Archive for January, 2012

Our first home grown eggs!

This week we discovered that 5 hens that we bought from a friend who moved have begun laying eggs!  They had laid before they were moved here, and must have just been settling in for a few weeks in their new home.  We were so surprised to find the eggs!  So now we add gathering and cleaning eggs to our current chore list.  🙂  And we add breakfast casserole to the dinner menu.  If you happen to be local and would like to buy some eggs, let me know.  $3/dozen

Our first home-grown gathered eggs!

Keith and I spent the weekend at a conference about sustainable agriculture; its called SSAWG or Southern Sustainable Agriculture Working Group.  We spent 12 hours round trip driving, talking, and planning our upcoming year, and 2 days attending workshops by the names of “Increasing the Success of Young Farmers”, “Systems of Success With Poultry, Eggs, and Livestock”, and many others.  We met other farmers from Oklahoma who are farming organic or all natural, and we met people who had many resources to offer us in our journey.

This workshop was on creating healthy pastures without chemicals. Great stuff!

There was really a great mix of people there – the young Prius-driving vegetarians who are innovating new venues in the good food movement, sitting side by side with the suspender-wearing, southern-drawl talking old time farmers who are pairing their lifetime of knowledge with a new market and new opportunities.  If I had to guess which one had the majority, I might guess the younger crowd… but I may be wrong.  I was really impressed with how many of the older generation were there, learning the new ways, pioneering in their area as men and women with the authority that comes only with age.

We met some very inspiring people who are really leading the way in sustainable farming in the south.  We met a family who raises organic tilapia, pastured poultry, and 8 acres (!!!) of vegetables on their Louisiana farm.  Check them out at gofamilyfarms.com  We met a young couple with a baby, who are raising 9,000 chickens each year, as well as lots of grass-fed cattle and pigs.  We hope to visit their operation over at Falling Sky Farm in Arkansas later this year.  We met with the organic certification specialist for Oklahoma and learned he lives quite near by and will be a great resource for us should we decide to pursue certification down the road.  There were many other great connections and resources we learned about, and we have a box full of materials to follow up on in the months after the conference.  I would say we certainly got our money’s worth out of the conference, but more than that, it was a great use of our time (we learned tons!), a real boost for the wind in our sails, and a great time to dream and plan our future farm.  I definitely hope we can go again next year and maybe take a few people along with us.  We might have to drive separately though.  It’s rare to get 12 hours of uninterrupted talking time to dream and plan together. 😉

Enjoying the conference and taking a snapshot break!

Getting a new business off the ground is no easy task.  There is a huge learning curve for every aspect.  There’s so much to learn about production of poultry, eggs, and other animals.  There are many enterprises to consider when planning a small farm, and each must be evaluated as to whether or not it is a good fit for you and your farm.   Then there are the issues of being cost efficient in your production, ensuring good business practices and financial practices in your business, as well as marketing and selling your products.  So though we must consider all of these things in building a good plan for our farm, we also are taking one baby step at a time… this week, build a turkey shelter to be moved to our new location, locate cheap billboard tarps to be used on new chicken shelters, get into an egg routine and figure out what we are going to do with 14 dozen eggs a week when all these girls start gettin’ their groove on, and compile resources from the conference into a manageable pile for future use.  And oh yeah, get our mobile home moved from Texas to the new homestead site, complete about a hundred tasks that go along with moving, teach Mrs. Haugan’s class of one, write up and implement a set of family ways to help guide our children, research and compare doctor’s fees in the area for optomatrists and family doctors… a few of these tasks may have to be carried over into next week.  😉  Maybe.  … breath deep…baby steps…

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Tennis shoes aren’t cutting it…

Today I did the chores by myself (oh yeah!). Jeremiah was with my mother, Keith is in Mexico (having a great time, by the way), and Judah was inside.  First I had to clean off the church sidewalk – it was amuck with green sticky wet turkey poop.  Nice.  A dry broom wouldn’t cut it, I had to lug a pail of hot water over there and soak it down, then scrub it off with the broom.  Those turkeys are eating more feed now because it’s cold and the forage is quite limited – and they keep my sidewalk and the church’s amply supplied with nasty wet turkey poop.  Their processing day has been put on the calendar for the coming week.  Turkey tetrazini, here we come.  Next year if we get turkeys we will put them farther away from the house.  There will be no turkey poop on my new back deck.  I hope.

