Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Long

Hooray for longer days!  We need the extra hours of daylight in order to accomplish all that there is to do here at the homestead.  Not only are the days growing longer, but the to-do list is growing like crazy.  We can definitely feel spring in the air around here, and it energizes us as we tackle each day's work.

I am still having trouble getting pictures to upload here, but hopefully soon my IT guy will be able to help me figure out what the problem is.  Until then, I'll just share some of the fun with words.

We have been working on...

...preparing and planting the garden.  So far we have onions, beets, cauliflower, lettuce, three kinds of tomatoes, zucchini squash, yellow squash, black-eyed peas, green beans, okra, jalapenos, banana peppers, and green and red bell peppers.  Crazy as it may sound, I still have more to get planted!  We are praying for a bountiful harvest this year so we can continue canning and storing up for the off-season to cut the grocery bills down.  Pray for that with us?

...raising two new batches of chickens.  We have six babies in the brooder box, chirping and napping and eating and growing!  We also have 31 pullets that we have just put out to the pasture.  They are adjusting well to all of the green grass and open space.  Come summer we should have plenty of eggs to eat and even more to sell.  Interested in Hen Hollow Homestead eggs?

...adding a section of fence in the yard, and also putting in a gate directly from the yard to the garden.  That gate has been in for three days, and has already proven itself so valuable.

...watching Dottie, our broody mama chicken, sit on her eggs, and anticipating the day when even more new chicks hatch right here on the farm!  Less than a month from now, we will witness the miracle of birth, chicken style!

...clearing out underbrush and trimming trees.  This is HARD labor, and we COULD NOT do it without the help of my dad on his awesome tractor.  Things are already looking more tidy, though we have a long way to go.

...dealing with poison ivy, again!  See above, as all of the tree trimming and clearing of the underbrush inevitably gives Nathaniel and the kids a case of poison ivy.  Ugh!  (Thankfully, I seem to be immune! :)

...working in the flower beds, pulling weeds, planting flowers, turning the soil.  They still look rough, but someday I hope our efforts pay off!

Some other things on our list include...

...rain barrels.  We have the supplies, but haven't had time to get them put together.

...a cucumber tepee for the garden.

...hanging a tire swing in the tree outside the yard.

...continuing to trim trees and clear underbrush.

...build a pole barn/garden shed so I can store all of my gardening tools and supplies closer to the garden!

...filling in some bare spots in the backyard with fresh grass seed.  Having two dogs has taken a toll on our poor backyard, so we are going to give it a rest and some fresh grass seed.  Hopefully we can patch up all of the bare spots!


As spring is here, I have also been in the mood to clean out and organize inside of the house as well.  I open all of the window blinds and let the sun shine in while I work!  I've been clearing out drawers and closets in hopes of a garage sale with my sister soon.  A little extra cash would come in really handy right about now, with all of the projects we have on the list!

What about you?  What have you been up to?





Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Slowing Down


We stay home...a LOT.  We don't run from here to there, and we aren't involved with lots and lots of activities.  I like it this way.  It is good for my soul and my family to be home, to be calm, to live slowly and intentionally.

There are many who think we are NUTS.  The fact that there are often weeks we don't leave home for 3-4 days in a row leads people to think we are crazy, that we have lost our minds, that we must be weird.

I say it's not true.  

We simply like simple.  

I logged in to read one of my all time favorite authors and bloggers, and she had a beautiful post about just this today.




Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Less


As I have continued thinking about what is truly important, I keep hearing a word in my mind.  It is as though a voice keeps whispering to me...less.  I've thought about it, and I think it is an accurate representation of my mind and my heart right now.  I want less.  What?  Don't I live in America, the land of MORE, MORE, MORE?  Have I lost it?  Quite possibly, the answer is yes.

You see, I want less.

I want less stuff because I am sick and tired of the mess around me.  When you have too much stuff, you spend all of your time cleaning it up, trying to find a place for it, dusting it, organizing it, laundering it,  etc.  So yes, I want less of that...less mess, less time spent cleaning, organizing, ironing, laundering, or honestly just stepping over all of the stuff that clutters my home.

I want less worry.  I don't want my days consumed with worry and what-ifs.  I want to live in the moment, making the most out of every minute God gives me.  To do that, I need less worry and more trust in Him.  I really struggle with this, and unfortunately I am seeing it really come out in one of the kids also.  I'm trying, and I am getting better, but I still have a long way to go.  That worry monster is a beast, I tell ya.

I want less debt.  I don't like owing people money.  It hangs over my head, always taunting me and making me feel as though I need to justify every penny I spend lest others think I am being frivolous.  I just don't like it.  Honestly, I don't want less debt, I want NO debt!

