Showing posts with label homestead. Show all posts
Showing posts with label homestead. Show all posts

Friday, January 6, 2017

Monthly Update From The Homestead - January Edition (Goals, Life, Etc.)


Were you ready for the holiday chaos to be over? I was. I love the holidays, but I do not like the craziness of the season. I have scaled back a lot in my celebrating, but the struggle to make the season simple is real. 

December was also Paige's birthday. She turned 16! Yikes! Where has the time gone?!?! She also got one of these: 


Watch out world! 

We are buried in snow and ice right now. That is the reality of living in the Midwest in winter. The wind has been crazy though! If the wind hasn't been crazy, the really cold temperatures have been! We are on our second "cold snap" of the winter. This morning we woke up to -7℉! Brrr....

As I mentioned before, I do not really have any goals or resolutions for the year. Okay, I take that back. I have five things I want to see happen, but they are fairly personal and not really relating to homesteading: 

  1. I want to get $1000 in a savings account for emergencies.
  2. I want to save $1000 for next Christmas.
  3. I want to pay cash for a new to me vehicle.
  4. I want to go on at least two dates a month with Rob - more than just eating out. (He really doesn't know about this one, but he will when he reads this!) 
  5. I want to read a chapter in a book or a magazine almost every day. 

These are very simple, yet personal goals for the year. I do not really have homesteading, prepping, or self-sufficiency goals as of right now. I am going with the flow of these. I have a lot of things I would like to see happen, but I am not setting anything in stone. Truth be told, my mind is kind of scattered right now and I am just letting things happen as they come. We have a lot of projects that need to be done and they will come first. 

I already started the first project. I am remodeling the upstairs master bedroom. We do not use it right now, but would love to move back up there. We sleep in the basement bedroom that I set up for myself about eight years ago. I love this space, but we are going to turn that into badly needed guest bedroom(s). So it is time to create a space that is both of ours and that we love to come to every night. 



We first moved the full size bed that was in there to Paige's room. She had a twin size bed, but the bed was small and the mattress was less than stellar. We threw out the mattress and the broken bunk mate that was under it. 

I have the carpet, padding, and linoleum torn up. Actually, there wasn't much tearing up to do. None of it really reached the edges and none of it was attached to the floor in any way. I cut the carpet up in sections to haul out. The padding was already in easy to handle sections. The linoleum was broken up in easy to handle sections also. The floor now looks like this: 



I will be painting the walls first. The paint needs to be freshened up. Then the floor will be sanded and sealed. Rob wants to match the trim to the floor so we will be replacing at least the floor trim if not all of it. Then we start bed shopping. We are switching from a queen size bed to a king size bed. We both need plenty of space to sleep!

Rob is finishing up the wiring in the shop. He has done so much in there and it looks so nice! He now has plenty of outlets and lighting. He has learned how to wire a three way switch with multiple lights which was a challenge for him. He has also added a lot of insulation to the walls and around the windows which has made a big difference in that room. He has more plans for the shop including adding shelving and cabinets for storage. 

Since it is winter, we have time to get the indoor projects done! When the weather turns nice again (hurry up Spring!), we will be cleaning up the yard and working outdoors again. We will also be building a new chicken coop! 



You can check out my latest YouTube video! That will give you an idea of what I was up to in December. I was mostly trying to clear up some clutter and to clean up my side of the office a bit. 

How is your January going? Let me know in the comments below! 

Thanks for reading,
Erica


Thursday, December 22, 2016

My Mind Is Literally Going In A Hundred Directions...


I haven't done a post like this in a long time, but the end of the year is coming. This post may be a little long, but I want to explain where I am at right now, what I am interested in now, and where I am at in life. I haven't even looked at my goals for this year in about six months. I know some have been accomplished, but not all of them. I don't think, as of right now, I will set specific goals for next year.

I am okay with that.

Because my mind is going in a hundred directions. Literally.

My life this year has been crazy. In January, Rob and I started living together and there continues to be a lot of adjustments for both of us as well as the kids. The kids at home are busy and continuing to live the life of a 16 year old and a 12 year old. Although I do have to say having a 12 year old boy after three girls is quite different. Not always in a good way either.

However, my interests are the same and different. This is where my mind is going right now.

I still love and am interested in what this blog is about: prepping, homesteading, and frugality. I struggle to separate the three of them in my mind most days. I wonder how much more I can do and what I should do. I always plan to be more frugal in the next year even though I can't always figure out how to be even more frugal than I already am. However, there is always more to be done.

Our finances are going to change in January a bit and that will be an interesting challenge. As for many people, health insurance rates are going to rise for us too. We are also taking on a couple bills that the landlords had paid for in the past which will need to be added in the budget. We have separate accounts and separate budgets, but we usually discuss and decide how joint bills will be paid.

I am going to try to participate in the Uber Frugal Month Challenge by The Frugalwoods. I adore their blog! I saw their post about this challenge and knew I should participate. I love a good challenge once I have my mind convinced to do it.

We are also looking at ways to lose some, if not all, of our dependence on electricity. We have been talking about and researching solar and wind energy to either power some of our things like the well pump or to be a back-up when the power goes out. We have some ways to heat the house if we lose power. However, the whole house is electric so we need to figure out something different. We are just a little leery about the power grid and its stability...

