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Let’s Do This Thing

Thank you for joining us on our adventures, and misadventures, on our fledgling homestead!

I’m not the most graceful person in the world, I love to laugh, can be a little persistent when I need to be, and am to the moon and back in love with and grateful for my loving husband and family. Bless their heart for putting up with me.

Now let’s see what kind of mess I can get into.

If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice. – Rush

 

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We’re joining the Farm Fresh Bloggers!

Farm Fresh Bloggers

We’re very excited to be joining the Farm Fresh Bloggers! All of the participants create original content on homesteading and natural living to share with you! So, no matter where you live, in the city, on a rural farm, or in the suburbs, you can find information here that will help you on your quest for a homesteading lifestyle. They even have a Blog Hop Tuesday, featuring topics that are current and useful.

We encourage you to follow all of the bloggers on social media, ask questions, provide insight, or just become part of the community! I hope to see you there!

The “Essential” Upgrade

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The consumer culture has convinced us that we need the latest and greatest (insert desired item here) all day, every day. But do we, really? Do you need a new phone or is your current one dying? Do you need a new car or is your current one on its last legs? Determining the difference between need and want is a skill that, sadly, many people do not have anymore. The culture of instant gratification, with overnight delivery from Amazon, drive-through “food”, and the keep-up-with-the-Joneses attitude has done more to hurt our self-esteem, wallets, and environment than so many other things.

We’ve been convinced that if we decide to be frugal, buy only what we need, and reject the consumer culture that we are anti-American, that we are holier-than-thou, and that we are simply strange. Why would we not want that brand new, shiny Mercedes or BMW in the garage, for all of our friends and neighbors to see? After all, you work hard for your money and you should be able to show it off, letting everyone know how well you’re doing. The downside to this is that it puts us in a cycle of never being able to be satisfied with what we have, never being able to find joy in just being comfortable, and constantly being on the look out for next biggest thing. It can also lead to unnecessary stress, debt, and even sometimes, suspicion of our friends. If we continually seek out the thrill of a new purchase we eventually become desensitized, which is just another cog in that endless cycle of never being satisfied.

Whatever happened to use it up, wear it out, or do without? Instead of mending that hole in a shirt, it is just tossed away (which, by the way, there is no “away”), and new one purchased without a second thought. Or Apple comes out with a new iPhone, so everyone rushes to the store so that they’re not left behind with the non-cool kids who use their phones until they absolutely have to be replaced, even if there is nothing wrong with the one they have. Why do we feel this need, this push, this compulsion to always have the latest and greatest? I’m convinced that our consumer and throw-away culture wants us to believe that if we don’t keep up then we’re less-than, that we’re not cool, that we’re not worthy, and that we just won’t be happy without whatever product they’re trying to hock. Just look at some of the advertisement slogans: “because you’re worth it”, “breakfast of champions”, “have it your way”, or “have a Coke and smile”. Aren’t we able to smile without a Coke? And if we’re not doing well enough to just be able to throw away our current item and get a new one then we’re not working hard enough, we’re not contributing to the American way, and we’re less-than.

There are also the deals that you get with upgrading (or, the so-called deals), when making an initial purchase. Great, you want to buy this refrigerator? Well, if you upgrade to this other one right now you’ll get an extra 10% off and it’s the one that everyone is buying right now. Do we really, really need a refrigerator that has a television on it, that talks to us, that hooks up to our phones, and that dispenses ice and water on the door because opening the door to get a few cubes of ice is just too dang much trouble? Do we really need to replace all of the cabinets and appliances in the kitchen just because we’re tired of looking at them? Everyone that I’ve ever seen who wanted to buy the newest, latest and greatest whatever always had problems with them. All of that technology might be great, but it’s also a lot more stuff that can break. A simpler model that will last much longer will save you money in the end and it will be one less unwanted, less-desirable item going to the landfill. The upside to buying basic models is that many times, if something goes wrong, you can fix it yourself, instead of having to pay through the nose for a repairman to come and do it for you. Bonus: you’ve just gained another skill too.