I want less comparison.  I want to feel confident in who I am, and I want to stop comparing myself to others.  I want to stop comparing myself to women on TV, in magazines, and at the mall.  I want to stop comparing my car to the ones others drive, and my clothes to the ones I see others wear.  I want to stop comparing my kids and their accomplishments with other children around me...are they where they should be in school, am I a bad mother because we don't do all of the extra-curricular stuff out there, am I robbing them of something because we homeschool and spend our days at home together?  I don't want all of that to become my measuring stick, and I surely don't want all of that to be the measure by which Natalie or Levi compare themselves.  It starts with me.  So yes, I want less comparison and more contentment.

What I have decided is that less is really more Less stuff, and in turn less time spent managing that stuff, means more time to spend on the important things, like hanging out with my children reading a good book or playing games.   Less worry means more dependance on God, and He has promised to provide all that I need.  Less debt means more money freed up for generosity and giving and helping those around me, along with less stress wondering how we will make it through the end of the month.  Less comparison means more contentment, more rest, more freedom to be me.

The bottom line is that less of me leads to more of HIM.  That is all the reason I need to seek a life of less.


______________________________________________________________

** Check back soon for more happenings at the homestead.  I promise to share some pictures around the farm soon!




Sunday, January 12, 2014

What's Really Important


Last week I sat down several times to write a lengthy update on what we have been up to around here.  I hate that it has been so long since I have updated here on the blog, and I am hoping to do better in 2014.  I tried several times to write up the post, complete with probably 30 pictures to share, but each time I ended up walking away from the computer frustrated because I could not get the pictures to upload correctly.

Now, as I sit to try to write again, I am convinced that my words be completely different from the original plan.  So much seems to be happening all around me, some good and some not so good.  I find myself whispering prayers for so much these days.  Moment by moment, God is stirring my heart to focus more and and more on what is really important.  Not what is urgent, not what is immediate, but what is important.

Precious friends are preparing for their 12 year old daughter to undergo surgery tomorrow for a brain mass.  My heart aches for what they must be feeling right now.  How I wish I could make it all go away, and make everything right in their world again.  But I cannot.  I must focus my thoughts and energies into what I can do...praying for them, encouraging them, and giving thanks to God for each and every blessing.  Every smile, every giggle, every breath is a reason for thanksgiving.

Just weeks ago, a home less than a mile from us exploded.  Literally, when looking at the site, it was reduced to a pile of rubble, unrecognizable as a home.  Sadly, the woman inside lost her life in the explosion.  Devastating for the family.  As the blast rattled our home, I uttered a prayer for whoever was going to be affected by it, and also a prayer of thanks that we were safe.   Last week, our neighbors next door lost their home in a fire.  It is a total loss.  And as I stood watching the emergency responders come to battle the blaze, I whispered prayers for safety.  Their safety and ours.

It feels like every day I hear of friends and neighbors who are struggling.  Some are facing physical struggles, financial challenges, family battles, while others are in an all-out spiritual war with Satan and his evil ways.  I often wonder if things are truly getting worse, or if it is simply because I am older and more aware of the struggle around me. 

We face our own challenges here at on the homestead, and in our family.  We do the best we can, take one day at a time, and are learning to cling to Jesus, the giver of hope.  We've had our own fire this year, and thankfully, the loss was minimal.  We have financial challenges just like most people.  We even battle Satan, fighting for our family and our children.  No one is immune to these things, but each handles them differently.

In 2014, I am choosing to focus on what is important.  Having the latest and greatest *insert item here - clothes, cars, electronic gadgets, etc*?  Not important.  Giving thanks?  Yes, please.  Keeping a perfectly clean home?  Nice but not necessary.  Filling my children with love and scripture?  Absolutely.  Finishing the to-do list by dinner every day?  Not gonna happen.  Making prayer as much a part of my day as breathing?  A goal to work towards.

So today, I'm praying for the battles around me.  I am praying for health and safety, both for my family and others.  And I am giving thanks for the blessing of today.  I am choosing JOY!



Monday, October 7, 2013

Picture Review of September Happenings


Finally I am making time to update here again.  It seems to always be on the list of things to do, but I never make it that far!  We have lots to share with you about the last month, including some fun pictures, and some not-so-fun pictures.