Another thing today’s chores brought to mind is that my tennis shoes aren’t cutting it.  I thought I had managed to stay out of the poop, but alas both shoes were marred with it by the end of chores.  I’m a one pair of shoes kind of girl, mainly because I wear orthotics and I don’t like taking them in and out of shoes to change shoes.  It’s hard on the orthotics and I’m too lazy to do it.  My tennis shoes are keeping the orthotics, but I am now convinced that as an official farm girl, I need a pair of work boots.  I posted a picture of the hot pink rain boots I wore last month, but those do not have enough support in them to wear very often.  So I’m on the hunt, together with my husband who is also in need of new boots, to find the perfect work boot.  Perhaps we’ll have a little time to shop in Little Rock this weekend during the Southern Sustainable Agriculture conference we are going to.  Anyone have recommendations?  😉  The farmer wears Ariat boots, and thinks they’re pretty comfortable.  I may start by trying on a pair of those.  Also, the sporty knit pants aren’t cutting it either.  Gonna have to don some jeans.  There’s a reason why farmers and ranchers wear jeans and work boots.  Nothing else can handle the work load.

 

So yay!  We are going to a sustainable agriculture conference this weekend!  We’re excited to pick out what workshops we want to attend, and meet other like-minded folks from our area.  I think it will be a great experience for us, and one that we will want to repeat year after year.

http://www.ssawg.org/2012-Conference-Program/

I’ve been perusing Reformation AcresPinterest page today.  I needed some rest (and still do), so it was a good way to just sit and relax for a while.  On her gardening and homesteading pin boards I repinned almost all of her favorite ideas.  And I put together a to-do list for things to print off (great gardening resources) and projects to plan for the next months.  I wish we didn’t have to move in the next month, or that we were already moved, because I’ve got other things I want to do.  If you’re interested in gardening and homesteading, you’ll love Quinn’s blog and her pinterest page.  There are a few years worth of ideas and aspirations to aspire to there. 

Happy Trails, until next time.

Lacy

 

Making A Permanent Lifestyle Change

So I know that a blog is supposed to be my own writing.  But when I read something that really hits the mark, something I find helpful, reposting another’s writing is a big compliment.  Amy over at Homestead Revival has a really great mission statement:

Return to the basics

Live closer to the land

Strengthen the family through homemaking

Embrace being a keeper of the home

Encourage the next generation in homesteading skills

Build community through sharing

It is as if she wrote my mission statement for me, but I would add to that:

Raise up my children to be faithful followers of God

It seems to me that she implies that, as the verse listed on her blog is “so that they may encourage the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be sensible, pure, workers at home, kind, being subject to their own husbands, so that the word of God will not be dishonored. (Titus 2:4-5)  I love that verse, almost a mission statement in and of itself.  Amy is a few years ahead of me in life and in homesteading, and I can really glean from her wisdom and experience.  Her post on making a permanent lifestyle change can apply to a wide variety of areas, and is helpful to consider.  How do we really make a change in our lives?  How do we get rid of old habits that really do die hard?  Simply considering the issue is a good start.  Amy gives us some good points on how to make a change – for good.

Making A Permanent Lifestyle Change

When it comes to homesteading, sometimes it can be hard to make lasting changes. It’s easy to do something once or twice, but to make a new skill a part of your life on a daily basis, to be characterized by something you didn’t grow up doing, and to not go back to the way you did it before… well, it can be down right brutal!

How do I make those changes? Not over night, I can assure you. But I have begun to notice a process that seems to work for me…

1. Read and study about the new skill to be learned. Gain as much knowledge as I can before I start. That includes talking to friends and others who do it regularly.

