Thursday, May 31, 2012

More photos of the coop!

We spent some time adding some finishing touches...

After our broilers, ahem--"depart"--  I will spend some time tidying up their run and finishing the exterior painting in there.  We hope to turn that into a fancy "bachelor pad" for our future rooster.  The broilers are getting so big, and they like to peck my feet and while I usually wear my boots into the run for that reason, I'm vain and I don't want paint on my new boots... so until then they have to live with ugly primer patches as their backdrop... well, and then I guess they won't live with anything after that (bu-dum-ching).  Anyway.  The main parts of the coop got their finishing touches... we have some stools inside until we get their roosts properly built and we've put in the nesting boxes (repurposed milk crates), but nobody's ready to start laying yet.

We wanted the boys to be involved in the decor... so this is how it turned out... I'm quite pleased!

Handprint Chicks... a sweet reminder of how small their hands were when we started this chicken farm!  Notice the green feet on one chick-- that's my middle boy's handprint and his chicken PeeWee is identifiable by her green legs!  This was a must for his handprint chick!

My youngest went a little crazy with the brown paint-- which completely frustrated my oldest and more OCD child... so it had to become part of the picture!  A tree and a little coop next to it! 
 Coop Sweet Coop. 

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Of compost and forgiveness...

I'm new to composting.  I've always agreed with the idea of composting... using organic/natural waste to bring life to new things... I've just never actually done it.   We have had a DIY compost kitchen counter bin that has been sitting full on our counter, but now we will empty into our compost bin every week or so.   We also have two very active fertilizer producing bunnies and 18 feathered pooping machines in our chickens.  If we didn't compost, I would feel like we're wasting waste and I hate to be redundant.

So we searched Pinterest for the easiest and most kid-involved compost bin and look we made this!  Utilizing a 32 gallon garbage bin, a drill, and a couple bunjee cords.

Something about taking garbage and turning it into life giving fertilizer is spiritually comforting to me.  The turning of soil, the break down of the old and rancid into something that can give and support new life.   It's physical, tangible forgiveness.

There have been experiences, moments with individuals, that have left decay in my life.  Words and actions (or lack thereof) that have maimed and/or killed parts of myself that I, having not composted before, just let rot away in my soul.  I let the death and garbage in my life turn my heart and my mind into more of a landfill than a compost bin.  We used to live near a landfill... you could tell you were close at the smallest change in the breeze.  The smell was overwhelming and the small vents sticking out of the mountains of filth covering dirt, would let out the noxious fumes of decomposition.  The same was with my heart... small vents letting out fumes... but mostly covering up my vulnerability, my anger and my pain with layers and layers of hardened emotions.  This produces no life, in fact, my landfill heart did more damage to those around me.   What was missing was the turning of soil.   My pain was left to sit, undisturbed, and the breakdown process is much slower and can be much more toxic that way.   Another beautiful thing about composting is the need for light and warmth to speed along the process... my landfill heart was dark and cold.  I kept light out.  With light, with letting myself get shaken up and broken down, the process of forgiveness and ultimately of new life would have been hastened.

I'm excited for so many reasons to compost... it cuts down on our garbage output.  What we take to the road we hope to cut in at least half.   I'm excited to see what life it will bring to our garden and our berry patch.  I'm excited to see what it does to our kids.   As we make changes to our family's values as we focus on homesteading, I'm hoping that a lot of our changes will be new to them, but subtle.  Small changes in the direction of how we eat, in how we care for the land and our animals as well as the way we care for one another that cut larger paths in our future and how they raise their families.   I'm also hoping a bit of that composting spirit seeps into their hearts as it has mine.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Thursday, May 24, 2012

That First Week of Summer Break...

We are struggling through what we call "The First Summer Funk".  It's that first week off of school for our oldest two boys and the transition from school structure to home structure is a difficult one.  We're limiting their "media" time this summer... otherwise we will enter back into the fall with pale and pasty television zombies and I don't want that.   I'm being the cruelest of all mothers:  setting a timer for each of them on their tv watching and computer playing... what they get unlimited amounts of time for-- OUTSIDE.  We just bought some pretty awesome water guns and are looking into a way to build a downhill slip and slide and I'm willing to invest in endless amounts of sunblock-- as long as they use it.  

I desire for my boys to be boys!  I want them out, getting dirty and loving it.  I want them out building forts and having adventures.   So yes, cruel mom that I am... I'm kicking my kids outside.  We've stubbornly purposefully not turned on the air conditioning.  It's saved us a TON of money so far... (hello $90 electric bill)-- but it also forces us all outside.  Who wants to stay in a muggy, hot house?  We don't!  So outside we all go.   It seems such an elementary concept... go out and play.