Levi and I have been working with pattern blocks during his math time.  He likes to have free-play time with the blocks much more than he enjoys the lessons I am trying to teach him with them.  Once we complete the required work, I let him go to town with the blocks, creating all sorts of fun 'artwork'.  Here are a few of his masterpieces:




As we continue the journey towards eating fewer and fewer carbs, I have been able to get creative in the kitchen.  The first picture is my no-carb version of broccoli-rice casserole.  Instead of using rice, I 'riced' a head of cauliflower instead.  Then used grilled chicken and fresh broccoli, topping it all off with some cheese while it was baking.  It was a winner for sure...the kids even enjoyed it.  Truly, it tastes so close to the real thing, only this meal is guilt free!
 

This next picture shows my new substitute for pasta...broccoli slaw!  I just buy the bags of broccoli slaw, found in the salad section of the grocery store, and sautee it in a skillet with 1/4 cup of water.  We put spaghetti sauce with meat over it and it is delicious!  I cannot say that it tastes just like the real thing, but it was definitely delicious.  

Let me know if you try either of these recipes...I'd love to know what you think!

Also in the kitchen, we decided to welcome fall by making some homemade applesauce.  I bought apples and we washed, peeled, and chopped them.  The kids helped with all of the prep work, and we had a great time together in the kitchen.  Then we just tossed it into the crockpot with lots of cinnamon and a tiny bit of Splenda, and let it cook on low all day.  The house smelled wonderful, and the tasty treat at the end of the day was divine! We liked it so much in fact, that the next week I bought 20 more pounds of apples and we have made 2 more pots full of applesauce.  They cook down LOTS so don't worry if your crockpot looks full, you won't have much left over.  I was hoping with 20 pounds of apples that I would have enough to can some away for the winter, but sadly (or not) it has all been enjoyed.  Such a simple treat, and we know for sure what is in the food we are eating!  It's a win!










Sorry, no pictures of the finished product, but trust me when I say that it was delicious.  To top it off, the chickens enjoyed the leftover peel as a treat!  We sprinkle the top of the applesauce with my homemade grain-free 'granola' (only nuts, unsweetened coconut, ground flax, and a bit of maple syrup) and it is a wonderful dessert.  Tastes like apple-crisp...yes, it does!

In other news, we had a fire here on the homestead.  One afternoon as the kids and I were finishing school and chores, we noticed firetrucks coming through the gate into the pasture...OUR pasture.  I dashed outside in time to see the pasture covered in flames.  Talk about scary!  We had no idea there was a problem, and are so thankful that someone driving by called in the fire.  The volunteer fire department here is wonderful, and they were able to get the fire out quickly, but the pasture was charred.  From what we can tell, someone flicked out a cigarette while driving by, and it blew into our fence-line where it ignited the fire that quickly spread over the pasture.  Thankfully, the chickens all survived the ordeal and were only stressed out for a couple of days.  Stress causes the hens to stop laying eggs, so we were glad to see them laying again within a few days.  Needless to say, that was a frightening ordeal.  I am already a bit paranoid of fire, so this certainly didn't help that, but I was able to sleep that night, which is big for me.  I guess it was a stark realization that I am not in control, so I simply turned it over to God and slept well.  Here are some pictures of our pasture...









The Lord controlled the fire that day.  As you can see, the fire went up to the tree line, but not into the trees and underbrush that we have.  That would have been disastrous.  We also look for the blessing of the fire, and as the grass regrows there, it will be thicker and greener and more healthy than what burned.  A blessing for our chickens as they range and forage out there this winter.

This year Levi's literature centers around the Little House books...specifically the Little House in the Big Woods.  We love these books, and have all read them through, but we are enjoying reading through this one again with Levi.  Today we made homemade butter, just like Laura and Mary would have made.  We had a great time, it didn't take very long, and boy was it delicious!  I may never buy store-bought butter again!  Knowing now that I can make my own so easily, and know exactly what ingredients are in it (creme and a little salt), why would I ever buy the store butter again?


Levi reading Little House in the Big Woods
 

When we made the butter I had to get creative.  You typically ise a marble inside to help beat the creme, but I didn't have any marbles.  They say necessity is the mother of invention, and that is so true around here.  I just washed up a couple of Levi's legos and tossed them in.  They did the trick!
 


First taste...
 

Thumbs up!  It was tasty!

That's all I have time for today...Levi is wondering what we are having for lunch, so I need to get off the computer.  I'll update more soon as we continue to enjoy life here on the homestead!


Monday, September 9, 2013

A Birthday I Will Never Forget

Last weekend was my birthday, and as my sister so sweetly reminds me often, I am on the downhill slide to 40.  Yes, I'm getting old, and I have the wrinkles to prove it!  Ha!  The morning of my birthday, I woke up and decided we would BE the gift!  Others like Ann Voskamp, author of A Thousand Gifts, have spent their days giving to others, and I wanted to do the same.  Instead of the day being all about me, we decided it would be full of random acts of kindness.  I should have done a little more advanced planning, but we just jumped in with both feet, and got busy!