2. Make a plan and schedule a day to try it on the calendar – a day when I’m not overwhelmed with other chores or have to go out for any reason.

3. Gather any supplies that might be necessary.

4. Do it and evaluate how it went. Think about what didn’t go well and how I would do it differently next time. I might even do some more research at this point.

5. Usually some time has passed between step 4 and this step, but eventually I try it again and maybe even a third time. I begin to get more comfortable with it.

6. At some point – and this is the crucial step that I want to discuss today – I cut all ties to the old way and it’s either sink or swim; fish or cut bait. No going back.
When I wanted to mill my own grains and make my own breads, I sailed through the first 5 steps and enjoyed it a lot, but I noticed that when I got busy or tired (or dare I say lazy), I would grab a loaf of bread at the store. Soon it became much too easy and convenient to do this. But I wasn’t becoming proficient at making bread and I wasn’t meeting the goal I had set for my family – to provide the most nutritious option available.

I remember one particular day, clearly realizing that summer was upon us and I had the perfect opportunity to make a clean break from store bought bread. In my mind I made a commitment that I intended to keep – no more excuses and no more store bought bread. Period.

And then came the day about a week later when we were out of bread and we needed lunch. I realized I had to fish or cut bait – and fish I did! I got creative for that meal and made something else and then I got after making bread! And I kept working at it until one day, my loaves started improving significantly. (My husband was a very patient man!). From there, I began to remember the steps and do them without so much thinking (you should have seen how marked up my recipe was with all my notes!). And eventually, I was able to teach my oldest daughter who makes most of our bread right now. In the last 2 years, I would say we’ve only bought about 4 loaves of bread with the exception of sourdough for special occasions because I haven’t learned that skill – yet!

Recently, Kendra at New Life On A Homestead, shared how she cut ties with her dryer. She’d been wanting to line dry all her clothes, but kept putting it off. But when she redecorated and organized her laundry room, she pulled it out and set up a clothes drying rack. The break was made and victory attained!

Some of you may remember my post on Dinner Napkins last year. I grew up using paper napkins (didn’t you?), but I wanted to eliminate this purchase from my shopping list. So I made up a few and tried to commit to using them at least once a week. This worked pretty well for a while, but again, we slipped back into using the paper napkins. So about a month ago, I did what needed to be done and made a clean break from the paper altogether. When the last paper napkin was purchased, I refused to buy more. Since then, we’ve used only cloth napkins and it’s worked out fine. I thought it would require a lot of extra washing, but since we only use one a day per person, I just add them to something I’m already washing. And my 8 year old gets a chance to finally iron – she loves it! Isn’t that sweet!

Over the years, some other things I’ve made a clean break with include purchased laundry soap, white sugar, air conditioning (I live where it’s just not that necessary, but if I was in the south, this would not get cut!) my living room heater (switched entirely to the wood stove), commercial deodorant, hair coloring, TV in summer, and store bought eggs. There’s more, but this gives you an idea.

So, what’s on the line to be axed in the future? Well, looks like the dishwasher is getting the boot this week. It’s been a pain for a while and I think we’ll give it a rest except on special occasions and hand wash the rest of the time. And I think one day the TV will get cut off permanently.

But I’m most anxious to switch to my own yogurt and other cultured dairy foods (I’m taking Wardeh’s class right now). I’ve made yogurt in the past, but I keep going back to the store to buy more. What’s with that when I know how? The simple truth is… I don’t practice it enough to make it routine. But if I do it over and over again, that’s when the real breakthrough occurs. While these things may seem foreign to us in our modern society, they aren’t really hard things to do, just different. And because it’s different it requires practice.

For most of us, a significant aspect of homesteading today is embracing a new lifestyle change. You choose the things you will adopt and make your own, but in doing so, you must leave behind the former ways and take hold of the “new” old ways of doing things. We’re setting the example for our sons and daughters. Let’s make ’em proud!

What’s the hardest thing you’re leaving behind and embracing?

