Thursday, October 20, 2016


Are we homesteaders? According to Wikipedia homesteading is defined as a lifestyle of self-sufficiency, characterized by subsistence agriculture, home preservation of foodstuffs, and it may or may not also involve the small scale production of textiles, clothing, and craftwork for household use or sale. Growing up I loved reading Little House on the Prairie and playing the Oregon Trail game at school. Both of these were examples of brave, daring lifestyles in surroundings so different from the little suburban town I lived in. The land was wild, the people were strong and determined and their lives were filled with such hardship and love. When my first child was about 3 I read her a book called Blueberries for Sal and again I felt this nostalgia for years way before my time. I loved reading about how Sal helps her mother gather blueberries for canning and has a rather interesting day when a mother bear and her cub wander into the same berry patch. I was struck by how simple their day was and how free I felt thinking about climbing the berry hill and then turning the delicious fruits in to jam to enjoy for the year. 

A version of Little House

I have always felt this pull away from the lives that those around me were living. It seemed so strange to go to work everyday to make money for my family so that we could spend time together when in the end all I wound up doing was compensating for my absence by buying things. This lead to a circle of always needed more, wanting more and working more. I eventually gave up working so often because it always left me feeling empty. I had a chance to spend more quality time with the children and had time to turn my house into the home I always wanted. I filled it with the latest and greatest. The walls were repainted I began to replace our old hand-me-down items with up to date versions. Slowly over time my thoughts began to change. I am not sure what caused this change in my self but I started just looking around on the internet and I came across a blog that captivated me. It was about a woman who had several garden beds, a full hen house, a sewing box filled with things to create and mend, a pantry full of canned goods from her gardens, and she was living in modern times. No way! People live like this for real! I started looking more and I found more examples of the same. Some lived in the country, others in the suburbs and a few even lived the city. People all around me are living lives I thought only existed in books or in times past. Something that I always had this yearning for was actually attainable without being extremely bizarre and unheard of. 

Grandmom's Dishes
I thought about how I could apply these principle to our life. We have always had a garden in our yard so that was already taken care of. I have always been a very enthusiastic sewer I just never thought of using my skills to make things for my home and family for daily use. Our home is filled with Grandmom's dishes, Grandfather's tools, and Great Grandmom's furniture. These things were not things to be ashamed of. True some of them are old, beat up, and very old fashioned but they do their job and they connect us to those in our family. Our friends do not have the same dishes we have as theirs came from a big box store and our came from the 70's. Wow, I accidentally stumbled across a place were I feel that we fit in and don't have to put on a facade. 

2013 Summer Garden

Over the last several months I have pushed myself so hard. We have expanded our garden and improved our home. We have nourished ourselves with food we have grown and a fell asleep exhausted after hard day of honest work. The children are proud of the food they help prepare and the clothes and accessories they have helped me make. We are a more close knit family. So according to the Wikipedia definition, we have indeed grown our own food and preserved it. We have also done some small scale clothing production for house hold use. With our 1960's suburban home we are far from the country folks with their awesome livestock and beautiful farms who I read about on homesteading blogs. Are we homesteading I am still don't know but one thing is for sure we are happy . 

Lessons from the Week

Lesson #1: Beagles are hunting dogs. My beagle reminded me of this fact by bringing me a dead mole that she had caught after snapping the metal hook that attached her lead to the house. The doggy sweater that she whined until I put it on her really added a special touch to the moment.

Lesson #2: In the eyes of a 7 year old girl you, as the mom, are always wrong. Until you are proven right, which in her eyes just says that you are less wrong than she is.

Lesson #3: Sometimes a three year old just has to spear his chicken nuggets with his miniature toy fishing pole in order to eat them. While not politically correct, within the walls of the home sometimes a moms gotta do what a moms gotta do.

Lesson #4: Tucking your vegetables in for the night under a layer of plastic makes your neighbors think you have really gone off the deep end.