We started at the tiny local laundromat, and left baggies of quarters to be used by whoever needed them!
 

Then it was on to the Dollar Tree where we handed out dollar bills to the children we saw.  Interesting story, Natalie gave a dollar to a little boy who wasn't quite sure what to think.  As we watched, he took it to his mom, and after reading the tag which said "Be the GIFT...Give It Forward Today", they decided that instead of spending the dollar, they would pass it along.  He sweetly walked over to another little girl, and passed the dollar along to her.  Absolutely precious...it was all I could do to hold myself together and not cry!  Of course we made sure that the little boy got another dollar!  But what a great lesson for my kids to see how quickly one act of kindness can spread!!





While we were at the Dollar Tree, we stocked up on liquid laundry detergent, and we were off to another laundromat to drop off some more blessings.  We left the laundry soap on the washing machines, as well as sprinkled a few more baggies of quarters around for people to find!  Natalie even doug through her purse and found quarters...she put them in the slots on the washing machine so the next user would simply have to push them in.  Love it!






After we dropped our goodies at the second laundromat, we went to a local grocery store that caters to low income  customers.  We purchased a few items, and then quietly gave the cashier the money to cover the person in line behind us.  I simply told her to use the money to cover his bill, and if there was any change, to give it to him.  She smiled and we went on our way.  As we were leaving, we saw the man in the parking lot and my sister remarked that he seemed to have a little pep in his step.  I hope he was blessed, because we sure were.

We went through McDonalds and left money to cover the bill for the next people behind us in the drive through. 




And that evening, we paid for the dinner of a couple across the room for us at the restaurant.  We left them an anonymous note sending them blessings and well wishes.

I tell you all of this NOT because I want to brag, but because I want to encourage you.  This made a huge impact on my kids, and we made memories serving together as a family.  Natalie even remarked that she felt guilty because she loved doing it so much because it made HER feel good and she wanted it to be about others.  We talked a lot about how through giving, we too receive.  The blessings come around.  We don't do it for what we get out of it, but God blesses our socks off anyway!  Levi is convinced that we were blessing people because it is 'what Jesus would do'.  Yes, sweet boy, you are right!  

It was wonderful, and so much fun.  Nothing we did was expensive, but we felt like in a few little tiny ways, we were able to hopefully bless those around us.  I pray that God used what little we did to bring BIG blessings to those who received our gifts.

In no coincidence at all, the blessings didn't end on Saturday.  The next morning on the way to church I decided that I would get a Starbucks coffee as a belated birthday treat.  We drove through the line and I ordered my usual...a DECAF Skinny Vanilla Latte, for those who are curious ;)  With money in hand, I pulled up to the window and was greeted with a smile...and the girl sweetly said, "The people in front of you bought your coffee this morning.  Have a great day!"  The entire car was full of smiles as we pulled away.  Seriously, we were blown away.  Levi screamed, "They are doing what we just did yesterday!"  yes, the blessings just keep coming!

As you read about my birthday fun, please know that I am sharing it NOT to brag, or to appear special or holy or better than anyone else.  I am simply sharing to say that it is in giving that we receive.  Will you consider giving it a try?  It doesn't have to cost a lot...in fact, it doesn't have to cost a penny.  You can leave notes of encouragement, or scriptures for others to find.  But will you do it?  Will you find a way to BE a gift...to bless someone today?  Trust me when I say that God will bless you richly in your giving of love, time, encouragement.  Oh, yes, He will!

PS - If you take the challenge, will you share with me what you did?  I'd love to hear how God is at work!

PSS - The idea of BEING the GIFT came from my wonderful blogger 'friend' Ann Voskamp.  Though we have only exchanged emails a couple of times, and she doesn't know me, I read her daily, and am encouraged.  She challenges me and makes me want to be better, to do better, to live wild for Jesus.  The GIFT printables I used can also be found here on her blog.  Check it out...you will be blessed!










Saturday, August 10, 2013

So Much to Share!

I know, I know!  It has been too long since I've updated, but boy have we been having fun!  I have been finalizing plans for our new year of homeschooling, and though I still have quite a bit to do, I'm feeling pretty excited about it.  We won't start until after Labor Day, so I have plenty of time to finish! :)  Ah, the beauty of homeschooling!

We've been hanging at the library, and the kids are really enjoying the opportunity to read some new books.  I am so thankful that BOTH of my children love to read, so a trip to the library is fun!  Levi has finally caught the reading bug, and his new love is the Encyclopedia Brown series.  He devours them, and has almost read all of the ones that the library has in it's collection.  What in the world am I going to do next?  I certainly can't buy them all because he reads them too fast!

