Saturday, February 26, 2011

Country Fellowship

Our location sometimes prevents us from socializing  a lot. We live off the "beaten path" ( which I love by the way) and it's a trip to get to our house for most of our friends. Besides that we are normally busy feeding animals, working etc. and we don't entertain THAT often.

So we do look forward to fellowship when the opportunity arises. Tonight at our church is the Men's Wildlife banquet. It's for men and boys only and they have it decorated very nicely, have someone come in that is an expert turkey and duck caller, have a spirtual speaker, and a few other speakers as well. My husband always looks forward to this time of fellowship with other Christian men. I've made Deer chili, a strawberry cake and jalepeno corn bread for him to take with him.

While he is there, another lady from our Sunday School class is having something for all the ladies and girls in our class at her home. Me and the girls are looking forward to that tonight also. I made Spinach enchiladas and Mississippi Mud brownies to take to this "Mexican theme" potluck.

I guess the point of my post is to encourage all of you homesteaders to find some fellowship you feel comfortable in. It's a great way to really relax and enjoy other's company. My oldest daughter also is in 4H now and that allows us for some fellowship with other likeminded folks. The kids can all play together and the growns ups can actually conversate with other grown ups.

I'm looking forward to a great day, and even though it's still a tad bit cool here, I'm enjoying the sunshine.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Getting Busy around here

It's certainly beginning to get very busy around here.

Once a month Shopping
One thing that several of you have been asking me about is my once a month shopping. I am happy to report it is doing quite well. I was successful in January and so far everything is set to be working out for February. This is great for several reasons. The first reason is that it keeps me out of town! We live in a rural area and it would take half a Saturday morning to drive into town, do all the grocery shopping and drive home. By only going one day per month I am saving gas money, and allowing myself to be around the house more. I'm also finding that I'm saving money by buying in bulk and sticking to my list. This past month I really tried hard to design my meal plan around the freezer and pantry since I still had a ton of stuff I had canned or frozen from last year. It's about time to start putting up new fresh goodies, so I need to make sure we eat up what we have on hand first. So this month we have had lots of deer meat, soups, corn on the cob ( I froze I think 24 bags last year, each bag can make 2 meals for us), and salsa and tomato based dished from all the canned tomatos I put up last year. March will be another clean out the freezer and pantry month, so my food budget then should be lower also.

My uncle lives a few miles down the road and has a nice tractor, this weekend he came and plowed up the 3 different plots we use for gardening. We planted 2 new blueberry bushes in the yard and I can't wait until they start producing. These are rather large bushes and are supposed to already be 1year old, so hopefully we might see some fruit from them this year. I put up only 2 gallons of blueberries last year ( in addition to the jam, and what we ate fresh) and that was no where near enough for our blueberry loving family.
We also planted 8 brussel sprout plants, 4 cabbage, 4 ice berg lettuce, 8 brocolli and 8 cauliflower yesterday. I have several things started inside also.

My oldest daughter is trying to decide what kinds of chickens she wants to show for 4H this year. She wants some "really fancy ones" so I've let her sit down with my chicken book and pick out a few options. She keeps coming back to the Silkies so I'm thinking we'll be the proud new owners of several of those soon. The other chickens are all doing fine. It's beginning to get warmer here so our hens are starting to lay a little more regularly again. We are getting 6-7 eggs a day, which in all honestly isn't enough for our family of four, considering most mornings we have scrambled eggs, and then for lunch my daughter wants a hard boiled egg or two, then whatever baking or cooking I do normally requires a few. But we are making it work for now until they all start producing again. Clifford ( the goat) is enjoying the nicer weather also , as are the rabbits, guinea pigs, dogs and cat.

As always, cooking keeps me busy as well. Our family loves to eat and thankfully aren't picky. I've really gotten into homeade ravioli, and we have it at least once a week, same with homeade pizza. I've discovered how delicious homeade pretzels are as well and those are a welcome treat around here. I love the magazine "Hobby Home Farm" and they always have some great recipes in them. Every time I get my issue I pour over it. They had a recipes for chocolate Meringe cookies that were outstanding. That recipe and pick will be coming in a different post.

Well that's probably enough for today. Happy Homestead hopping!!!

Friday, February 18, 2011

Children and babies- frugal is key!