I am now finding myself passionately interested in minimalism, zero waste lifestyle, living with less, decluttering, and methods of  organization. I have been decluttering a lot more this last year because nothing says you have too much stuff than moving in with someone! The organizing needed to happen because I was, and sometimes still am, the only person who can find things. That does not work when you really do not want the other people in your life dependent upon you!

Why such the interest in these things? I see them as an extension of prepping, homesteading, and frugality. I think they fit hand in hand. Too much stuff and too much waste can clutter up your efforts in prepping and homesteading. Not being organized means you spend precious time finding your stuff and/or buying replacements when you can't find them. Both of those things can thwart your frugal ways by spending your time and money when you didn't need to. Having order can be benefit to every area of your life.

It also can be a vicious circle which is why I spend more time studying more of these things. I want to break the cycle.

Speaking of breaking the cycle, I need to do so on my health too. I thought my yearly doctor's visit would be the wake-up call I needed. It wasn't. My blood tests and my screens all came back nearly perfect. Cholesterol was a little high. The doctor mentioned I should lose weight, but was pleased because my weight had not increased.  She still thinks I need to be on a low carb diet because she thinks everyone should be. I do agree with her on that.

So now I research and try to implement methods, meals, and snacks that are low carb. This is so hard! I have a heck of a sweet tooth when it comes to chocolate, caramel, and a certain company's oatmeal cream pies. None of which are mentioned on the various low carb plans! Right now, my research keeps leading me to the Ketogenic diet and the Trim Healthy Mama diet. I have mostly converted my sugar usage to sugar substitutes like Stevia, Erythritol, and Xylitol or combination of them. The rest of my diet needs work.

This is a switch for me honestly. I am still very interested in natural health and eating naturally. I still think some of the foods I am not suppose to have are still very healthy for me. I have a tough time giving up legumes, some grains, honey, bread, and jams made from scratch. Fruit hasn't been a huge deal for me because I can't digest a lot of it. I like strawberries and blueberries in season so I am fine with those being a treat.

I also still want to grow most of my own food. I miss my garden now that winter is here and I am thinking about getting a greenhouse. It would be nice to keep growing more cold tolerant crops in the winter. I miss having chickens, but they are coming back this Spring. I want fresh eggs again! We are planting more fruit trees next year also. My interest in being self-sustainable will never go away. 

This seems like a lot of directions for the mind to go. I get so interested in so many things! The mind is going crazy with all this information and decisions to be made!

But, as always, I am still interested in writing, blogging, and vlogging. The more I see the connections in everything I am interested in, the more I want to talk about it. This blog will probably expand more into all these areas as I learn more and experience more of what I am interested in. I think prepping, homesteading, and being frugal can and does encompass all these things.

All this has made making goals for next year very difficult. I will probably do monthly goals and make the changes a bit more bite-size. I want to learn more, do more, be more, and have enough to live life.

Where is your mind going? What is your next year going to look like?

Thanks for reading,
Erica


Thursday, December 15, 2016

20 Tips For Surviving Winter in the Midwest (or Anywhere!)


Winter can be brutal in the Midwest. The wind blows like crazy, the temperature drops with only an overnight notice, and the snow can really mess things up! 

For example, this is today's and this weekend's forecast:




Just lovely, eh?

However, I am here to help you stay warm, dry, and hopefully safe. Winter can catch people off guard. They aren't dressed properly, do not have the right gear with them, and can totally underestimate how cold they can get. Some people can get caught in these conditions by taking going in the ditch during bad road conditions, having a vehicle break down on the side of the road, or having a car not even start due to the cold conditions. 

20 Tips For Surviving Winter in the Midwest (or Anywhere):

1. Always have and wear insulated gloves, a hat that covers your ears, and a scarf. These three things go a long ways towards staying warm.

2. Wear a good heavy coat. This should go without saying, but I see so many people without them!

3. Wear layers. It is easier to peel off layers when you are warm then to put them on when you have to in an emergency. Today I am wearing a tank top under a long sleeve shirt with a fleece vest over the top. I am pretty cozy right now. Think about adding a thermal, another long sleeve shirt, or a sweatshirt would work too. 

4. Wear good, warm, heavy socks. Warm socks can make all the difference in keeping your feet warm and keeping your body temperature up. What kind of socks you wear is your choice. I like a good cotton pair, but wool is also very good. If your feet are still cold, there is no shame to wearing two pairs of socks. 

5. Wear a good pair of boots or insulated shoes. Really, warm feet help keep the rest of your body warm!

6. Take care of your skin. This might sound girly, but dry, cracked lips, hands, and feet are no fun in the winter. You feel even more miserable and the cold will just makes things worse. Use a good lip balm, thick lotion for the hands, and petroleum jelly or heavy foot cream for your feet. Taking care of your feet will also make your socks last longer! 

7. Use flannel sheets on the beds. Trust me on this one. A warm bed is great in the winter! You can turn down the thermostat at night and everyone can stay toasty warm. If people are getting cold, add blankets to the beds and tell them to wear more layers!

8. Use blankets. To keep the thermostat at a reasonable temperature, get out the blankets. Have 1-2 blankets on every piece of furniture that can be sat on or laid on so people can cover up. Also, put on some layers of clothes. Winter is not the time to run around wearing shorts in the house!

9. Have a vehicle emergency kit in the car. Weatherize it for winter. Always keep a blanket (or 3) in the car. Be prepared in case you are stranded anywhere. Always carry water and snacks with you. 

