Getting Things Done

The new year has begun and I gave my self a rather vague but lofty goal for the year.  This is a year that will hold one theme through the days…getting things done.

Vague I know, but very powerful when you take a step back and realize that we, or at least I, often do not take the time to simple complete a task.  Like what you may ask?  Well one quick example I can think of is a black and white quilt.

Yes, a black and white quilt that I have had it since our second year of marriage…we just celebrated our nine year anniversary in September.  I had all of the squares completed and really it was looking great.  Then I got a job at a bank and felt overwhelmed with the quilt project.  So, silly me, I put it into a box and there it sat until recently.

In the spirit of getting things done I managed, with only a few minor mistakes, to get the quilt top completed!  The only thing stopping me currently from continuing farther is a trip to the fabric store.  Sir Swine has decided that a queen size is nice but a king size would be better, and I am inclined to agree.  Once the last piece of fabric is purchased  I will continue on and update you all as well.

What else does it mean to get things done?  On the first of the year Sir Swine and I rented a blower and blew insulation into the attic of the new pig finishing shed we had built.  We had waited thinking it would be a daunting task but it only took us a few hours and a very cold time outside. *side note: Thank you to my Mom for watching the boys while we did this.*  Insulation complete, heating bill less, and peace of mind.

When it comes to New Year’s resolutions we often come up with lofty goals that are new projects or plans for ourselves.  Really I think one of the best things we can do is to take a step back and ask ourselves “What is getting in my way, bogging me down, or holding me back?”.  There really is no better feeling than that of success from finishing a project.

I should know, I just took on the task of cleaning a few cabinets in the kitchen island that have become the “dump all” location in the house.  Do you have one of those?  I will say it feels great to know that they are more organized now. Unfortunately, I also realized I have way to many cleaning products and I also found a few long forgotten kitchen rag knitting projects I had been working on.

No matter, I will simply add them to the mental list, or physical pile, of things that I am going to get done this year.  No more waiting to get things done.  This is the time to simply get them done.

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I’m off to clean the fridge, that is after all what super women do.

Happy homesteading.

What do you need or want to get done this year?

As the New Year Approaches…

As the new year approaches I am often left in thought about how our society puts so much pressure on us to improve ourselves.  While finding ways to be healthier, happier and save more money are all great things, who is “society” to tell us how we should be living?
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The famous New Year’s Resolution is one that can cause a lot of pressure to be placed on oneself.  Often times these resolutions are unrealistic and simply cause further distress to us since we set ourselves up to fall short of our goal.

So as the new year arrives I encourage you to follow these three simple steps to creating a resolution that does the most important thing out there, supports you.  It’s time for you to do what you want and feel good about it.  Here are the three steps to help you create the best resolution for yourself and not our society.  Happy New Year!

#1:  Consider a Realistic Goal that Brings You Joy and Happiness

What better way to ensure success than to plan for something realistic! Making a realistic goal allows you the opportunity to reach the challenge you have set. In return this will bring you more joy and happiness. So keep it logical and you will be happy you did.

#2:  Create an Action Plan of Attainable Steps

This is basically your goal taken and shortened into more manageable daily, weekly or monthly pieces.  Having a plan of clearing ten acres of land or losing fifty pounds in a year is very realistic.  However, if you do not take the steps to make it into smaller bite size pieces you will be left feeling overwhelmed by the massive overall picture.

Take the time to calculate out what you can be doing each month.  Starting there allows you to really chip away at the big picture.  Then pencil in time during each month that you are going to dedicate to this goal.  That could be working out twice a week, setting aside a weekend a month to clear land, or researching the process of owning your own bees.  This is your goal!  Don’t let me or society decide how you should approach your dream.

#3:  Take Steps Toward Success and Map Your Progress

Often times, at least for myself, I want to see success right away but that may not be the case. If you have set a challenging goal for yourself it could take six months or even the full year before you have completed it.

That’s ok but I suggest milestone markers to celebrate along the way.

Nothing makes you work harder and feel more confident than achieving a bit of encouragement along the way. Make your overall all goal into manageable steps and CELEBRATE when you achieve them.