I understand that not everyone that reads my blog has children or babies.Some may, some may have grandchildren, or neices or nephews that would benefit. I want to tell you all about Rhea Lana's Children Consignment.

This isn't a typical consignment store, it is a huge weeklong event that just happens two times per year ( per location). There are events in Texas, Oklahoma, Hawaii, Arkansas, Arizona, Georgia, Illinios, Indiana, Kansas, Louisana, Mississippi, Ohio,Missouri, and Tennesee. Most states have multiple locations.

I have been participating in this for about 6 years now, since I was pregnant with my first daughter. There are 2 really great components to this. The first is the fact that you can sell your old baby and kid clothing, toys, furniture, books, equipment etc and make some great money. You "tag" the items yourself and get to keep between 70%-80% of what you sell. At the end of the sale you get all your unsold stuff back! You get a check for your sold stuff in a matter of days also. I have had really great success selling my stuff here. The key is that literally THOUSANDS of mommas looking for a good deal will pass through during the week.

The second great component is that shopping there is such a pleasure. I buy the vast majority of my girls things there. I save a little money each month, and then twice a year go shopping! ( I normally make more money that I spend though anyways)  I bought the girls Easter dresses there last spring for $6 a peice, and they were absolutly gorgeous. I'm talking $50 dresses. They also have furniture ( I'm looking for a bunk bed this year), baby items like jumparoos, high chairs, pack and play type thingys, tons and tons of toys and books , maternity clothing and then so many baby and children clothes and shoes you wouldn't beleive it. All at yard sale prices.

So,  I don't get anything for referring you, I don't "earn" anything. I just wanted to pass along a wonderfully frugal idea that I hope someone can benefit from.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Gift closests...

Ever since I have gotten married ( ane even before that really) I have been keeping a "gift closet" of sort.

For the new year, in January I always write out a list of Birthday gifts and cards I would like to give, as well as a Christmas list with ideas of gifts. I also like to make homade birthday cards, anniversary cards etc. So I can make those ahead of time as well.

I do this for a few reasons, one many of my gifts are homeade and I like to be able to plan for them and make things for people ahead of time, I also like to shop for great deals for things when they come up. This last year and also this year, I have purchased several Groupons, vouchers for Eversave etc. for specific gifts on my list. So far from Eversave I have purchased a voucher to get $50 worth of Melissa and Doug toys, and I will only have to pay for shipping ( because I had some referral credit) I really find that it saves money, time and sanity.

My friend is having a baby late in the year and I've already started her a homade scrapbook. It will take a while to finish, so it's great to start early. Same thing with my parents, I always make them a calendar for the next year with the girls' pictures and give them that for Christmas. I also have specific goals for my swagbucks and Irazoo points, as well as the points I get from Mypoints.

I have found that this saves me a lot of money in the long run. I'm not scrambling around the week before Christmas doing last minute shopping. I like to spend the whole month of December baking, making crafts with the girls, visiting family, decorating, etc. and I don't want to be worried with finishing up homeade gifts or shopping.

So hopefully you will be inspired to create a list of all the gifts you would like to give throughout the year and starting planning ahead, and you will find that the month of December is much simpler for you....

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Support your Local 4H Club

4H is an organization that has been around for a long time and it's one that I would urge all of you with children ( ages 5-19) to look into. Olivia is my oldest and is 5 and is really enjoying it. I was in it myself when I was young and learned some fabulous lessons. I think that it is great for her to be around other similiar minded people. Today at our meeting the kids made blankets to give to a local shelter. They try to do service projects for the community througout the year, and this one one of them.

They also have opportunities to compete in various competitions too. Some of the upcoming ones include public speaking, fashion review ( where you model something you made yourself), a dairy recipe competition, a broiler BBQ competition ( where you make chicken recipes) and that's just in the next few months.

The fair is always a fun time also, when the kids enter their animals for show, as well as things from the garden that they have growned, canned items, baked goods, arts or photography.

It is such a good way to really foster the values that I want my girls to grow up learning. I want them to learn how to cook, sew, garden and can. They need to know how to do public speaking and to speak in front of people. I want them to feel confident about their skill set, and be stewards of their communites.

So, if you have kids in the right age range, please check it out, I think they would really enjoy it. You can visit it here to learn more

Any other 4Her's out there?