10. Keep an eye on the fluid levels in your vehicle. Use windshield wiper fluid designed for freezing temperatures. Do not ever let your anti-freeze get low. Get regular on the oil changes. By keeping the fluid levels in your vehicle up, your vehicle will run better and your risk of being stranded goes down considerably.

11. Develop some indoor hobbies and tackle the indoor DIYs. Really, for me, winter is the most boring time of the year. So I tackle the indoor stuff. By keeping busy, time goes faster, your mood will be better, and you will feel great getting some stuff accomplished!

12. Know where your indoor emergency supplies are and how to use them. We rarely lose power for longer than eight hours, but some people can lose power for days. Knowing where our heater is, keeping the propane cylinders full,  and being able to use our camp stove for cooking helps make life more comfortable when we do lose power. 

13. Keep some containers filled with water. The last thing you want to do is to melt snow for water if the power goes out. I keep 2-3 five gallon containers filled with water. I also keep some miscellaneous containers filled for flushing toilets and whatnot. Just remember to check the containers and refresh the water every year. 

14. Always let someone know where you are going and how long you plan to be gone. Cell phones are a wonderful thing until they run out of battery. If you are going shopping an hour away, let someone know. If you get stranded, someone will know because they will realize you aren't back yet. 

15. Now is the time for hot, hearty meals and drinks. Coffee, tea, and hot chocolate are always good warmers. Beef stew, chili, and casseroles make good, filling meals that will keep you warm inside. Prop the oven door open when you are done cooking to add heat to the house while the oven is cooling.

16. Keep up on the vitamins. Keeping up on the vitamins and supplements in the winter will be very beneficial to you. For example, Vitamin D helps the immune system, helps with winter blues, and keeps your body strong and healthy. Vitamin C helps the immune system and keeps your body healthy also. 

17. Pay attention to the weather forecasts. I know there are wrong sometimes, but they can be scarily accurate too. People can be so brave and say things like "it's just a little snow" or "the weatherman never gets anything right". However, there is nothing worse than being stranded on the side of the highway or in a ditch because you are stuck and there is a towing ban until morning. Pay attention to the forecast and give it the caution it deserves. 

18. Keep the house stocked up on food. So many people make last minute runs to the grocery store before a big storm. While it is good to get a few essentials, keeping the house stocked on food means you don't need to run to the store. You are ready to be stuck at home for a few days or weeks without having to go anywhere. Another tip: keep easily re-heatable food on hand like canned soup. 

19. Keep the vehicle's gas tank full. Do not let your gas tank get less than half. If you are stuck anywhere, then you should have enough gas to run the vehicle until help arrives. 

20. Spend time with others. Seriously, the winter seems never ending in the Midwest. We know Spring is coming, but in December that seems a long ways off. Spend time with friends and family. The conversation and the laughter is a very good mood booster which will help greatly with the Winter blues. 

What do you do to cope with the Winter? How do you survive the Winter?

Thank for reading,
Erica


Monday, October 31, 2016

16 Ways To Stay Warm This Winter & Not Have To Crank Up The Thermostat


Winter is barreling down the tracks as we speak! Since it always promises to be a cold winter here in the Midwest, I thought I would share some tips and tricks to stay warm this winter and not have to crank up that thermostat!

Saving money is more important than ever now so if you can find ways to keep the bills low, you can save even more money! Before you start these tips though, you and your family need to agree on a minimum and maximum temperature you are willing to keep the house. Make a sign to put by the thermostat and set the settings in the thermostat. This will help keep your heating bill consistent.

16 Ways To Stay Warm This Winter & Not Have To Crank Up The Thermostat

1. Wear clothes! I know this is a given, but I know people who can't understand why their heat bill is so high. They are wearing shorts and tank top in the house with their heat on 80 degrees! What?!?! Wear some layers, put on some socks, and you will stay much warmer without having the heat so high.

2. Get your furnace and heat system checked out. Just like you, your heating system needs a good check-up every 1-2 years to make sure it is running smoothly and efficiently! If you have a propane system, make sure you get a leak check done on your tank and regulators so you are not loosing propane in the air. Be sure to always change your filters on a regular basis. 

3. Layer up your beds. Make sure you have blankets and quilts for the beds so you can add more layers to the bed to stay warm without having to turn up the thermostat.

4. Turn down the thermostat overnight. Most people sleep better in a cooler environment anyway, but keeping the thermostat turned down also saves you money. See #3 and wear some more clothes to bed to stay warm!

5. Shut off the rooms you are not using. If you have rooms that you are clearly not using and nothing in them will freeze, close off those rooms. Turn the registers to close and keep the doors closed so you are not heating those rooms.

6. Put plastic on the windows. This saves us a tremendous amount of money. I recommend doing the north and west facing windows for certain, but we try to do all the windows if we can. We have a bay window that is just a drafty pain in the neck so it has plastic almost all year around.

7. Use extra heaters or baseboard heat. I know this sounds counter intuitive, but hear me out. If you have rooms that you are using that the heat does not reach well through the vents, shutting off those vents and putting a heater or electric baseboard heat in the room will keep it warmer. Your furnace will not have to work so hard to heat that room thus saving you money.

8. Keep moving! We get rather sedentary in the winter. We sit on the couch, covered in blankets, and wonder why we are so cold! Time to get moving! Working out, keeping the house clean, and taking care of those indoor projects will help get the blood moving and keep you warmer!

