was too many. This year, the garden is going to be more sensible.

We are preparing to garden in a totally different way this year. In the
last couple of years, the summer heat has dried up the garden far too
soon. With drought issues, we were unable to get the yield that we had
hoped for. The hot days were difficult to work in. I had high blood
pressure and being outdoors in the garden in the hot part of the day
when the children were napping was just too hard on my physically. This
year, we are relocating the garden.

Near the house, we have a small woods area. There is a fairly large
side yard which is bordered on the south and west sides by the woods.
We are placing a border of raised garden beds in that yard in areas that
will receive partial shade in the hot summer afternoons. The goal is to
have the sunlight in the morning and early afternoon that the plants
need to thrive, yet the sheltering shade of the woods to protect the
plants from the worst of the heat in the afternoon and early evening.

The raised beds in a sheltered area should make growing salad greens
much more productive. In past years, the lettuce and spinach has bolted
and gone to seed before we were even able to get enough leaves for a
single dinner. I am considering buying bulk amounts of seeds for some
of my favorite greens. I won't be planting them all but will be
sprouting some to use as micro-greens. I remember buying a mixture of
alfalfa sprouts mixed with radish sprouts when I lived on the west coast
over a dozen years ago. The flavor was so good, as well as the
nutrients that they provided. Living in a southern climate where
growing lettuce is difficult, sprouting the micro-greens is another
option worth considering. You can use them as you would lettuce on
sandwiches. A wonderful salad made with micro-greens is a combination
of alfalfa, radish, and mung bean sprouts tossed with a light
vinaigrette dressing.

I have been keeping track of vegetable prices. I have found that if I
go to a particular store chain (Wholesale Market) here in Oklahoma, I
can buy at regular price cans of vegetables for far less than I can grow
them. In example, I buy 11 flats of 12 cans each of vegetables for
$58.00. This gives our family 132 cans of veggies that lasts
approximately 3.5 months in the winter when fresh produce is not
available from the garden. That same 11 dozen cans (about the size of a
pint jar) would have cost me $2.47 per dozen for the flat canning lids
at a cost of $27.17 total, not counting sales tax and propane for the
stove to process the jars. Added to that is the cost of seeds and water
to grow the vegetables. By the time it is all factored into the costs,
the price of buying those vegetables is only slightly lower than buying
the canned goods. Now, if I were to come across a great deal on fresh
produce at a farmer's market, then I would take advantage of it. In the
interim however, I am having to take it all into consideration.

The vegetable varieties that I am focusing on are the favorites we love
that are costly both as fresh produce and in the canned form. Some of
the vegetables that I will be growing include sweet potatoes, summer
squash, acorn squash, butternut squash, and pumpkins. I plan to plant
green beans, Italian flat beans, and green peas in the partially shaded
areas. I still have a surplus of corn, so that won't be needed. I am
focusing instead on the things I am using the most often.

I am still planning my herbal garden. To buy bulk herbs, which gives me
the best price, I have to travel 160 miles round trip to a health food
store in a large city. The smaller health food stores don't carry the
bulk herbs and spices. I generally will plan out a full day supply run
and go to the city about once a month or less frequently. If I can find
a good mail order resource that has prices at or below what I already am
paying, then I will choose that option. I do find that there are
certain herbs that I use often in my cooking. Those are the first that
I will be planting in my new herb garden area.

For the kids, we will be planting a small strawberry patch and a few
grape tomato plants. The kids love to snack on those and they will be
planted along the edge of their play yard. We wanted to have something
that they could pick and eat safely on their own. The ones most likely
to do that are our 6 yr old grandson and our own little miss who will be
6 yrs old this spring. The only other vegetable that the kids will be
growing is their own sweet potato plants. The kids will each have their
own 4-5 gallon sized bucket to plant their sweet potato slips in. About
2-3 good sized slips per bucket is sure to yield a nice batch of sweet
potatoes for them.

Eventually, we will have a permanent garden area set up that will
include fruit trees and berries. It is a goal to work towards. I am
considering trying to transplant slips from the wild blackberry vines in
our back field. I will need to check more into that to see what I would
need to do. There are so many plans that we have for growing our food
for the family. By and by, we will be able to do it. For now we are
simply looking for simple solutions to make long term gardening more
easily managed. The end goal overall is to have the permanent garden
area set up so that even as we age, the gardening will continue to be
manageable. Each year, we will continue to expand the number of raised
garden boxes until we reach the number that is needed to fully support
our family's vegetable needs without having to purchase from the
stores. The goal is attainable, but will take time. By planning
carefully and being sensible about it, we will reach that goal.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Gardening Simplicity

When I was young, the Old Order Amish family that lived down the road
from us always had a large vegetable garden. The work on it included
daily tending to keep it weeded and in good condition. From that
garden, Katie would feed her family of 9 for a year. Their garden
wasn't just a backyard produce store for their daily meals. It provided
the basic vegetables that she used in her cooking year round. The
harvest from her garden needed to last at least until harvest the
following year. To grow enough vegetables for her family, she had to
plant simple and smart.