There are times when we obviously need to upgrade, but when we do, we should get the best that we can comfortably afford with what resources we have. Look for longevity, not which one sparkles more. Yes, it probably won’t be nearly as impressive to your friends and family, and it might sting the self-esteem a bit in the beginning, but knowing that you’ve done the right thing for yourself and the environment will long outlast the disappointment of not fulfilling that need for immediate gratification. You’ll also find that there is less and less of an urge to go out and get the newest model, because you’ll be satisfied with what you have.

Here are few questions to ask yourself before jumping on the bandwagon to purchase the latest and greatest:
1. Do I really need it or do I just want it?

2. What are my specific needs and which of these items fulfills those needs?

3. Is there a way to make do with what I have until I’ve used it all the way?

4. Can what I already have be repaired, eliminating the need to buy new?

5. Who am I buying this for? Is it really to fulfill an actual need or is it because it will boost my self-esteem?

Once you go through these questions you might find that you really don’t need that new iPhone and that the one you have is perfectly fine. Then again, you might find that yes, the one you have is dying and does need to be replaced. In that case, I would buy the very best that I can reasonably afford. And if you can get a little upgrade for the same amount of money, then more power to you.

Physical possessions are nice and they make our lives so much more comfortable, but we need to find a balance between the over-consumerism and our actual needs. There is nothing wrong with buying something that brings us true joy (or that we really need, like a toilet plunger), but we’ve lost the skill to determine the difference and it’s high time we re-learn how to do that.

So really, upgrades aren’t nearly as essential as the consumer culture would like us to believe. In fact, last year $58 billion was spent on advertising that was trying to convince us that we need their stuff to be worthy of love, friendship, fun, and any other number of things that make us human. Well, I for one, am not buying it, quite literally.

Photo credit: Zane Lee on Unsplash

10 Simple Ways to Celebrate Earth Day

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I like a fun festival just as much as the next person, but I don’t like all of the trash and consumerism that is created from them, including Earth Day celebrations, so I tend to stay away from most of them. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to celebrate Earth Day by doing just that, celebrating the Earth? It doesn’t have to include thousands of people, vendors who hock their wares and encourage consumerism,  loud music, or any of that. It can be simple, joyful, and a way to connect us to that which sustains us, the Earth. In the end, without it, we’re in a world of hurt.

Here are just a few ways that you can celebrate Earth Day that cost little to nothing, have either no impact or a positive impact on the environment, and provide a perfect example for others. Choose one or choose all of them, because you don’t only have to do these on Earth Day. You can do them every day, because when you do, that’s when real change can take place.