But that's where we're headed today... outside... to wash some of this funk off with sunshine.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

A Wonderful Day...

5 years ago, we moved to Kentucky, so that the husband could go to grad school.  Seminary to be more specific.  4.5 years, 96 credit hours,  and a third son later, and he's finally finished.  It ended up being an amazing day spent with friends and family.  We got so sidetracked with just getting the finals taken and the papers edited, that we forgot to invite anyone, didn't even order invitations (barely ordered the cap and gown!)... oops.  But it was a lovely day regardless.  

Thursday, May 17, 2012


Well... it's out there now.

If you're reading this, then I've likely personally told you about this blog, or you've followed from my shop's Facebook page.  Either way, thank you, and I hope that I can keep your attention as we blog along about our busyness with our homesteading venture.

I just went public with the bittersweet news of closing my Main Street yarn shop.  I've been a local yarn shop owner now for about 2 1/2 years and have loved it.  I was blessed with this opportunity to have a shop in my small town and have met some amazing people through it.  I'm honored that I've gotten such affirmations of our decision to close up this shop and our move towards having a small studio at the farm.   So very excited to get back to what I love... my family and processing, spinning and dying yarns and fiber.   My etsy store will be back in full swing in August... maybe a little reboot is in order.  

I'm also very excited to have this summer off.   My sweet husband graduates with his Mdiv on Saturday.  I'm so very excited for him.  So proud of him.  He had his final final today and feels good about it... can't ask for much more than that.  We have great plans for taking the boys camping and enjoying one another this summer.   Also, my two in-school boys are done tomorrow.  I just don't know what we're going to do with all this pent up energy... Maybe we'll let the chickens free-range and let the boys round them back up!

Anyway... I have plenty of things to do (and to document) as we simplify and plant our garden and tend to our little chickens (and hopefully prepare for our little sheep!).

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Just jump in...

We had neighbors just up the road from us who had a pool.   When those neighbors moved,  I'm pretty sure I road my bike to their house to ensure that we would become fast friends and be able to come back to the pool...

My parents bought me a floaty innertube... not sure they are considered safe anymore, but it went over my shoulders and a pump up-tube fit snuggly around my waist... then it was time to use it.  They would encourage me to then jump into the deep end of the pool (where I was certain sharks lived) and I would stand on the edge of the diving board for what seemed like an eternity, mustering the courage to jump in.   It wasn't the jump that scared me... It was the the uncertain few seconds submerged under water and the ever so slight fear that my floaty could somehow fail.  Just as I had a chance to even think about being scared, I was popping out of the water like a cork, gasping for air and swearing I would never do that again.

That is somewhat what I'm feeling with this whole transition... like I'm standing on the edge of the diving board looking down at the unknown... how long will I be underwater?  Will I come right back up?  Are there sharks down there waiting to eat me?  The longing for adventure and the leap doesn't scare me.  It's the unknown after part that keeps me awake at night.   There's still unseen variables... lots of details are going to have to take place.  Changes and closings of chapters.  And then a ton of good, fun stuff in there as well.  But first... the unknown.

So, I've started telling family about this blog and started speaking our new journey aloud to friends, most of whom are completely affirming.   It still sounds silly when I say it out loud... "hey... I started a blog... want to read it?".  So to all 5 of you, welcome.  :)  I'm jumping in... praying that my floaty still works.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Mama's Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies *remixed*

My mother had a task at hand.  My father had a craving.  My mother's task was to create a chocolate chip cookie hearty enough for dunking into a cold glass of milk, yet soft enough to melt in your mouth.  After a few attempts and tweaks and a mashup of a few recipes in her arsenal... she had it.  They are my most favorite cookies ever.   They represent sweet memories of baking with my mama.  Their smell takes me back to my childhood kitchen, and the taste of the cookie dough (yeah, yeah... I know it has raw eggs in it)... it's addictive.

I had to part with my sweet cookie affection when my husband and I started our weight loss journey.  But here I sit on Mother's Day... with my mom so far away and all I want is a cookie.  So... I followed in her footsteps and tweaked the recipe.   Made it a little more sugar free... changed up the flour I used and used sugar free chocolate chips (I swear you can't tell the difference!).

Here's my remix on my mom's classic.