9. Eat hot food and drink hot drinks. It makes sense, doesn't it? If you eat warm, hearty foods, you will get warm. If you drink hot drinks to warm up, you will stay warm.

10. Light some candles. They add warmth to the air, great ambiance, and cover up the funky air smell in the house. You can also make some clay pot warmers to add some more warmth to the room.

11. Wear a hat in the house. You will stay warmer if the head is covered. You really do lose body heat when you have your skin or head uncovered. Wear a hat and you will stay warmer.

12. Make sure the windows are closed and the doors stay close! We have storm windows and we use those babies all summer. The breeze is great! However, money will just go out the window if the windows are properly close. Make sure the storm windows are closed and the windows are closed/locked in the proper position.

And yell at the kids for not closing the door. You have my permission!

13. Fill in the gaps and block the drafts. On a breezy day this fall, take a walk around your house inside and out. If you see some gaps outside, fill them in with caulk or expandable foam. Inside the house, look for fluttering curtains. Take a match along the outside walls inside your house and look for the flame to flicker or go out. Address the drafts. Either do #6 or fill in the gaps if you can. Also, using a draft blocker on the bottom of your doors will keep the house warmer too.

14. Hang heavy insulated curtains that are designed to block drafts and keep the house warmer. They really do help to keep the house warmer.

15. Use hot water bottles and hot bricks covered in towels to help warm up beds and bodies at bedtime. Getting into a warm cozy bed is the best thing ever. Getting into bed with cold sheets is not the best thing ever. Waiting for those sheets to warm is torture! Putting a hot water bottle or a hot brick covered with a towel into the bed to warm up will help you stay warm!

16. Snuggle with the one you love! Cuddling with another person helps you both warm up and create more body heat! Some of you are very anti-cuddling (and I get that, trust me!), but winter is the time to put aside your personal preferences and help your partner stay warmer. You will also be saving money which might help this idea seem like a better one!

I know some of you are going to say "put in a wood burner!" which is a lovely thing, but some people cannot put them in. Apartments, rentals, and some insurances are completely against the idea. However, if you can, do consider it!

These are all ways we use to save money while staying warm in the winter. What do you do to stay warm in the winter?

Thanks for reading,
Erica

Saturday, October 29, 2016

20 Things We Do Not Throw Away


Every year, more and more trash is accumulated in our landfills due to our wasteful habits. Many people will only use something once and throw it away. Many people still do not recycle their packaging despite the increasing availability of recycling centers. And many people would rather throw away their old things rather than take them to a thrift store or consignment shop. 

However, being a believer in the frugal lifestyle and a student of the zero waste lifestyle, I cannot do that. We actually have very little trash for a house this size most of the time. We recycle as much as possible. I sell the things we do not use anymore or I donate them to the thrift shop. We try to use things until they are no longer functional. We fix broken things to be used again. 

Below is a list of things we do not throw away. I know I am forgetting things, but this is a good start!

1. Anything that is recyclable. I was raised to recycle and still do this as much as possible.

2. Twist ties from bread and buns.

3. Nuts, bolts, nails, washers, and screws. Unless they are rusty or bent. Or cheap and will strip out on the first twist of the drill.

4. Resealable plastic bags. We wash them out and reuse them until they have holes or held raw meat.

5. Brown paper bags.

6. Gift bags and tissue gift wrap.

7. Plastic store bags.

8. Buckets of just about any size.

9. Food! We have made a concentrated effort to be much more diligent about this. Having a dog and chickens helps to make sure food does not go to waste.

10. Rubber bands from anything.

11. Buttons. I even cut them off shorts and shirts before we use them for rags or throw them away if they are usable as rags. 

12. Hand soap containers. We refill these until the pump does not work anymore.

13. Whipped topping and big yogurt containers. How else are you suppose to send leftovers home with people?

14. Canning jars. If they can't be used for canning, we use them to store dry goods.

15. Paper. I try to use both sides of the paper before I put it in the burn bin or recycle it.

16. Boxes. I need them for storage and for my giveaway box. If we can't use them anymore, we recycle them.

17. Towels. If they can't be used for bathing or nice kitchen towels anymore, we use them for rags.

18. Clothes. They are either sold, given to someone in need, or donated unless they are too worn out. 

19. Blankets and sheets. We either donate them if they have been outgrown (by teenagers too cool for Disney sheets), use them as drop cloths, to protect plants, or we store them for company. They are never thrown away!

20. Totes of all sizes. I am just amazed at how many people just throw these out on the premise that they don't need them anymore. I can't think of a time I haven't needed them! I keep these and reuse the totes until they are broken past the point that duct tape doesn't hold them together anymore!

This is just a starter list. We have a lot more that we just don't throw away. Although, in the spirit of being honest, sometimes things just end up in the trash. Cleaning out a bedroom just does something to my mind, but I always still have a giveaway box!

What don't you throw away?

Thanks for reading,
Erica


Monday, October 24, 2016

Monday Monthly Update From The Homestead - October Edition


Since we are close to the end of October, I thought I would update y'all on what we have been doing this last month. There has been a lot of activity and projects getting done around the place!

But first, some really sad news. The chickens are gone.

Their last day at the farm - snacking on their favorite, kale.