  1. Take a walk. We live in the mountains, so we love to go for hikes, explore the waterfalls, or just spend time down by the creek. But if you live on the coast, go and dip your toes in the ocean. Live in the desert? Go and check out the spring blooms out there. The stark contrast between the desert and the flowers is pretty amazing. Some animal shelters will even let you “check out” a dog to take for a walk! How much fun would that be?!
  2. Visit your local farmer’s market. What better way to celebrate Earth Day than to create a feast of locally grown, organic, non-GMO & harvested food? You’ll support your local economy, get to know your farmers, and eat a delicious seasonal meal.
  3. Start your garden. If you live in warmer climates then you might be lucky enough to have already started your garden. For those that live in colder climates, it might be time to transplant your seedlings into their new garden home. You might be able to find some good plant starts at your local farmers market if you don’t have the space or ability to start seeds indoors. Growing your own food and getting your hands dirty connects you to what nourishes you, what sustains you, and gives you the ability to control what goes into your body and how you choose to live on the Earth. And don’t forget to plant things for the bees and butterflies!
  4. Participate in a clean up project. There are organizations everywhere that arrange environmental clean up days. Some might be at the beach, along creeks and rivers, on mountain trails, or even on the side of the highways. There seems to be a never-ending supply of trash that makes it’s way into the environment and every little bit we can do to keep it clean makes a difference. By volunteering you are doing your part to keep the environment clean and saving your local town money since they won’t have to hire someone to clean it up. Encourage your town to use that saved money to support healthy environment programs!
  5. Volunteer at a local farm. I’m going to take a wild guess here and say that most farms can use all of the help they can get. Farming is hard, dirty work and the farmers work long hours to provide local, healthy food for their local communities. They are up before dawn and drop into bed late, exhausted from yet another day of shoveling, digging, or what ever other jobs need to be done. I’m sure they would be happy to have some help for a day, share how the farm works, and probably teach you some new skills at the same time.
  6. Make something from scratch. Instead of running to the store for supper, try making the entire thing from scratch. Marinara sauce can be made from fresh tomatoes, herbs, and spices and is really easy. Need some cheese? Try your hand at homemade mozzarella! It’s simple and actually pretty fun to make. Homemade bread is a big favorite in our house, slathered with homemade butter and locally source honey. It’s right next to heaven. There’s also no reason to run to the store for just about any condiment, because the majority of them can be made at home, from real ingredients, and will taste amazing. Once you’ve had homemade mayo, you’ll never go back to store-bought.
  7. Go paperless. I know everyone that we all get bills from encourage us to go paperless, getting our statements and doing payments online. I also know that it saves the company money, since they don’t have to send out paper billing statements and they don’t have to wait for a check in the mail. And by not mailing a check, you reduce the carbon footprint of that payment, since it doesn’t have to be physically delivered. If you feel like you need a paper record of your payment/statement, just print it at home or take a screen shot and save it to your computer, which is even better.
  8. Go fishing or hunting. No you don’t have to go and hunt big game…you can hunt for ramps, mushrooms (make sure you know what you’re doing if you’re hunting mushrooms), wild onions, or anything that is edible and grows wild in your area. It’s a great skill to have and will guarantee you that you’re eating seasonally. If you enjoy it, or even just want to try it, go fishing! I never thought I’d be a gal that liked fly fishing, but here I am, rocking it. Being out in the woods, by the river is so calming and you just can’t beat the view. If you get lucky, you’ll get to catch your supper! Again, this is another great skill to have, especially as we see our economy becoming more and more fragile.
  9. Visit a wildlife preserve. Just about every area has some sort of wildlife preserve that works hard to make sure that the balance of nature stays that way, balanced. Go and see what animals are endangered, what they’re doing to help them, or even how you can help. My best friend volunteers at a wildlife preserve in Louisiana and she really enjoys it. The volunteers are happy to show you around, share information, and answer any questions you might have.
  10. Celebrate Earth Day every day. It’s great that people “do their part” on Earth Day and I want to encourage them to keep doing that. But Earth Day is really every day, because we live on this Earth every day. We should be concerned about how we affect the environment every day.  Make it a goal to make just one change that you will adhere to every day that will help the environment. The Earth will thank you for it, your health will thank you for it, and our children and grandchildren will too. It’s our job, it needs to start with us. Be the first one, don’t be shy, and be proud to be the change that you wish to see in the world.

Photo credit: Lukas on Pexels

Simple Steps for a Sustainable Easter

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Hippity Hoppity, Easter is on it’s way! I love spring, when I can open the widows and let the fresh air in, see the trees and plants coming into bloom, and feel that renewing sense of potential and excitement. It’s a time for new beginnings, spring cleaning, updating project lists, big sun hats, and fresh, local food.

We don’t actually celebrate Easter, but we do celebrate the spring equinox, which shares a lot of the same (or similar) symbolism with Easter. We celebrate the all that is wonderful about the season and how it makes us feel. Eggs, fresh grass, bunnies, and chicks are all part and parcel of the celebration, but it has become something other than what the original celebration was all about. Consumerism has taken over what should be a beautiful, simple season. It’s about fertility, growth, and a renewed sense of optimism (at least, for me it is).

Go to any store and you would think that it’s Christmas, part 2. Plastic Easter baskets filled with plastic grass, topped off with cheap toys and candy, all wrapped up in a plastic bag line the shelves. We’ve become so engrossed in the “what did you get” that we’ve forgotten about the “how do you feel”. I would like to suggest that we return to a simpler celebration that would include time with friends and family, time to revisit our goals, and simple appreciation for the gifts of the season.