If I were to answer Amy’s parting question, I would say that the hardest thing for me to leave behind is convenience.  One of the main expressions of that in my life is fast food.  Life can at times be unpredictable.  And even if it is predictable, grabbing a drive through is often tastier, quicker, and sometimes even cheaper than planning and packing a lunch to take with us when we’re going to be out around lunch time.  We swing through the drive through too many times each week.  I’m gonna have to evaluate that habit in light of this article and see what becomes of it.  How about you?  Anything you’ve already decided to leave behind?  Something you want to leave behind?

Lacy

Heirloom or Hybrid?

So I am still a novice when it comes to gardening. I have planted a small garden twice. Once it

The Farmer and His Son in the World Hunger Relief Garden - Spring 2011

produced fairly well, once it pretty much shriveled up and died during a terrible drought. I have also helped with a few gardens. One of them had really huge tomato plants… with no tomatoes. The other died when I went out of town for a month. 😦  So for all my good intentions and attempts, I have yet to raise a garden that has truly produced a lot of vegetables. And that, my friends, is my aim this year.

I have five seed catalogues sitting next to me on my couch, and I have circled some things I think I’d like to raise. I am hoping to be successful in my attempts to grow my own seedlings. But I’m stuck on one point.

Heirloom or hybrid?

To be truly sustainable, it must be heirloom. To raise one’s own food from one’s own seeds is the ultimate in self-sufficient food production. To that goal I aspire. Yet, I am but a novice! Should I start with more disease resistant hybrid varieties to help ensure success? Or would it be like false confidence? Just because I can raise a hybrid vegetable doesn’t mean I can raise heirloom vegetables, or does it?

Does anyone out there have experience raising hybrids versus heirlooms? I would love to hear any advice you have for a beginner gardener in this area. Also, any pointers you have on ensuring that my seedlings do well would be much appreciated. I hate trying to raise my own seedlings but then running down and buying plants from the store because my seedlings were so pitiful.

Why I Homestead

The focus of my blog so far has been mostly about homesteading – raising animals and gardens, making things at home, and making choices that lead to self-reliance. I have not expanded on all of these topics, but I will – these and many more. But I thought I would take a pause and explain why I have become so interested in homesteading. Perhaps some of you might just wonder – why.

Let me give a sincere disclaimer here to all of you that in no way is the point of this explanation to convince any of you to live life my way, nor to judge anyone for their choices. Each person has one life to live before God and it is up to each of us how we want to live it. With that said, and meant, I write on.

Homesteading is a lot about living life deliberately. Evaluating what we need to live contently, and seeing how I can produce those things myself, rather than being completely reliant upon stores to provide all that we need. But why? Over the last few years I began to feel unhappy with “consumerism”. Consumerism is defined as: “a social and economic order based on fostering a desire to purchase goods and services in ever greater amounts (Wikipedia).” That constant desire to buy more and more of anything and everything I might want left me feeling jaded, discontent, and in want of change. It is an endless circle: I want more stuff, I need more money, I never have enough money to buy the stuff I want. Do I have to live like this?

I have lived the first 10 years of my adult live with very little money. Most of those years I was a missionary living on gifts and contributions from others. This left very little money to buy “stuff” with. I had my basic needs met, I paid for my travel with missions, and a few other items I was blessed to have such as a car and a computer. As I settled into family life in my late twenties and early thirties I still didn’t have a lot of money, but I did have a bit more than before. I became friends with people who had more money than I did (which was basically everyone besides other missionaries), and somewhere in that journey I jumped into the vicious cycle of consumerism. I felt I“needed” better clothes, I wanted nicer furniture, I wanted more of this, more of that, for various reasons. But amazingly, as I got these things one by one, I began to realize that I was no more content than I had been before. In fact, perhaps I was even a bit less content, a bit disappointed that the new item did not satisfy. And therein is the bait that lures us back into the cycle. Well, that couch is nice, but it would be even better with a new coffee table and a nice set of lamps. This gaming system is fun, but it would be a lot more fun if I had some new games to go with it. This new shirt is cute, but it would really look better with matching shoes and belt. And I think I would really like to try out that cute look, that fancy new electronic item, and that beautiful style of décor and, and, and… we are hooked. We always need more……….and we are never satisfied.