A well stocked garden doesn't mean that you have to plant dozens of
varieties of vegetables. You plant large amounts of about 12 vegetables
that you know you use the most. Tomatoes are one such vegetable. One
year, I remember asking Katie about her tomato plants. She had so many
that I wondered if she planned to sell tomatoes that summer. "Ah no,"
she replied. "I just grow for my family and a few extra for others who
may not have enough in their garden." That year, she had planted 50
tomato plants. From those plants, she had enough to can for her family,
eat fresh in salads, and to share with others in their community who had
a need for the extra tomatoes.

Other vegetables that were a staple in Katie's garden were carrots,
potatoes, cabbage, lettuce, spinach, peas, green beans, squash, and
corn. She loved to make pickles, so she grew the slicing type of
cucumber for salads and for making bread & butter pickles as well as the
smaller pickling cucumbers for her dill pickles. Katie grew her own
dill for making her pickles as well as a few other culinary & medicinal

I think about many of the gardens that I see planted in our area. They
are often what you would consider to be a hobby garden or a backyard
produce department. Families growing just a few plants of this or that
vegetable to be eaten over the course of the summer. It is easy to get
caught in that category. You plant what you enjoy eating fresh, but
neglect planting enough to feed your family throughout the winter. In
planting a garden, you have to consider your purpose for that garden.
Is it to be a fresh produce patch for summer meals only or will it be
stocking your pantry for winter?

This year, I am going to do my garden a bit differently. I am going
back to the basics of Katie's wisdom. Plant less variety, but more in
quantity. This serves several purposes. Not only will it provide more
for my family to enjoy later in the winter months, but I will have far
less concern about cross-pollination. In Katie's garden, she never had
a concern about cross-pollinating issues. She saved seed from her
plants each year and I never knew of her buying seed. She chose the
specific plant varieties carefully from the beginning. The plants were
those which gave the maximum yield of harvest in the least amount of
space. She never chose the trendy varieties, but only those which were
tried and true.

There was much wisdom in Katie's garden. She knew exactly which
vegetables they used the most and planted only those. By doing so, she
was able to help out other families in need within her community. The
very same vegetables that were standards in her family's diet were
standards in the diet of other Amish families. Nothing was ever wasted.

Now, before I get ready to plant a garden this spring, I have some
planning to do. Time to take stock of our pantry and see what we use
consistently throughout the year. Those vegetables will become the
staples in our family garden. Thank you Katie for all of your wisdom
and grace in teaching me all those years ago. I will never forget you
and your gentle ways.

Monday, January 2, 2012

New Year - New Ventures

I have been working on my first homesteading journal that I am preparing
for publication as an e-book. I have a series of several e-books
planned to have as e-books for those interesting in the off-grid
lifestyle. If you have been reading my blog for a while, you have an
idea of the way I write.

This first journal is an introduction into our journey to off-grid and
simple living. It tells our story of how it all came to be. I have
approximately 10 chapters at this time. Each chapter has writings that
talk about the various aspects of our lifestyle. The main focus of the
book is old-fashioned homemaking skills. It discusses the methods that
our Grandmothers used prior to electricity being common in every home.
The book series is not intended to be an all-encompassing work to cover
all of the latest methods and ideas. It is simply a series of writing
about the way we do things here.

Some of the chapters in the book are: alternative energy & lighting,
heating and staying cool, gardening, food preservation, cooking methods,
laundry, and sewing. If you have read my older blog entries, you will
still learn more through the e-books. I am writing with updated
information that includes mistakes we made and solutions found. By
including our mistakes, I hope that they will serve as a caution to
others so that they may avoid those same mistakes. Even those who have
been reading my blog from the beginning will find new ideas and information.

I am really excited about this new venture. This first book will
contain a few recipes. One of the books I have planned for later this
year is a cookbook of our favorite recipes with canning instructions for
those that I home can. Each of the books are being written as a journal
for easy reading. Each book will be presented in such a way that it is
like enjoying a cup of tea together and sharing our experiences.

I will be updating you as the writing progresses and when it is available.