Friday, April 26, 2013

Frugal Friday

“he who will not economize will have to agonize”

These two inconspicuous ice cream pails hold the wastefulness of my family's eating.  After every meal, any food left on a plate or scraps from meal preparation are diligently placed into the chicken bucket (on the left) or the cat bucket (on the right). 

With these scraps, we supplement our chickens' feed, and in return, we get fresh eggs!  Nothing goes to waste, and it reduces our feed bill for our laying hens.  It also gives me great satisfaction to know that we aren't creating waste and we aren't wasting food , which in my universe is a sin :-)

As for the cat bucket, those scraps feed the many barn cats that seem to migrate to our farm.  Table scraps might not seem like much; a spoonful of pasta, a crust of bread, or the milk left from cereal, but they add up during the day.

Now, if you don't have chickens or other pets to feed your scraps to, you can always compost them.  Other than meat, table scraps will compost really well and can be put into your garden once they have had a chance to decompose.  Food scraps can be mixed with lawn clippings, leaves, or other "green" refuse to produce rich, dark soil, and it's another way of making use of those scraps instead of throwing them away. 

Look at you...being all Green and Planet Friendly and all!  Now you can tell your friends that you are "reducing your Carbon Footprint", and watch them be impressed :-)

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Don't tell me I'm not a working mom!

Last Thursday morning, in the midst of another winter storm here in the Dakotas (yes, in April) I drove 25 miles to pick up the 2 brothers of our foster children.  We were scheduled to have them until Sunday while their foster mom got a well deserved break.

So as I'm driving through almost white-out conditions on icy roads, the younger brother, George, says "So Michelle, what DO you do anyway?"   We had been discussing his foster mom's job as a teacher, and so I guess he was wondering what job I held.

I didn't know whether to laugh or spit.  His question was genuine, but somehow, it struck a nerve.

It's not as if I'm clueless about the working world.  I've had some form of a job ever since I was old enough to partner with our neighbors in a paper route when I was about 9 years old. As I hit adolescence, I was the go-to girl in our neighborhood for dog walking, housesitting, and my area of expertise- babysitting.   I worked part time during college then full time plus once I graduated from college.  By then, I was supporting a family, and didn't have the luxery of NOT working. 

I was a single working mom for 5 years (some of those years as a teacher) and continued to work when I remarried because we needed to catch up financially.  Suddenly, my oldest son was graduating high school and my youngest was 8 months old, and I realized that I had never gotten to try out being a stay at home mom. 

After spending the next 2 years paying off as much debt as we could, I finally made the move to being able to stay at home, raising our children, and taking care of my home and family the way I had always wanted to.  No more doing laundry at 11:00 at night, no more putting my kids to bed and wondering if they had had a good day or not, no more feeling as if I'm being pulled into twenty directions, juggling so many responsibilities and not doing any of them justice.  I would finally get to focus on the important people in my life.

So George, what do I do? 

I stay at home and supervise 6 kids and partner with 1 incredible husband.  I get 3 kids up and off to public school, and homeschool another one.  I wrangle with a 3 and 4 year old all day, do laundry for 8 people, plan nutritious meals with homegrown vegys and home raised meat, do farm chores and dishes, home repairs, garden, chauffeur various doctor, dental, and ortho appointments, basketball games and 4H meetings, teach Sunday school and work funerals, update kids scrapbooks, plan birthday parties and all holiday activities, clean the house, mow and do the yardwork, pay bills,....need I go on?

I've worked both in and out of the home, and truthfully, being a stay at home mom is one of the busiest, most frustrating, and hardest jobs I've ever had.  And the most gratifying.

We both felt God leading us to the decision of having me stay home to raise our children, and it's one that we have felt so at peace with.

Loren tells me I get paid in hugs and appreciation. 
After seeing my list, me thinks I need a raise :-)

Homeschooling on the deck!  Littles are doing playdough while Bri tries to do her reading under her blanket.

Look who fell asleep while snuggling with Mom on the couch~

Monday, April 15, 2013

Project Update

Spring continues to be elusive here in South Dakota.  Last week we had 3 no-school days while thousands of people were out of power due to an ice storm that hit that week. Roads were treacherous but our ever-faithful linemen were out keeping us all connected and warm by fixing downed lines.