An exit from this fast moving highway was what I was searching for. I don’t want to spend my life working for more money to buy more stuff that needs even more stuff to make it look better, that will -never- -satisfy- -anyway-. There’s got to be a better way of life. Surely there is a different way of living altogether, an entirely different view of our relationship to the things that we have and need and enjoy. And that’s where my journey to homesteading began.

Homesteading is about producing more of what we truly need on a daily basis, and consuming less of what doesn’t really bring any real satisfaction anyway. Just because I can have something, does that mean I should have it? If I do get that something, will I want it again and again? Will having that something satisfy me? Why do I want it in the first place? Being willing to take a hard look at the things I want to buy and at my motivations for buying those things has been a part of the process for me of loosening the grip of consumerism (the want to buy more and more). Experiencing the satisfaction of intentional living helps reinforce this new way of consuming.

I’m not talking about a poverty mentality here. I still have a dream house in mind that I hope to have someday. It is quite beautiful. I think every person should have a few nice outfits hanging in their closet. And I am especially in agreement that having the right tools for a job is very beneficial, for example a nice drill does wonders when making a chicken tractor, and a kitchenaid mixer is a wonderful addition to any kitchen that gets regular use. But back to homesteading.

There are those who want to produce more of what they need because they are afraid the grocery store shelves might be empty someday in the near future. And though I cannot predict even one day of the future, I can honestly say that this fear is not my motivation for homesteading. Nonetheless, in the event that something of this nature did occur, a homesteading lifestyle would be of great advantage.

There are those homesteaders who are genuinely concerned about the end of cheap oil, the depletion of our natural resources, and the pollution of our environment. Though I may have some interest in these areas, they are not my motivation for homesteading.

There are those whose main motivation is to provide organic foods for their family, to protect their health from unwanted preservatives, chemicals, hormones, and additives in most mass-produced foods. I must say that having a large supply of better than organic meat and eggs available to feed my family is wonderful. Even this, though one of my aims in homesteading, is not my main reason for homesteading.

I am drawn to homesteading as a way of life because it frees me from the desire to buy more and more, helps me focus on what really matters in life, and brings deep satisfaction from a simple life. The tasks of making bread or raising chickens or tending a garden, though enjoyable, are not completely satisfying each one in and of themselves, but rather it is the effect of all of them together that is most satisfying. Each experience together producing a life of simplicity and satisfaction. So in a nutshell, that’s it. That’s why I homestead. That’s why I delight in herding turkeys to shelter before they roost at nightfall. That’s why I pour over seed catalogues and gardening books for months before the weather warms. That’s why I google “family milk cow” or “solar dehydrator” in my free time. Because homesteading is awesome, and the more I dive in, the more I love my life.

~Homemade Poptarts, Graham Crackers, and Dishsoap~

Well, the new year has begun and we’re off to a running start! We have spent our first week back in the cotton fields harvesting in over a month! It’s been so rainy, it’s been too wet to harvest. We will have been harvesting for about 9 days when our next big chance of rain hits: 50% chance on Monday. Keith will be taking Tuesday off anyway because he needs to pack his bags. He is heading out to Oaxaca, Mexico to do a video project for some missionary friends of ours. Kerry and Maury Johnson have been working in Oaxaca for many years and are hoping to start a new women and children’s center to help women in distressed situations. Keith will be making a video of existing projects in the villages and hopefully doing some interviews about the women and children’s center. He is going together with my Dad and a friend of the family, so it should be a good time for them all. Hmmm… I just realized as I was writing this that Keith will not be doing the chores while he is out of town for a week. Farm girl on the job training continues.