Lesson #5: Filling homemade door draft  blockers with sand is a wonderful idea to keep the heat in. That is until the aforementioned 3 year old or hunting dog rips one end open. Then its kind of like Florida came to visit the living room.

Lesson #6: A chicken roasting in the oven and quilts on the couch are the perfect touches for settling in with the family as the cold threatens to make the first frost outside.

Finding Power in the Home

So I had this post ready to go and decided not to put it up on the blog yesterday. This morning I came across two quotes that summed up what I was feeling when I wrote this post. I think this is one of those times when life says, "We'll come on with it already". So here are my random thoughts and the quotes.

“To grow your own food gives you power and dignity. You know exactly what you’re eating because you grew it. It’s good, it’s nourishing and you did this for yourself, your family and your community.” Karen Washington
Now that fall has officially settled in and winter is fast approaching it is time for a little reflection on the things that have worked this year and things that have not worked so well so that we can be better prepared next year. One of the things that has been helpful is keeping a garden journal so I can remember the exact time that seeds were sown, plants transplanted and first harvests were ready. Looking through and remembering the success of our garden this summer is awesome. I remember how  proud I felt the first night that I served my family eggplant parmigiana with a salad with only ingredients fresh from our garden, except for the mozzarella cheese. It made me feel so powerful to know that I had sown, transplanted, nurtured, grown and harvested the food that would fuel my family. Now that the summer garden has been put to bed for the winter and the winter garden is well under way most of the work around the home has moved in doors. The crafting has begun and I am excited for being able to provide the family with warm items to wear, a warm comforting home to wander back to at the end of a long day and warm foods from the items we put up over the summer. I look forward to the learning more from my family as we spend the more quiet indoor hours together. I have already enjoyed learning how to draw people from the 7 year old and the 3 year old has been excited to show me how to build swords from anything he can find. Maybe this year I'll even allow my husband to show me how to play a few cords on his guitar.

I wish that others were able to see the power in building a home and family. It seems that all too often we allow the distractions around us to keep us from seeing what is most important in life. The other day my girl and I had a chance to share a few hours together alone and she wanted to go to a local breakfast spot. So off we went excited for the chance to share a rare breakfast out and some alone time to reconnect with each other and share what is going on in our lives. Half way through our meal my girl looked over at the table next to us and said, " How come everyone in that family is playing with their phones and games?" I looked over and sure enough both parents were on their phone looking at stuff and the kids were all occupied with their game systems. The whole time they were in the restaurant they ignored each other except to argue with each other about a child who was not happy with his order because he "wasn't paying attention to what he had asked for" as he was at an important part of his game. My girl really couldn't understand what the point was in going out together if no one was paying attention to each other and was happy that we did not have to bring those things with us in order to spend time with each other. At the end of our meal she decided that of all the places she could spend the rest of our alone time together she wanted to head home. Once we got there I was given my impromptu people drawing lesson (which I did terrible on) but my gracious teacher kept encouraging me even though I am a helpless case. I was so shocked that home was one of the special places she wanted to share with me during our time together. When I asked her why she relied, "It is home".

Again I felt the power that home has and how important the input from each of us is into making our home have that draw the calls to us. The things that we all bring with us sneak into the corners of our home and surround us. I wonder what our home would feel like if we were too distracted to really see each other. Would it continue to call to us if we did not take time to share and love each other what would sneak into the corners of our home and surround us? Our house is a little dusty sometimes and a little cluttered most of the time, it is loud, it is a place to grab a quick hug and snuggle a furry friend. It is place to vent frustrations and a place bother your sibling. It is the place where I have been able to watch both food and children grow. This home is a powerful place maybe because of what we put into it or maybe it is what we get out of it. I wonder if that is what is some of what is wrong with the world today, the homes have lost their power and people keep looking for distractions to fill that void.

Getting a much needed snuggle

Put down your phone, look around, life is happening!