Friday, February 11, 2011

Other ways to get fresh produce ( besides gardening)

We are incredibly blessed on so many levels in regards to our garden. First of all I was raised gardening and canning from my parents, so not only is it natural, but it's fun and gives me a sense of tradition and heritage. But I realize that not everyone has space to garden as much as they like, perhaps they have physical limitations, perhaps they  have time constraints or trave a lot , or perhaps they are just like us and can't possibly grow EVERYTHING they want for their family. So of course even though growing your own garden is option number one for getting access to fresh produce there are several other options:

Our cherries from last year...

1. Pick your own type farms: Pick Your Own
There are thousands of these type establishments all over the U.S., and many are listed at the link above. Around here the most popular kinds are apple, peach, berries of all kinds, and corn. There are also some that have pick your own vegetable type farms too, but we are normally pretty set on that stuff. But last year we went and picked peaches, apples, and blueberries with the girls. This really serves several purposes: it's fun for the family and the girls especially to pick their own goodies, it teaches them where there food comes from, it supports a local family farm, typically it is cheaper than the grocery store because you are buying in bulk and doing the work yourself, you know exactly what has been done to that food as far as chemicals, pesticides etc. and lastly it provides a crop that you may not have any of yourself. We have 2 apple trees, and we got maybe 2 gallons total off of them, which was not enough for all the applesauce, apple juice, frozen apples, dried apples etc. that I wanted.

2. CSA's or Community Supported Agriculture: Local Harvest
These come in many shapes and forms. Please visit the link above to learn about the ones available near you. The premise is that you pay a share or a membership fee and periodically you receive a basket, box of bag of produce from the farm or organization. These range from every week, to a few times a year. They also have a huge range of products that can be put in it. Vegetables, fruits, eggs, milk, cheese and herbs are common, and there are also some around here that put in things like grass fed beef, local organic chicken, even farm raised catfish fillets, local organic rice and wheat. These are typically picked up at a set location at a set time, although some do deliver. I love that you are supporting a local farmer(s) and you get what is in season each and every week. I've never bought one for myself because we typically grow a lot of what they offer, however I have purchased a few as gift certificates for different people, my favorite time being for a friend of mine that lives out of state that had a new baby , and this particular one DELIVERED! So this is something to certainly look into if you may not have a variety of things you are growing or want to branch out your pallet a bit.

3. Locally Grown
I have to say that we use this one almost weekly. You can go to the link above and see what is happening around your area. Here it is set up for once a week, and you pick up on Friday evenings. This consists of MANY local farmers , large and small with a variety of different products. They have an online ordering system showing what is available for that week and you can shop from home, then go pick up your goodies. Unlike a CSA, you buy only the things you want each week, and you can go weeks or months without buying anything if you want. This is where we get our milk and cheese. The dairy is just about 20 miles from our home and we can talk to the farmer about what she gives and doesn't give the cows she uses. It's a small dairy and I'm happy to support it. Plus the cheese is outstanding. The cheese is typically $4 a pound, which honestly isn't anymore expensive than say Kraft or Cabot at the store. You make one payment and then they pay all the different farmers based on what they sold that week. As a seller you can sell every week, or just when you have an abundance of something. I also like our local one because the have farm tours regularly  where you can go visit the farms you are buying from and know EXACTLY what they are doing and how they treat your food. Please look into this, LOVE IT.

4. Farmers Markets
I won't go into much detail on these because most of you know about them, however I will say to please make sure that they are LOCAL. Just because a farmer has a truck of watermelons, does not mean they are local. There has been instances in the past when people have driven to Walmart and bought all the watermelons and then sold them for $2 more at the farmers market. Search for Local Farmers Markets, or those that are certified LOCAL for your state. Here we have a Certified one, where the Market employees go to your farms and make sure you are actually growing what you are selling before you are allowed to set up a table. Thank you! I want to buy local. The thought of buying tasteless apples from China, when my neighboor grows the best Black Apples I've found is not appealing to me.