I actually found another home for them that is only three miles away. I didn't really want to butcher them. My heart wasn't into that. However, they needed to be dealt with so we could get rid of the rat problem in the barn. We also want to move the chicken coop out of the barn and into its own building. We have two cement pads we can choose from and I will look at plans over the winter. Early next Spring, we will start over with baby chicks.

We, however, added a mama cat and her four kittens to the homestead! The kittens are adorable and I hope to get pictures of them soon. They don't sit still very long! Keep an eye on my Instagram account for pictures of them!

The garden is wrapping up. I am canning the last of the tomatoes. Paige and I picked what we thought were the tomatoes that were ready or were going to ripen before the big freeze a week ago (?). The plants were killed by the frost, but several more tomatoes survived. Dane and I picked those last night to finish ripening in the house. I have canned close to 50-55 pints of salsa, 36 pints of pizza sauce, and 17 quarts of spaghetti sauce. The last tomatoes will become crushed tomatoes by the end of the week.


I still have peppers to freeze that were not used in canning, but they might get eaten before that happens! I froze eight bags of shredded zucchini. I have four zucchini left and that might just happen them too. I dug up the beets and they are sitting in a cooler in the basement. I need to get them used up soon before they go soft.

I still have pumpkins to finish picking. The potatoes need to finish being dug up. The kale is still going strong. Everything else is dead. I need to get a spot cleared to plant garlic. Otherwise, the garden needs to be cleaned up, the rather ineffective tomato cages need to be put away, and hopefully get the transplanting of the strawberries and lilies done.

The new sump pump and plumbing is in the pit and being used. We never shut that one off, but the plumbing needed to be replaced and a different style of sump pump had to be put in. Hopefully now, the basement will stay much drier with the new set-up.

We had to put a new toilet in. Unfortunately, we both dislike plumbing. However, we like to save money and this wasn't too bad. We couldn't find a tank to toilet gasket that would work with our old toilet. Since the toilet was leaking pretty badly, we bought a new one and got that installed. We did eventually find a gasket online that will work and this winter we will replace the upstairs toilet that nobody likes to use.

Rob has the walls and ceiling painted in the shop. He replaced the breaker box in the shop with a bigger one and will take the old one from the shop to replace the old fuse box in the garage. His skills amaze me and how much he can accomplish amazes me too! I think next on the list is running more electrical for outlets and lights and building shelves and cabinets for his things.

The kids are staying busy. Dane started basketball last week and has practices for another couple of weeks until league play starts. Paige is finished up with marching band, cross country, and all-state choir auditions. She is starting jazz choir this week, working on the set for the fall play, and enjoying a little down time before large group speech starts.


And before I forget, I started my YouTube channel! Sometimes it is just easier for me to talk to a camera than to sit down and type a blog post. However, I will be doing both as much as I can now! You can check out my YouTube channel here! Please subscribe for updates there too!

Let me know what you have been doing this last month!

Thanks for reading,
Erica


Monday, September 19, 2016

Monday Monthly Update From The Homestead - August/September Edition


I love this time of year! We are so busy trying to keep up with the yard, the garden, and the projects. So this will be a monthly update for now and in the future. 

In August, you realize that summer is winding down fast. You may have at least two months left to get everything done outside that you can get done. Canning is full speed ahead trying to keep up with the produce. While I love dehydrating, I am finding myself doing a lot of canning this year.

Then September comes and you realize you may be running out of time! 

Canned green beans

We canned several quarts and four pints of green beans. We also canned summer squash pickles and zucchini relish. I froze eight quart size bags of vegetable pasta sauce. I have canned some salsa and need to do A LOT MORE! I froze a lot of the small onions from the garden to be used with roasts and in stews. 

After waiting patiently, oh so patiently, on the tomatoes, they are finally starting to come along. We have picked more grape tomatoes than we can keep up on eating. I still have lots and lots of green tomatoes though. I did give the tomatoes a good trimming as recommended by several gardeners. This has helped tremendously! I keep cutting back vines about once a week with great results. The tomatoes have been growing faster and turning red faster. Yeah!

I seem to have a lot of green peppers in the garden too. They are suppose to turn to red, orange, and yellow peppers, but nothing yet. If they stay green, I will still use them and freeze them for future use. I also have some mild banana peppers coming along too. I am not sure what I will do with them yet, but I will figure it out!

I also have a lot of zucchini which I have been using for a lot of zucchini bread. I have also been adding it to other dishes too as well as grilling it. I also grew some yellow crookneck squash. I will probably not be doing that again. I wanted yellow smooth neck squash, but I didn't read the package close enough. Oh well, the chickens love them! I did pull one hill of yellow squash plants out yesterday and will probably do the rest 


 Pumpkin blossoms

The potatoes have tasted great and I need to get the rest of them dug up. The pumpkins are coming along great too. The beets need to be dug up also. I actually have carrots! They germinated really late, but they are there and growing!

The chickens are still alive. That is saying a lot. We lost one chicken for reasons we couldn't figure out. We have one chicken who will be on the chopping block soon because she is not laying anymore and is becoming very mean to the other hens. The rest of the ladies will need to find new homes or become stew meat. We are only getting 4-6 eggs a day which we still enjoy. However, we have a rodent problem in the barn where their coop is and in the walls. The food and the water is attracting the problem and we need to get rid of the problem. 

So the chickens need to go for now. We will start over in the late winter - early spring with a new crop of chicks. I know I said previously that I wanted to add to the flock, but this problem really needs to be addressed before the rodents find a way into the shop.