So the new year is here. Its time to decide what you would like to do differently or improve on this year. Take a moment to make a list and then halo yourself by making sure you are using these three dimple steps to help you reach your success.

Happy new year! And as always happy homesteading.
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Teaching Life Skills From “The Past”

As a Mom I am always trying to find new and creative ways to engage my children when it comes to their education.  Having two very busy and inquisitive boys makes it a further challenge but also one that I am willing to try to win.

With the holidays just around the corner I could not help but think that gifts outside of the normal box (literally) would be a great choice for our kids.  Why not an experience?

More and more parents in our society are stepping away from the store bought goods and working to engage their families in experiences.

For example learning to cook and bake from scratch.  Kids, including my own, are now learning the basic skills to cook that many children knew when they were three and four back in the day.

When I say back in the day I should make note that we have just finished reading Farmer Boy and started The Adventures in the Northwoods Series for the boys for school.  “Back in the day” when all you had, you had worked for every moment of the day.  When a loaf of bread took four hours of work and not just a stroll to the store.  I think you see what I’m saying.

There is no more humble way to show your child their lesser qualities than to read books like this.  It is a rather abrupt way to explain better behavior.  Children being seen and heard, doing chores, never talking back to an adult, knowing where their food came from and actually being part of processing it.

These life skills that were the norm in the olden days are finally making a comeback and I for one want my children to have an opportunity to join in.  But it is not just “country kids” doing this.

You now see in cities beekeepers, small gardens and even chickens.  Parents are striving to teach their children where their food comes from.  And really that is a fantastic life lesson for them to know.  Plus they are earning it.

Here in the Mid-West we have just finished up hunting season.  Every year the facebook post comes up on someone’s page showing that famous statement saying we should “buy our meat at the store where no animals were harmed”(and I paraphrase there).

WHAT!?!?!

Yes, that’s right some people still do not know that their food, though in a grocery store, still came from an animal.  Do you think the same thing could be said about many of the other goods we purchase?  I bet so.

My search to educate my boys on all things life skills led me to several great resources.  I hope you will take a moment or two to visit the links I have attached below.

While I feel strongly about food preservation and gardening I cannot help but think that my boys would love a boat building or blacksmithing course.  And really where else will they see these lost arts?

Note** our county fair still has a blacksmith come in one day so be sure to see if yours does as well.  It is a joy to watch and makes you appreciate every spoon you own.

So now is your chance!  Go out an google search your area for some of those folk skills that are passing us by.  Be the trend setter in your area to step out and have your child learn to cook or shoot a bow and arrow.

These lessons are some of the most influential.  And I’m sure they will be the ones most talked of and never forgotten.

Happy homeschooling and homesteading.

First I would like to say that I in NO WAY get any type of compensation from the below listed opportunities.  This is simply a list of things that I have found in our area that are jam packed with life skills that I hope to pass on to my children.  A chance to preserve a tradition in time.  Enjoy and please let me know which you love the most.

Kids Cook Real Food is a wonderful online course that you can purchase for your children.  I love this course for my kids!  Plus you purchase the course and you have it forever!  We got the lifetime membership of all three courses.  Montessori based and fun for the kids.  My boys love Miss Kimball.  Registration opens periodically so be sure to check back often.

Fiber Spinning Classes Independently run and currently participating in “pop-up classes”, Angora Gardens, offers a chance to take wool and make it into so much more.  Step-by-step instruction and hands-on help readily available.

Black Smith or Wood Crafts and much more. Boat building, jewelry, tools, art, weaving, food preservation, the list is endless with this place.  They also offer family courses. North House Folk School will soon be seeing my family and I once our boys are a bit older.  So thankful I found an opportunity like this close to home.

Sustainable Living or learning about growing your own food.  Try Eagle Bluff Skills School.  There is not better way to understand how to survive than to take part in a sustainable living or self-wellness course.  And if you are up for a fun weekend with the spouse why not try the homemade beer making course?  Prices are very reasonable!

 

Changing Seasons On the Homestead

Fall is upon us here on the homestead.  Winter is quickly following in its’ footsteps and I am relived to say that I am finally in good health.