Here are few things that we can do to lessen our impact on the planet, reconnect with simple traditions, and honor the season:

Choose real eggs over plastic. Go to the farmer’s market and pick up a couple dozen farm fresh eggs and dye them using natural dyes. You’ll learn how to use natural dyes, which can be used for other purposes, support the local economy, and have the most delicious eggs ever. You can even get really fancy and blow them out with an egg blower and save them for next year! I’ve had this one for years and love it. Another alternative is to use wooden eggs. You can paint them and save them, using them year after year. These could potentially become cherished items, passed on through the generations too.

Forgo the plastic grass. Choose something that can be reused or repurposed. Scarves, vintage doilies, or vintage hankies would look so pretty in a basket and can be useful after nestling the delicate eggs. You can also just use real grass. Just pull some up, stuff the basket, and then compost it later. The bonus with this is that it’s free!

Choose a real basket. You could either reuse this year after year, or, if you choose a more neutral one, you’ll be able to use it for all kinds of things. I have a basket that served as an Easter basket and traveled with us from San Diego, but now I use it to collect eggs from our chickens. I didn’t have to go out and get a specific basket for collecting eggs, it’s very useful, and it’s cute too.

Visit a farm instead of gifting bunnies or chicks. Not only would this be a really fun activity for the entire family, you’ll save yourself the headache of eventually having to rehome the bunny or chick, once it’s grown and the cuteness has worn off. Many farms loving giving tours, especially in the spring when there is new life everywhere. Some even have farm-to-table dinners, which would be the perfect end to a perfect day.

Choose locally-raised and grown food for your feast. If you’re in the city, your best bet is probably a visit to your farmer’s market. You’ll find all kinds of seasonal treats, like ramps, fiddleheads, lamb, flowers, etc. Talk the to the farmer and ask where they are located, making sure that he really is local. Some vendors at farmer’s markets just buy from where ever and sell it, letting the customer assume that it’s local. You might end up with a smaller meal, but really, this isn’t about the meal, it’s about the celebration of the season. If you’re lucky, you might even be able to find wild onions (chives) and mushrooms if you’re into foraging!

Create something beautiful. In celebration of the season, make a wreath of locally gathered items. I love a simple, moss-covered wreath with a big bow on it. Create decorations made of materials that can be composted, or better yet, make it so that you can use year after year, like the cute little bunny picks pictured here.

Avoid food waste. By having a smaller meal, we become more purposeful and, coincidentally, more grateful, for it. We savor every last bite, knowing that the season’s offerings are short-lived. And what to do with all of those eggs? If you blew them out, now you have the perfect makings for a delicious frittata. You can also use them to make custard, eat them as a snack, top off a spring salad with them, or even pickle them. They won’t go to waste!

There are a lot of different things that you can do to create a sustainable, simple, and beautiful Easter holiday, but it’s more important to start. Do just one thing and see how it makes you feel. I guarantee that you’ll get a little smile inside, like a light that says, “thank you for caring.” They’re such simple, easy changes, but that’s how we create bigger change, one Easter celebration at a time.

Photo credit: JESHOOTS on Pexels

How Your Environment Affects Your Health

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You’re doing all of the things right. You watch what you eat, you exercise,  you get plenty of rest, and you do what you can to have a balanced work and social life. Life is good. But if you’re not paying attention to your environment, all of that hard work is just making your body work harder than it needs to. It’s also making a bigger impact than most people realize, both in the immediate and down the road. There are a few approaches to this that I focus on; the individual benefits, the larger environmental benefits, and the social responsibility.

The first part of this is about creating an environment so that all of your efforts to lead a happy, health life aren’t being thwarted by a heavy chemical body burden. It’s easier to make changes on the individual level first, so we’ll start there. The chemical body burden is the level of chemical residues that can be found in the urine, blood, and breast milk. Most people don’t even know that they have it (all of us do, to one extent or another), what it is, or have bothered to have it measured. You don’t even have to have it measured to know that there are probably several things that you can think of off the top of your head that are contributing to it. Everything in your environment has an affect on your health, so when your environment is clean your body will be able respond optimally to all of your mindful eating and exercise. That’s the individual benefits side of the puzzle.

Another piece of the puzzle is the environmental benefits. We’re not talking about just eating organic or producing less waste (which both have a huge impact on human health). We’re talking about the big picture here, where what we choose to do impacts not only our immediate environment, but the global environment too. This is about being the change that you wish to see in the world, one little step at a time.