Back of the barn

The shop in the barn is coming along great! The walls that are going to be painted are done. Rob stuffed more insulation down the walls before painting them to help keep the shop warmer. The floors in the shop and back half of the barn have been power washed too. It was amazing to see the difference after doing that! Rob wants to finish the ceiling and paint that. He also wants to finish insulating around the windows and get those trimmed out. 

We have enough rain for quite awhile. I am sooooo tired of mowing! Unfortunately, the forecast says rain again this week through the weekend. Oh well, it keeps the garden growing!

Otherwise, school has started! Woo hoo! We started on August 23rd and it has been pretty smooth sailing. The kids have been taking their lunches every day which has been an awesome savings on my pocketbook! Paige has been busy with cross counry, marching band, and choir (All-state, jazz, chamber, and concert). Dane is thankfully not really involved in anything yet! Dane turned 12 in August and we took him to Arnold's Park! It was a lot of fun!

We are still doing a lot of cleaning out, decluttering, selling stuff we don't need anymore, and donating other things. I keep thinking I am done for awhile, but then I reconsider things I don't need anymore!

What have you been up to this last month?

Thanks for reading,
Erica



Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Monday Update From The Homestead - August 8 (Garden, Life, Bathroom, and Being Frugal!)


This last week has been busy! Again. Surprised, aren't you? 

I promise the winter updates will not be nearly as exciting as these summer ones. The weather is nice, hot, humid, and we are just trying to get everything done outside that we can. Except...



We ended up doing an impromptu remodel on our downstairs bathroom. You know, toliets leak once in a while. A new ring, some chalk, and new vinyl flooring will make it better. The walls need to be painted too, but I need to read up about how to paint over wallpaper. I don't have any desire to take wallpaper off of plaster.

We weeded about half of the garden. The garden and produce remaining probably thanks me, but it just seems like a lot of work. We are getting zucchini, summer squash, a few tomatoes, and a lot of green beans! I think I got all the onions dug out. They were a little on the small side, but still good. The shallots are just about reading to be dug out too. 

I haven't done a lot of canning this summer yet. As much as I believe in putting up as much produce as I can, I am trying to make sure it is produce we will eat in canned form. I can't wait for the tomatoes to take off. I will make a ton of tomato sauce, pasta sauce, pizza sauce, and salsa. We eat a lot of those things. I did get eleven quarts of green beans canned though. I love green beans!

We have been really trying hard to be more frugal. I am pretty frugal naturally. I would be even more frugal if I could remember to make snacks for myself and take them to work! We have a couple of short trips we want to take in the next few months. So we are really buckling down on spending money. We have only eaten out once in the last month. We are really trying hard to make sure no food goes to waste. We are generally just being more creative about fixing things and not spending money if we can help it.

Another reason I am buckling down on being frugal and being more aware of money going out is that school starts in two weeks. I seem to spend a lot of money on a lot of things when school starts. Today I paid our school fees and that was $110. Ouch! I still have to pay band and choir uniform fees for Paige. Dane will not have those until next year. 

We also did not qualify for free or reduced lunch program at school because I make just enough money to not qualify. I figured out the rates of lunch per day ($2.40 for high school, $2.35 for middle school) and took that times twenty days for the month. That would be almost $100 a month for just school lunches! Owww!!!

The kids have been informed they will be eating more cold lunches than hot lunches and no more breakfast ($1.55 each per day) at school. They actually seem to be fine with it. I am doing more research on cold lunch ideas so we don't get bored. 



Our local county fair was last week. Paige got three blue and one red ribbon on her art projects. Dane got two blue ribbons on his picture frame and Lego project. They were happy and I was happy that we got there in one piece. Fair time can be rather stressful!



How did your week go? Let us know in the comments!

Thanks for reading,
Erica


Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Monday Update From The Homestead - July 25 & August 1


We are still here, still busy, and still finding more and more projects to do. I think the projects are actually finding us, but we always find things to do! I stay busier than I like and most days I have no idea what I need to do first. That is life though and I try to stay positive no matter what.

I am kind of back to purging and decluttering. I am trying to get Shali's room packed up. I also am trying to do a deep purge of the dining room. We used the room everyday, but it is also become a collect all for the things I don't have a home for. Time for a lot of things to go!

The garden is really starting to produce. The peas are done and I managed to get one quart size bag of shelled peas in the freezer. The green beans are starting to get overwhelming. I need to start canning them. The kale is going to the chickens. The grape tomatoes are starting and they are delicious! We are starting to get zucchini and yellow squash! So good! We could dig potatoes at any time if we want. This is my best garden yet!

I canned eight half-pints of zucchini squash. The little bit I sampled was delicious!

The chickens are doing fine. We are trying to figure out who is laying and who is not. The decision has been made to add some pullets to the flock, just have to get them now. I know someone who has Barred Rocks also ready to lay and that is probably what I will get.

Dane is back home from camp and Paige is busy going to band camp and then all-state choir camp this next weekend. She is done with Driver's Ed and she passed! We took the projects to fair and the kids did very well. We learned some new things for next year and I marveled at the creativity of some of the kids' projects.

We cleaned up more from the storm two weeks ago. We had to have the utility company come out and take care of a branch that had fallen and was pushing down on one of the electricity lines running to the pole. We burned one pile of brush and added to it again the next day. It must have still had a hot spot because it burned again all on its own. We have another pile to burn yet. We have branches still falling out of trees from being hung up in the trees.