It looks so serene, but there's solid ice under that snow.

Even though we can't get into the gardens yet, there are still plenty of projects that need to be done indoors.  In fact, our Honey-do project list never seems to get any shorter....hmm?
Not to worry- we can get some much-needed projects done inside where it's warm, while we wait for spring to show up.

Here is what we are working on...
  • Finished reading the Bible, cover to cover. This was one of my New Years goals that I set and I'm so glad that I did it.  It took me 3 months and 2 weeks, but it was a good experience to do it all in one stretch, instead of piecing it together as I have done for years.
  • Working on my next quilt- it's to be a pinwheel done with retro fabrics, that I have been collecting for years.  Can't wait to see how this looks on our bed! (I'm not very far yet)

  • We're finishing the texturing and painting of our mudroom to make it ready for all the canning we plan on doing in there this summer.  Once the walls are done, we will begin work on the cubbies along the north wall to hold chore coats and overalls, boots, and gloves.  I am thrilled to have a place to store all of the grubby farm clothes and keep the mud and SMELL out in the mudroom far away from the kitchen.
Almost done texturing!!!  See my recycling bins in the lower left corner?  I'm so proud :-)

A work in progress~
  • My last indoor project is the on-going Decluttering schedule that I'm following to reduce the stuff in our home.  I am currently doing the May calendar and hope to complete that within 2 weeks.  The 15-20 minutes per day assignments really make a difference and I'm all for reducing the clutter in our house. Here is the link if you want to declutter too~
I'd like to say that I'm using all of the "stuck inside" time productively, but I have to confess to recently watching the entire Harry Potter series on DVD, and I've kept up fairly well reading my favorite blogs.  A girl's gotta have some down time too, right?
So how are YOUR winter projects progressing?

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Frugal Friday

Lately I feel like I've been doing more laundry than normal, but then I shouldn't be surprised with 8 people in the house. 

And I realize that I've discussed frugal ways to deal with laundry before, but mainly in using racks and clotheslines to dry clothes, or how to make your own laundry soap.

But then I realized that there's more to it when it comes to laundry.  It's a whole new way of looking at what goes in the hamper; and attitude on how we look at clean.  I mean really, Americans are so brainwashed when it comes to our hygiene.  Commercials tell us that everything has to be spotless, or we're just "not good mothers and homemakers". 

We can either buy into that thought process, or we can realize that we are being sold an idea, developed by marketing teams to sell their products.

 I decided that we were happier when we weren't chasing the "spotless dream" and trying to look like we just walked off of a magazine page.  And was that a good use of our funds, by the constant washing of our clothes, homes, and bodies?

So here are a few of our rules:
  • You get one clean towel a week, and you must use that towel all week.  If you hang it up correctly, it WILL NOT SMELL!  Remember, its job is to wipe clean water off of your just-cleaned body, so it's not really dirty.
  • Jeans rarely get sweaty, so unless you are outside and they get dirty, you continue to wear your jeans until they do get dirty. 
  • We have a set of chore clothes that are hung in the mudroom and used for outside work, and they don't need to be cleaned as often, so that saves on alot of laundry each week.
  • Because we homeschool and don't "go" to school, we don't have to have a different outfit each day, so we can wear our comfies a few days in a row.  This is one of my favorite perks of homeschooling!
An extra bonus is that our clothes won't wear out as quickly because they aren't going through the rigor of the washing machine!  So yah for that!

So the next time you slip on one of your favorite cozy outfits for the third day in a row, don't feel guilty!  Feel FRUGAL!!  And be proud of it :-)

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Mother Nature is a fickle creature

A week ago, we had temps in the 60's, the girls were outside in shorts training the dogs, and we were thinking that spring was finally here.

Then yesterday, we got hit with an ice storm that has effectively shut down the state- highways are closed and over 20,000 homes are without power.