1 c shortening (yes, shortening--finding the interwebs very torn on an alternative)
1 c Splenda brown sugar blend (or 1/3 c br sugar and 2/3 c Splenda blended)
1 c Splenda
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
2 tbs almond milk
1 c whole wheat flour
1 c whole wheat unbleached white flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
2 c oatmeal (not quick oats-- 100% whole grain oatmeal)
1/2 c Hershey's sugar free chocolate chips

Heat oven to 350.  Cream sugars and shortening, add in eggs.  Separately combine almond milk and vanilla.  Also separately combine flours, baking soda, powder and salt.  Alternately mix the liquids and the dry ingredients in with the creamed sugars.  Once completely mixed, add oats and chips.   Spoon onto cookie sheet and bake for 8 minutes.  Depending on size of cookie, recipe should yield 2-3 dozen cookies.  Enjoy!!

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Painting the coop...

We put some more work into the coop today, mostly utilizing our free child labor pint-sized farmhands for the messier (and quite honestly more fun) parts! There's still a bit left to do, but some light but much needed rain kept us from doing it. But the hens are enjoying their first night away from the broilers... Tucked away in their freshly painted coop.   Hopefully, once the rain passes in the next few days we will get the finishing touches put on, then we'll be completely finished with the coop!  For now, the hens seem to be enjoying their new home (not to mention the food dish they don't have to share with those greedy broilers!

Friday, May 11, 2012

An early Mother's Day gift...

My husband is a very good gift giver.   I don't mind bragging about that... he values giving thoughtful gifts.  Over our 13+ year relationship, he has given me many gifts that symbolize not just "wants" in my life... but also epitomize that he believes in whatever wayward direction I feel I want to explore (see the piano I still can't fully play sitting in our living room-- still a valued treasure to me, and maybe one of our children will turn out to be a prodigy).  It means more than just an acquired possession... its a nudge from the man I trust most...the person who knows me best in this world that he believes in me.

So this year, when my husband said he had the perfect Mother's Day gift, I really couldn't think of what it could be.  We're in the process of simplifying... and in that process I have realized that I already have so much... what could I need?  Then, one night while I was out in the chicken coop... my husband asked if I wanted to know what my gift was (he's a great gift giver- but he can't hold his secrets in for long once he's decided!)...BOOTS.  For real boots.  So, into my new favorite tractor supply store we went... and after trying on several pairs and discussing the pros and cons of functionality and fashion of several pairs, we decided on these amazingly comfortable boots!  A good pair of boots can last a long time... I started dreaming of all the adventures I could have in these boots... we do dream of having sheep in the not so distant future... so my mind is flooding with visions of shearing days and lambing nights with these handy boots on my feet.  What a great gift... thank you, honey.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

... make it your ambition to lead a quiet life, and to do your own business and work with your hands...   - 1 Thessalonians 4:11

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Transitional Stuckness.

[Not quite sure that "stuckness" is a word... actually pretty sure the squiggly red line glaring at me from under the word means that it's not.  Ah well.  It's a pretty accurate description to what I feel lately... so... I'm going to use it freely regardless of Webster's feeling on the matter.]

Stuck.  It's a word holding tension between fighting desperately to get loose of something and hopelessly giving up to remain where you are.   There's this whole new journey in front of me that I'm ready to embrace.  Homesteading... beginning a new chapter of life here on the farm, having the husband be out of school and the kids home for the summer.  But it's like trying to plant a garden before the season is right... you can labor, but it will be in vain... the timing has to be right and in order for the timing to be right, sometimes you just have to wait.

So, I wait.  There's still commitments and priorities to be taken care of here and now.  There is so much still unknown to us concretely... I guess maybe that will always be the case.  There is still a somewhat paralyzing list of things that need to be prepared, cleaned up, simplified and completed directly in front of me... but for the longing of things to come I feel stuck.

There's a fear element that goes along with change.  Fear can be a great motivator... but too much of it can stop you in your tracks, or worse, send you running in the opposite direction.   I have a tendency to get nervous about my decisions.... or I guess the imagined consequences of my decisions.   So, what could possibly be the consequence of simplifying our life as a family and journeying towards homesteading?  Well, its not extremely conventional... if it didn't have risks and didn't take hard work, wouldn't more people be engaged in it?   Embracing this new lifestyle... wanting to practice good husbandry with our surrounding farm and community... striving to live more locally... choosing to hone back in on the life our grandparents and great grandparents lived out of necessity...  I want all these things, but I'm still engaged in the present.  It's not a cold-turkey type of decision... it's a deliberate transitional decision.   Choosing new choices, both in and out of the home.  Freeing myself from choices made solely out of convenience.

So... I'm stuck... but I'm not giving up... I'm active in my stuckness.  I'm fighting to pull myself free.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Thursday, May 3, 2012

A little simplification would be the first step toward rational living, I think. -- Eleanor Roosevelt

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Coop Construction...

All with a little help from our friends...

The hen house isn't quite ready yet... another couple doors and windows and then we'll be ready to paint!  But the broilers are loving their new digs.  Don't they look happy?