This week I wanted to share some of the projects and things I’ve been doing lately. I am hoping to revamp my “snack cabinet” this year and largely do away with processed boxed foods. So far I have experimented with a few things. The kids have liked some of them, and a few of them not so much.

Homemade "Poptarts"

Cheese Crackers

Dehydrated apples, bananas, and strawberries: 4 stars (healthy, full of fiber, non-messy fruit)

Homemade cheese crackers: 2 stars 😦 (the kids didn’t like these too much)

Homemade Chocolate Graham Crackers: 4 stars (a hit!)

Homemade Poptarts: 3 stars (only because strangely they kind of give us heart burn)

Popped in a pan on the stove “homemade” popcorn: 5 stars (a classic and easy favorite!)

Homemade Chocolate Graham Crackers

Homemade Chocolate Graham Crackers

Here are the links to some of the recipes I tried.

http://heavenlyhomemakers.com/healthy-treat-for-today-homemade-whole-wheat-graham-crackers

http://heavenlyhomemakers.com/homemade-healthy-poptarts

I also wanted to share my favorite new addition to the kitchen:

This is a ceramic coated skillet, which I use almost every day for pancakes or eggs. For anyone who’s interested in the health and safety of the cookware you use to prepare your food, this pan is great! It is a much better non-stick surface than stainless steel, and is also non-reactive with your food, a great improvement over anything using Teflon or other chemical non-stick surfaces. I have also seen these in a nice white ceramic. Either way, I LOVE mine so far, and I feel good about cooking my family’s food in this pan.

Another favorite Christmas gift was this indoor Piratos Swing Seat my mother got for my son. It’s been a real hit with both kids, and my son enjoys reading in it, twirling around in it, and just general lounging in it. It’s the perfect gift for lots of winter days spent indoors. The book he’s enjoying in the photo is a Bible comic book called “Good and Evil”. Good stuff.

This week has been “No Dryer Week” around here. I’m giving my clothes dryer a rest and have returned to hanging my clothes “out to dry”, but indoors on a wooden rack and using hangers for shirts. So far I have really liked it. Doing a load every day or two takes only a few minutes of my time, as opposed to doing it all on one day and ending up with 4-5 baskets of laundry sitting around in the living room for days waiting on me to fold it or put it away. 😉 Who, me? Never!

I also attempted homemade dish soap this week. I did a simple low cost “recipe”. Shred a bar of soap (I used unscented Dove), add 2 cups hot water and let sit overnight. Then put it into a soap bottle and you’re ready to go! So far I like it! One reason I did this was because you wouldn’t believe how hard it is to find truly unscented dish soap – a must for sensitive skin like mine. I usually use Seventh Generation’s Free and Clear dish soap, but at my local health food store it’s $5.50 per bottle, and it’s out of my way because I don’t go there very often. So I decided to try to make my own!

http://www.diylife.com/2009/08/03/how-to-make-your-own-dish-soap/

Mrs. Haugan’s 2nd Grade class (of 1) is back under way – sort of. This week Jeremiah has participated in two mornings of “Bring your son to work day” with Keith. This has a few purposes – 1) One on one time with Dad, 2) Jeremiah spending time on the cotton farm (preparation for a few years down the road when he’s old enough to drive a tractor and join the work crew), 3) One on one time for Mommy and Judah. Monday he swept out the cotton stripper (that’s the real name for the cotton harvesting machine) which is truly helpful.  Our other main event for this week was a field trip to the Stillwater children’s museum, “Wondertorium”. We went together with my mom and my sister-in-law and her 3 sons and spent 4-5 hours playing our hearts out! It was a great place, so much so that we bought a year pass. We hope to spend many more field trip days there. We hit the books next week in Mrs. Haugan’s 2nd Grade Class (of 1).

I have been perculating on the topic of why I homestead lately, and wondering if any one might wonder why I think that drying my laundry on a rack is cool, or why I attempt to make homemade crackers and dish soap. Perhaps why is a valid question in this case, so I thought I’d spent some time putting it into words. That’s coming up next time, which should be soon.

Lacy