5. Community Gardens
These are becoming popular in urban settings especially. This is when a shared space can be utilized by community members and the produce is shared at harvest. It can work where you volunteer a certain amount of hours then you get a certain amount of produce, or where everyone gets their own little plot and you are responsible for that and get to take everything home from that plot. I've seen it work many ways, and it is a great idea. When I went to California last year I saw a ton of these, especially around the San Francisco area, and was really inspired.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Snow Day

It doesn't snow much where I live. In fact if we see a snowflake one time per year we are lucky. This is the 3rd time since January that we have been out of work for snowdays. My kids don't go to school yet, but all the schools around are closed. I do feel bad for the teachers and kids though, because every day they miss they have to make up at the end of the school year. I guess here they don't build snow days into the schedule since it is so rare we have them.

So I woke up this morning to beautiful , HUGE snowflakes falling. We opened the curtians and sat and watched it for a while. So beautiful. I hope you all are staying warm.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Just a little insight....

I work a full time job. It's something I really enjoy, and it is something that I beleive is worth my effort. I work in Nutrition and Ag Research, evaluating the effects that having a school garden has on the students. The goal is to prove that there is merit in environmental learning and nutrition education in order to force policy changes. I also do some work in food deserts and bringing access to healthy foods to communities that don't have that. I love it. I stayed at home until my oldest was 4, but I felt that this was something that I really needed to do. It's a great job, I get to travel, great benefits, etc. etc. etc.

I say all that though to say that somedays, actually most days I really want to just be a stay at home mom. I enjoyed the time I got to stay home with the girls and feel that it was a blessing I got to for that long. I think it's a struggle for many moms.

Even though I work outside the home, we still eat homeade meals, I still do homeschooling lessons with my daughters, although next year the oldest will probably go to a public school. I sew. We have large gardens, an orchard, livestock and a whole variety of other fun stuff around our little "homestead". Normally once a month or so I host a litle "cooking" type day, where me and a friend and our families get together and put up food, if we have produce we can, freeze or dry, other times like this month we make homeade pasta and ravioli to use throughout the year. We all work for about half a day, then split whatever was made.

Thankfully, I have a wonderful husband who is very supportive, and our babysitter is a wonderful lady, who shares my vision for child raising. I think that among other things, I can be an advocate for working moms. I can say " I work too, but that doesn't mean you have to have fast food nightly, or babysit the kids with television at night.". It can be exhausting, but it is so rewarding.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

So it's a new month, how are my resolutions?

Wow! It's February people! I can't beleive it. I wanted to revisit my January Resolutions and see how things were going.

Here is what I wrote back in January....One of the things I would like to do ( and at least keep track of) is to "put up" 600 pints of goodies this year. This will include canned, frozen and dried. I've made this cute little ticker, although I'm not sure exactly how to keep up with it, but I'll try. Nothing happening here. I did pick up about a gallon of pecans that the I missed earlier and that the squirrels haven't gotten yet, but that was all I had in January. I won't count that towards my goal though. Spring is coming though and I'll become very busy then.

A few other things I would like to do this year

- complete 20 scrapbook pages - nothing here, I need to do our Christmas pages, fall pumpkin pictures and our snow pictures

- Read 10 books - Hey I have read a few books. You can see them on my book Review page. I read 2 books in January. My friend also just lent me her copy of The Radical Homemaker, so I hope to read that soon, and I have 2 more books from the library I am working on. So 2 out of 10.

- Make rock candy with the girls- Nothing here either. I think they will enjoy it though and I can't wait to try.

- Go camping at least 5 times this year- It's been too cold for us to go camping. We normally don't start until about March. Looking forward to it though!

-Plant the girls a large wildflower patch for them to make bouquets out of - I ordered some seeds and we have been talking about it, but we haven't planted yet. Looking forward to it though.

- plant 2 additional fruit or nut trees- Nothing here yet either. Still planning on it though. Maybe another pecan tree and maybe a nother fig tree?? I haven't decided yet.

- Earn at least $100 in Amazon codes from Swagbucks and/or Irazoo - use these for Christmas - I have $10 so far that I have earned from Swagbucks, and I have $5 pending from Irazoo, so let's just call it $15 out of the $100. Not bad.

-Make fresh, homeade peanut butter with the girls - :( wow this is kind of depressing. I haven't done this yet either.

- Host a giveaway on my blog - Nothing here, I have a few ideas though for something soon.

- have 50 followers on my blog - I have 16 followers out of the 50! Thanks guys!