#46 from 67 Things I Wish I Had Known At 18

The to do List

The to-do list for this week is lengthy like most weeks. I like having an actual list in front of me so that I can mark off things when they are done. I like feeling like I have control over my life and my lists give me a tiny sense of control. I can choose what to do and what not to do today. I can choose the order in which I am going to do the things that have to get done today. In the areas when I can't choose not to do the task or the time at which I complete the task I can at least choose what color highlighter or pen I cross the item off my list with. Now for a glimpse at my list. 

1. Tie up loose ends. I am simultaneously working on a blanket for the living room and scarves for the kids. I have a goal of two granny squares per day and to weave in the loose ends on both scarves.

2. Enjoy some reading in my down time. (I love, love, love this book) Time for reading is short but I squeeze it in where I can. 

3. Try something new and reuse things around the house. The little guy and I made some candles reusing the old ends of other candles. By adding the hot wax to a water bath and placing new wicks into a mold we ended up with two new candles. We also had one heck of a science lesson. We watched as the wax changed from solid to liquid and back again.

4. Apply mulch to the garden. The garden needed one more layer of mulch and with all the leaves collecting in our yard we had good, free mulch for the winter right at our finger tips.

5. Enjoy the harvest and use up everything we can. Nothing wraps up a hard day like a warm pot of soup made with ingredients fresh from the garden. The broth was also made from the bones of the roast chicken we had for dinner the night before.

6. Share. The little guy and I shared the fruits of our labor with the rest of the family by lighting the candle we made and filling the house with its soft warm glow. We also shared the couch while watching a movie together.

7. Stop and look around. Last on my list was to stop being so busy and look around. The autumn is on its way out so the leaves are falling quickly. Before long the winter will have settled in, the holidays will be coming and the year will be over. I try to take at least a minute each day to appreciate all that is going on around me. Tomorrow the children will be another day older and the behaviors that drive me crazy today might disappear overnight.

Cloudy Skies and Apple Pies

My oldest child has been learning about couplets in school so of course once she came home she was excited to share with me all of the couplets that she could think of. Then I shared with her all of the couplets I could think of. She thought I was pretty awesome and was happy to have some inspiration to help her think of more. We went back a forth for a while. Who knew couplets could be such fun? With this still fresh in my mind yesterday when I woke up as soon as I realized that the day would be cloudy I immediately thought cloudy skies and apple pies and decided to bake an apple pie. (I really am that big of a dork sometimes)

I went to my mom's house to get her pie crust recipe and as she pulled out the old cook book that she has turned to for the base of many of her recipes over the years I was on the verge of giddy. The old cookbook has a missing front cover and the string from the binding hangs precariously. I treated it as if I were holding a book of secrets. I asked her which page the recipe is on and very carefully turned the pages afraid to cause any more damage to the book that has been around my whole life when my mom came over flopped the book open to the correct page. That's my mom for you, how the book has not disintegrated yet is beyond me.

With the "ancient" pie crust recipe in hand I headed home to search the internet for a filling for my pie. I came across a recipe that looked promising and went to work on it. I also decided that while I was waiting for the dough to chill I would work on dinner. So here I am home alone with two kids making a ham, mashed potatoes and vegetables and an apple pie all at one time.  Needless to say things started to fall apart rather quickly. The kids were in the midst of their "witching hour" and between their loud playing and intermittent bursts of arguing I struggled with my patience. I tried to hurry the pie up and wound up pouring the pie filling directly into the bottom crust rather that over the lattice top as per the recipe, so at that point I decided to make a one piece pie top crust. I threw it over the top and hoped for the best. It was also at this point that I realized that almost all the water had boiled out of the potatoes. So now I also had mashed potatoes that had a really strange chewy texture. I think I was the only one who noticed because two very hungry, tired kids are not the best food critics.

 So that was my adventure for the day couplets, clouds and pie. Thank goodness the man of the house returns home today, I need someone to reign me in before I get anymore bright ideas. By the way the pie was fabulous.