The garden is officially closed for the season.  Between the bugs and the heat, we found that most of what we still had planted was not able to produce.  We spent the afternoon today pulling everything up and sorting it out for the compost pile, and also feeding some straggling tomatoes and corn to the chickens.  They were pretty happy about that.  A gardener's work is never through, though, and we will spend the fall letting the chickens scratch around in the garden spot before covering it all over with cardboard boxes and mulch for the winter.  Throughout the winter and early spring, that should all settle in to compost (including all of the chicken poo they will leave behind) and then it will be time to start prepping the beds for planting.  Whew, I think I am tired just typing all of that!  Ha!  But we have thoroughly enjoyed the garden this year...okra, a few tomatoes, corn for the chickens to eat, jalapenos, bell pepper, squash, green beans, carrots, and onions!  Yummy chemical free, real food!

My dad recently bought a new boat so we took it out for the inaugural dip in the lake, and camped for a few days.  I am not sure what we were thinking when we scheduled a 4 day camping trip the last week of JULY, but despite the awful heat (really, we were melting!), we enjoyed ourselves tremendously.  Just look at the smiles on these faces...and I think I have rekindled my love for fishing.  My dad and I had the opportunity to go out in the boat alone for a couple of hours, and I will forever remember the father-daughter fun we had.  My dad really kicked the boat into overdrive and we loved riding the water together, and then we spent some time trolling and fishing.  I cannot wait to go again!  Dad, are you ready?  Just say the word and I am ready to go!  I want to catch some keepers and learn how to clean them myself so we can eat them up.  Fresh fish sounds pretty tasty if you ask me!


Our cabana with a beautiful view of the lake!
 

Sunrise from our cabana





Dad in his pride and joy...we need to name the boat!  Maybe Blue Bertha or something fun!




Two cuties on the boat.
 

GiddyUp was relaxing in the cabana...crazy dog!
 

Levi was bragging that this was his second s'more.
 

Natalie before we went for a swim.
 

Until the last day, Natalie was the ONLY one to catch anything.  Here she is with her prize fish!  
 

Happy with her burnt marshmallow.
 

Extinguishing the fire!  Ha!
 

Natalie reading in the tent before bed.


Levi enjoying a book in the tent!
(reminds me of the boy in The Neverending Story!)


Another beautiful sunrise!

We also took a day and headed North to the children's museum.  We saw a great film at the Omni theatre about dolphins, and then spent the rest of the afternoon checking out the rest of the museum.  The pictures speak for themselves:



Digging for dinosaur bones.
 

Levi on a bed of nails...and he is smiling! :)
 

Silly.
 



When we returned from our camping trip, we found an abundance of eggs waiting for us.  Because of the heat, we are typically only getting 2-3 a day, but for some reason, over the three days we were gone, the hens left us all of these:





Wow!  We love eggs!

As for other happenings around the homestead, I have been working on some fun little projects as I have time.  I found this cute little vintage school desk at a yard sale for a whopping $5 bucks.  




I brought her home, cleaned her up, painted her red, and replaced the top.  The finished product makes me so happy. (The poly I put on as a top coat was still drying in this pic.)



I also finally got a light fixture up in the bathroom.  Hooray for not having a plain 'ol bulb up there anymore.  I had looked but never found a fixture that fit my style, so I got creative.  I bought an old-style fixture complete with sconces, and brought it home for an overhaul. 


After a coat of oil-rubbed bronze spray paint, and some minor surgery, Nathaniel and I had this fixture ready to install.  Instead of the sconces, we made the fixture suitable for mason jars....definitely my style!


Cute, right?

I also worked on my Back to School mantle.  I simply shopped the school shelves and made a quick pennant banner and voila!  What do you think?



Natalie was out with the puppies this afternoon and they led her to this little frog...actually it's a pretty big toad.  They had two of these cornered in a mud hole they had dug.  Not to worry, after a photo shoot, Natalie re-homed them out of the yard so they would be able to hop to safety!


As I typed this post, we had a little more drama here at the homestead!  Our dogs have been barking non-stop at every single thing, and Nathaniel decided to get to the bottom of it.  We are tired of them waking us at all hours of the night with this crazy barking.  This was the cause of the barking tonight...




 Yes, a turtle.  I told you those dogs are crazy!  They were trying to bring down the fence in order to get to this little guy.  We had another little photo session and then Nathaniel released him down by the pond.  The turtle was mortified by the dogs, so hopefully it will stay safely down by the pond from now on.

Ah, life is great.  Always an adventure here on the homestead!!