The hard part about it is that it can be difficult, if not impossible to know what is affecting you or how to fix it. It can also be overwhelming because once you see one thing, you begin to see toxins everywhere, all the time. It’s enough to make you throw your hands up in the air and just give up. But take heart, everyone has to start somewhere. In fact, my mother always says that the best place to start is at the beginning and she’s not wrong. Taking it one step at a time makes it so much easier and not nearly as overwhelming.

The other puzzle piece is the social responsibility, which is why I do what I do. I know that trying to look at the individual pieces and the bigger picture is not easy. That’s where I come in. I help you set up a step-by-step, strategic plan to clean up your environment and live a more sustainable lifestyle. We’re a team, because that’s really the only way to create the bigger impact that is needed to ensure that everyone is healthier. But it has to start with one person, and that person is you, or me, or your friend next door. When we realize that our choices don’t only affect ourselves, but those that we love, our neighborhood, our town, and our world, it empowers us to make the changes necessary. It’s working on the micro (where we see the most immediate benefits) to affect the macro.

My mother says the best way to eat and elephant is one bite at a time. That’s how I approach being the change I wish to see in the world, one client at a time, one home at a time, one friend at a time. If I can help someone realize that their choice of something as random as flooring or soap affects not only their health, but the health of someone they love that lives on the other side of the country, then I’m happy. Yes, it’s a total paradigm shift and it may not be easy, but it is simple. And the good thing is that once you get, you really get it and the rest comes pretty easily and that’s about as sustainable as you can get.

Photo credit: Bench Accounting on Unsplash

 

Wisdom From My Mama

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See that beautiful young woman in that photo? That’s my Mama and she was born in the early 1930’s. She was 18 at the time and that’s her high school graduation photo. I’ve learned so much from her and it’s interesting that the older I get, the more I realize that I’ve learned from her and the more that I’m becoming like her, which I think is a wonderful thing. She is the kindest, sweetest, most honest, caring, giving person I know. She’s always throwing out little tidbits of wisdom that have become a part of me, and I’m grateful for them. She loves to laugh, can cook like nobody’s business, loves to be involved in her community, and loves taking care of her family. I would venture to say that she is considers herself a religious woman, attending church every week, and tries her hardest to live a good life. We’re not religious, but I love that she sticks to what she believes is true, what she would call “stick-to-it-ivness”, and doesn’t try to cram it down everyone else’s throat. Yes, she may nudge every now and then, but that’s just her and I don’t let it bother me. She means well and she loves us and that’s all that matters.

The other day I got a letter from her in the mail (yes, she still does snail mail). It was a little piece that she had written, what she called an “essay” on washing dishes. I have no idea why she sent it, but I love it. There’s a little note with it that says, “Hi Sweet Daughter, how do you like my essay? Smile! Love ya, Mother”. That’s it. Just the note and the essay, which is so typical of her. Just send the necessaries and don’t add too much fluff. She’s a very no-nonsense woman that way. Anyway, I thought I would share it with you here, just to give you a snapshot of where I am privileged to come from.

She calls this “Washing Dishes”.

“Some folks find washing dishes a distasteful task. Maybe that’s why so many kitchen sinks are full of them.

Since I was quite young, one of my chores was “doing the dishes” and I didn’t particularly like it then as I had other things to do when where more fun or more interesting.

I don’t recall when I began to find a certain pleasure in washing dishes. At some point I decided I didn’t like dishwasher because the dishes had to be rinsed first and sometimes the dishes weren’t clean and they had water spots. It was and is too much trouble in my opinion.

In one apartment where we lived we kept our dry cereal in the dishwasher. Now days as I wash dishes I can look out my kitchen window and watch whatever is going on outside and I can pray or meditate and sometimes I will be listening to gospel music. I “saw” God one time in a coffee mug I was drying!!

There is a unique sensation of satisfaction in having my hands in hot, sudsy water (wearing rubber gloves) and scrubbing a pot or pan. And when I am finished and hang up my drying towel, I can walk out of my kitchen feeling really good!!