We had a pig come visit from two miles away. We were surprised to say the least! His owner came and got him quickly. All was well. If we get pigs, we need a very secure shelter and we were not equipped for that right now!

We are cleaning up the yard some more and making it tidier. We are also fixing a lot of little things like doors and windows. We are also fixing a few things on the wooden play set in order to sell it. The kids have outgrown it and it is time for it to bless another family. We added more fence posts to the garden fence in order to give it more stability.

And, oh yeah...mowing. I am a little tired of mowing.

I think that is it for now. My brain is a bit fried and I can't remember much more.

What did you do this last week or two?

Thanks for reading,
Erica


Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Five Reasons Homesteaders Fail (And How You Can Succeed!)


Homesteading is a really wonderful thing. You raise your own food. You have your livestock. You are well on your way to being self-sufficient. The homesteading blogs and books paint such a great picture of a rosy life. Sure it may be some hard work, but really how hard can it be?

People just have no idea!

Five Reasons Homesteaders Fail:

1. Disillusionment.

You have read the books. You have followed for your favorite homesteading bloggers for months now. Sure, there might be a few hard times. But you are certain this is the life for you! 

Then you start your first garden. And everything dies or doesn't produce well.

You pick up your first batch of laying chicks. Nine out of fifteen chicks die in three days. 

You buy a sow and she has piglets. So cute until the mama lays on half the litter.

You get a dog to protect the property and the livestock. Which is great until she kills her first chicken.

Slowly or suddenly, you realize that homesteading isn't all rainbows and roses. Homesteading is hard work. Hard things happen. You know you read on Facebook that your favorite homesteading blogger lost a few animals or struggled with their garden, but you didn't think it would be like this!

Disillusionment is real in the homesteading world. Many beginning homesteaders (myself included) do not realize how much work this takes, the hardships that are faced, and the heartbreak that you will inevitably feel. One day you will think you are accomplished great things and the next day watch a storm destroy all your hard work. 

Keep your chin up. Scale back a little and realize this is hard work with a great reward. Bad things are going to happen, but great things happen too!

2. Taking on too much at once.

So many homesteaders jump in with both feet and end up over their heads. In the first year, they have started gardens, have chicks, cows, goats, pigs, and lambs. They find out they can not possibly keep up with the work. The homesteaders they have watched on YouTube make it look so easy!

What many beginning homesteaders do not realize is that the homesteaders they follow started out a bit slower than they thought. Or these homesteaders grew up in the homesteading life. Very few homesteaders start out doing everything they wanted to do all at once. You shouldn't either. 

3. Money.

How much could homesteading actually cost anyway? Seeds aren't expensive. The chickens are going to free range. You won't need a fence like a lot of other homesteaders. You have savings so you can quit your job, buy your acreage, and get started homesteading! 

Right? That plan sounds great until winter comes and you have to provide feed and heat. You realize pretty quickly that a tractor or skid loader would make life a lot easier. You also realize that a fence will keep out the critters you don't want eating your garden or bothering your livestock. 

And then there are the breakdowns. The repairs. The replacing of parts and equipment. 

Where did that savings go? 

Most homesteaders have one person still working outside the home to keep money flowing in. If not that, they also have figured out how to make money homesteading and/or have multiple streams of income to stay afloat. Money is a necessary evil on the homestead for most homesteaders. You need to have money flowing in to pay for the inputs of the homestead. 

4. Real Life and Lack of Time.

You decided to start a homestead. After all, how hard can it be? You have plenty of time! The kids are only busy a few nights a week. You have time on the weekend for the projects. You only work eight hours a day and have time after supper. 

Sounds great, right?

Until you are gone almost every night the week for personal and kid-related commitments. Until your eight hour shift at work becomes a ten hour shift. Until every weekend has a tournament or family commitments. 

Real life happens. That is why new homesteaders are recommended to start out slowly with a small, easy to maintain garden and 3-4 layers for eggs. You can then work more into your schedule or stay there for a few years until life becomes less busy. Homesteading is great because you can go as big or small as you want and as slow or fast you want. 

5. Lacking in Physical Abilities.

Homesteading looks easy you think. How hard can it be to garden or build fence? How hard can it be to build a chicken tractor or build a pen out of the corner of the garage? 

The one thing that people do not factor in is physical abilities. It takes a lot of sweat, strength, and endurance to work on projects. Sometimes you need to chase after an escaped animal. Sometimes (most of the time) you will be working in the hot sun or cold of winter. 

Yes, you will probably lose some weight and build strength while homesteading and that is great! However, you will also put yourself at great risk of injury. One project could leave you exhausted for days because you were not physically fit enough to endure the project. 

Get in shape. Find time to work out, lose weight, build strength and endurance. It is hard to do, but you will thank yourself later when you don't have to take several breaks while building a fence or wrangling that chicken who does not want to go into the coop for the night! 

Homesteading is hard work, but the reward is worth it. However, many beginners quit because they do not understand the realities of homesteading. 

What was or is your biggest challenge homesteading?

Thanks for reading,
Erica



Monday, July 18, 2016

Monday Update From The Homestead - July 18


Another week gone by in a blur...

I have an observation to make though. I am sure you all probably know this, but there is nothing like having company or family coming over to make sure you get a lot of cleaning up to do in a very short amount of time!