We were lucky down in our corner of the state- we didn't get hit as hard as other parts, and so far, we haven't had any trees down on our farm.  Pictures shown on the news have shown entire telephone poles tipped over and trees down everywhere.  We've had gates frozen shut and ice coated hay to pitch, but otherwise we have not had any damage, other than to have one meatbird chick freeze before I got them moved indoors.

And I thought I was going to plant potatoes today- Guess not!

Meanwhile, these little guys are growing quickly, being sheltered in our mudroom.

Don't hate me for my awesome canning shelf!!  I put the seedlings in front of it, hoping that the canned goods would inspire the seedlings!  I've planted tomatoes, sweet and hot peppers, brocolli, cabbage, brussel sprouts and pak choy so far.  Loren cultivated the garden last weekend, so we are ready to plant once Mother Nature cooperates and gives us some warm temps.

With so many of our neighbors out of power, it puts me in Survivalist Mode, and I have been taking inventory of what we need on our homestead for future calamities. 

We are fortunate to have a woodburning stove, which keeps us warm and can also double as a stovetop with a cooking surface on top. Keeping our woodhouse stocked takes some teamwork, but between the two farms we have enough dead wood to keep us warm for a few years yet.

Between our milk cow, laying hens, our freezers full of meat we have raised, and over 200 quart jars of canned vegys and sauces stored, we have at least tackled the problem of having some food available.  We have set aside an alcove in the basement as a cold storage room that we haven't quite finished yet, but will be used to store potatoes, squash, etc... from the garden next fall.

Now that we have our mudroom, I plan on having a section for stocking up on nonperishables such as canned goods and nonfood items like toilet paper.

To this, I would like to add a greenhouse onto the south side of the house for raising produce during the late fall/early spring to extend our growing season.  We would also need to have an adequate water supply stored- so far, we have about 10 gallons of water bottled in the basement, but know that we would need to increase that amount to have enough for all 8 of us for any length of time.  We've also talked about investigating into getting one of the old wells repaired for useage during the summer, and setting up a rainwater collection system on the house and buildings.

As for our energy needs, I would like to invest in a generator to keep our home running- at least for the freezers, refrig, and stove.  (Oh who am I kidding?  I want it for the tv!) 

  I like the solar lamps that I've seen for providing lights, and would like to increase our stash of flashlights and batteries.

I'm sure there are many other items that I haven't even begun to realize I would need, but these are the first ones I would address. ( Because if I can't keep this crew fed, it could get UGLY!! )

I realize that we are so far removed from true "surviving" these days, because everything we want is just a drive, or a call, or a click away.  We no longer have to rely on a set of skills, or on ourselves, to keep our family fed or safe.  However, the past few years we have had to watch families just like ours on the news facing major disasters, whether it's a hurricane or a grass fire, and they have had to use these techniques to survive and stay safe.

 It's in our best interest to know some of these skills and since we have two Eagle Scouts in the house, I know that I need to "BE PREPARED!"

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

He is Risen

Yep, I hide Easter baskets for my kids.  And yes, we have a (gasp!) Easter egg hunt.

Blasphemous?  I don't think so.

Once upon a time, I struggled with religious celebrations, because they become very commercialized, focusing on materialism instead of the "Reason for the Season". 

Santa versus Jesus' birth. 
Easter bunny versus Jesus rising from the tomb.

 I wondered "Am I ruining my children by indulging in the traditions of presents and baskets and hunting for eggs?"

But as the years have gone by, I think I'm getting better at balancing the two, Faith and Fantasy, so that I can make joyful memories for our children, and also instill in them the importance of their faith.

Quinn and G hunting for eggs

We stress the sanctity of Christmas and Easter by attending Lent, Christmas, and Easter services, talk about what the day really means, read the Bible stories before the season to prepare them, and limit the amount of commercialism that we introduce into the day. 

The girls with their baskets- boys slept in!

However, I also see the joy they get from running around the yard hunting for eggs, or running downstairs on Christmas morning to see what's in their stockings, and I know that these are memories that bond us all together as a family. And how can that be bad?

Coloring Easter Eggs

 So with a careful blending of both, we can learn all about God's love for us, and have alot of fun doing it.

Happy Easter!!  He is Risen!!
Empty Tomb Picture 16