You may think I’m crazy for feeling this way about “doing dishes”, but I know my Heavenly Father has given me these dishes to wash and this kitchen and this house to take care of and He trusts me to do it.

Dishwashers are a great invention and bless all those who have one, but I think I will just store our cereal in ours!! (p.s. We don’t have one).”

After reading this, I realized that I feel the same way. I don’t need, nor do I want, a dishwasher. I like being of service to my family and it’s one of the ways that I show them that I love them. I also agree that they don’t get the dishes clean, I don’t like the water spots that they leave, take up way too much space, and use too much water and electricity. They also get really nasty in the bottom and that grosses me out. And because we’re on a septic system, we have to be really careful about what we put in it and dishwasher detergent doesn’t fall in that category. I just wash them by hand, saving water, electricity, and our septic system at the same time. Even when we have lots of people over and there are tons of dishes left over, it’s okay. Alan, Darrian, and I all get in there together and get it done. It’s fun family time that we don’t get very often anymore and that is more important to me than the convenience of an electricity sucking machine that disconnects me from my family and the simplicity of life.

So, thank you, Mama. I appreciate everything you’ve taught me and continue to share with me. You’re the most wonderful Mama on the planet and I’m blessed to call you mine.

The Unschooling Adventure

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When our youngest son was in public elementary school, he loved it, he was doing well, and he was thriving. Then came middle school. What a nightmare. He was miserable, the education was lackluster, to say the least, and he was turning into a little jerk. He had  been such a sweet kid, so the change in him was unnerving and confusing.

We pulled him out of school and went with an online public school. That’s when we learned about how he learns best. He had trouble going from subject to subject, bouncing around, and retaining very little. He did much better as a binge learner. He loves to delve deep into a subject and learn all he can and then go on to the next thing. He’ll spend months learning something, like ancient history and war, computers, or cooking and then move on to something else. Unfortunately the online public school was basically the same thing as public school, only at home, so that didn’t work either. And then add in all of the nagging that I was doing to get him to do his homework (which was making both of us cranky) to the mix and that can squash the love of learning really fast. So we decided to scrap it and start all over.

The first thing we did was just let him take a break, which was harder on me than it was on him. The poor kid basically slept for about 8 months. He was exhausted and it was obvious. I learned a lot of patience during those 8 months, letting his body get the rest it needed and just being there for him. After that he finally started wanting to get up and do things, becoming more engaged than he had ever been before. My sweet boy was coming back!

I had been doing days and days of research on education alternatives and discovered unschooling. I knew this would be perfect for him because it would give him the freedom to learn what he was interested in at his own pace and to the depth that would satisfy him and keep him engaged. My husband and I decided to give it a try and see how it went and I’m so grateful that we did.

One of the hardest parts of unschooling is remembering that no matter what they’re doing, they’re always learning something. There is no, “and what did we learn from this?” or checking to make sure that they’re learning. Rest assured, they are. He was learning what he loves, what makes him tick, what he doesn’t like, and how he likes to be in the world. He was learning to be a responsible human being, how to find joy in life, and how to be a good person. That was more important to us than him learning how to do common core math or recite useless data that he would never use in his life. His love of learning was growing exponentially and his range of interests grew along with it.

That was 5 1/2 years ago and today he is happy, well-adjusted, can hold a decent conversation, knows how to problem solve, can build computers, and has a wicked sense of humor. At 17 he is kind, observant, smart as a whip, well-rounded and engaged. He has a job, and IRA, and loves to snowboard and do martial arts. He does spend a lot of time online, but it’s funny that a lot of it is on research of topics that he’s interested in. Right now it’s the periodic table, Spirit Science, and physics. Most of the time it’s hard to just keep up with him.

Because unschooling is learner led, it has given us the opportunity to really get to know our son as a person and a friend. We love spending time with him and we’re lucky that he loves spending time with us too. Watching him grow this way has been such a wonderful experience for our family and I am grateful for it. I will say that unschooling isn’t for everyone, but for us, it’s been perfect. I love the man he is becoming and I’m the lucky one that gets to be his mom.

*Photo credit: David Bartus on Pexels