Mowing had to be done after getting some much needed rain. We trimmed around everything. We hauled a load of broken appliances and junk that didn't fit in the dumpster to the landfill. We even took a magnetic roller around the buildings to get the nails and screws that had been dropped. We tidied up a lot and got a lot of little piddly projects done. I weeded as much as possible, but that chore is never done. 

I picked my first crop of peas of the year! Yeah! 



Family came and we had a great time! We talked a lot. We ate a lot. We watched the dogs play. We shot off fireworks and had a big bonfire.

Then Saturday night brought this:







We got a fierce wind, two inches of rain, and a bit of hail. The garden fence had to be repaired. The potatoes were flattened, but I think they will be fine. The tomatoes and their cages need to be fixed. The rest of the garden is looking a bit flat too. We have a lot of branches and trees to clean up. It could have been a lot worse, but so disheartening to look at when we just had everything cleaned up!

On tap for this next week is cleaning up the yard again, working on the shop some more, weeding some more, picking our first crop of zucchini and hopefully green beans. I am hoping to plant more beets and maybe spinach for the fall. Paige will be done with Driver's Ed at the end of this week. Dane will be finishing his projects for the county fair as he will be at camp the following week. 

That is it for us! What is going on at your homestead?

Thanks for reading,
Erica


Monday, July 11, 2016

Monday Update From The Homestead - July 11


Whew! Another week gone! I swear I am going to figure out how to slow down time...

The kids were a busy bunch this last week. They went to their dad's house for two days. Paige drove some more Driver's Ed and worked at the pool (she is a life guard). Dane went to his aunt and uncle's house on Saturday with his grandparents.

On Sunday, the kids and I went to my parents' house to celebrate their 40th wedding anniversary! Happy Anniversary Mom & Dad! A lot has happened in forty years and I am sure more will happen in the future!

This week, Dane has basketball camp from today to Thursday. Paige is on her second to last week of Driver's Ed. Both kids are frantically getting ready for county fair that is the first week in August!

And we have family coming Friday to stay with us this weekend! Whew!

So what happened last week?

I weeded the garden. Amazingly, it needs weeding again.

We got some much, much needed rain after being dry for almost three weeks. I had started to water the garden because the tomatoes were starting to wilt and the peppers were not growing. I think both are starting to come out of it now. The peas are definitely ready to pick and I hope to get that done tonight yet.


I dug up all my garlic. The plants had dried back so it was time. The bulbs were pretty decent sized and I am pretty happy with the harvest. I got thirty bulbs which is what I planted. I also got some bulbits. I had planted the garlic last fall about an inch into the soil. The bulbs must have sunk further down because I had bulbits which are a second forming on the bulb above the surface. They are still edible and I learned a lot about planting garlic this year!

We cleaned up more of the shop and worked on the barn. Rob got another wall of the shop painted which he is happy about. He also cleaned the front of the house, front porch, the front doors, and the sidewalk! The house looks brand new!


We also had two date nights at the tractor pulls in Rockwell! I love watching them every year. Rob got me into tractor pulling and I am so happy he did!

I am also trying to get back into cooking more from scratch and planning ahead for the week. This is my goal almost every weekend, but the weekends just seem to fly by. Saturday morning, I made two loaves of bread, two batches of granola bars, and a double batch of egg muffins. We ate some of the egg muffins for lunch Saturday, but the rest have been for breakfasts this week. I also diced up a canned ham we were given and will use that for scrambled eggs, omelets, pizza, and pasta salad.

How was your week?

Thanks for reading,
Erica


Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Monday Update From The Homestead - June 27 & July 4


This last two weeks have really been a roller coaster. We have had a few ups and a few downs. 

The garden is growing well. All except my peppers. They are not growing much at all. I think I am going to hit them with a shot of fertilizer. My carrots did not come up very well either. However, I hit up some end of the season sales. I planted more tomatoes, peppers, raspberries, blueberries, and blackberries. I will probably go back and get some more strawberry plants and see what else is left. 

We need rain and soon. We are suppose to get a storm tonight so hopefully we get some significant rainfall with that. We are dry...as in do not light a fire anytime soon dry. 



We lost our house cat, Lola last Friday. She hadn't been doing very well this last week and was scheduled to go back to the vet last Friday. She passed away on the way to the vet. She was 15 years old and had lived a long, good life. We buried her in the yard so the kids can visit. They were pretty attached to her.



The chickens are doing great. The egg output has been slowing down a bit which leaves us with some tough decisions. Rob wants to put up a camera in the coop and see who is actually laying or not. If they are not laying, they need to be part of the freezer. I am a little more attached than that. However, I am really considering getting some pullets and expanding the flock so we have fresh layers. I have already looked into it.

Other than that, we have been doing a lot of cleaning up outside. We (meaning mostly Rob) took down two dead trees in the grove. We have also been putting some work into the inside of the barn. As of right now, the goals for July is to: 

  1. paint the walls in the shop 
  2. move the wood in the barn to a neater pile in one of the other buildings 
  3. rent or borrow a pressure washer to clean the floor in the barn
  4. kill as many rats and mice as possible
  5. build shelves in the shop so Rob can find his stuff a lot faster and easier

We are never bored. That is for certain.

What is going on at your homestead? What is your goals for July?

Thanks for reading, 
Erica


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