My fall season is the hardest I have ever had, and that includes two pregnancies previously.  From the end of August up until the start of November I have been forced by my health to realize that I cannot do everything when I want to.  The sad part of that statement is that I am only 30.  Pneumonia, bronchitis, hospitalization and a nasal surgery later I am feeling better than I have in ages.

 

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The joy of having my honey harvest in my window.

 

The change of seasons on the homestead is such a busy time.  First you must get through canning and clearing out the garden.  Sadly, only part of my garden was cleared this fall.  I was able to push myself to complete the majority of my canning.  I will admit I still have a few tomatoes and a bunch of concord grapes that await their turn to be put into jars.  For now the freezer will keep them nicely.

We also have animals butchered in the fall.  I would love to butcher and process our own pigs right here on the farm but Sir Swine is always so busy and I do not know how to do it myself.  I personally feel that utube videos are not the place to start when processing a 250-300lb animal that you plan to eat.

I am a bit of a worry wart when it comes to safe food handling.

We now have our quarter of a beef and a whole hog waiting for their turn to be eaten.  I am reminded as Thanksgiving approaches that life is good and we should be thankful for all that we have.

Here on the homestead we had our first snowfall of the season.  It did not last long and has quickly melted away but the cold has decided to stay.

I’m disappointed that I was not able to get everything done that I had planned to but I am prepared to move into the next season of the year.

I wish you all a safe and happy Thanksgiving.   May you be reminded that there is much in your life to be thankful for.  Good health, warm homes, plenty of food to eat.  There are many that do not have such blessings in their lives.

 

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Tractor Man and Tag Along after picking pumpkins.

 

Be thankful for those small things.

Happy Thanksgiving and happy homesteading.

Homeschool, Quit Comparing

I’m a mom and a teacher.  Sometimes this is a blessing and sometimes it is a curse. Being a homeschooling mom I find that the line between the two is very difficult to see, until I have crossed it.

Tractor Man is in kindergarten and it is a very exciting and challenging time. He is exploring learning and finding interests but he also struggles with concentration and structure.  This has been a concern for me but I keep reminding myself that he is simply 5. 

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Fun at the library using individual ramps


At the age of five I used to fake sick everyday after lunch so I could go to work with my dad who was a self employed carpenter.  Unfortunately the school and my mom caught on after three weeks. The point is I get not wanting to do school when other things are more fun.  That’s what kids do.  I think adults would join them if they had the choice.

Yesterday I stopped at our local small town post office and ran into a friend. Between my feiend, the post office lady and myself a conversation started up on young kids learning. My friends kids are older than my own and she has one of each. The post office lady was talking about her daughter who is the same age as Tractor Man and how she is already making progress on the 100 book challenge.

Homeschooling, I couldn’t stop myself from comparing so I of course asked what the 100 book challenge was.  I felt so ashamed to find out that her daughter was already reading books on her own!  I mean great for her but all I could think was “oh crap, Tractor Man is behind for his age.  I have failed him!”. 

That’s what we do as homeschooling parents. We put these huge expectations on ourselves to have “the perfect school year” but lets face it, life happens. 

In college I learned a huge lesson, probably one of the most important things to stick with me from there and my years teaching public school.  No two children learn the same.

Did you catch that?!?!

No two children learn the same!

So why are we trying to force them to?  Why am I comparing Tractor Man to this little girl?  Shouldn’t I allow him to learn at a pace that is good for him? I can see he is growing in understanding his phonics lessons, he is challenged but making progress.  For now that is enough.

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Pumpkin patch picking.


At this point my friend piped up and also reminded me of another key thing about teaching. Boys versus girls.  Yup that’s right I said it.

We cannot compare boys levels of comprehension and learning to that of girls. Girls mature more quickly. Boys, well they are boys. And I mean that in the best way.

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Big Island Rendevous, a time for reliving history.


Boys are rambunctious and enjoy adventure. Sitting still all but disappears once they learn how to roll and crawl. 

Simply put, boys and girls should not be compared to one another when it comes to education.  Especially in the early years.

Homeschooling is a difficult task.  We all need to remember to not only put so much pressure on our children, but on ourselves in the process.

The key to a great education for young children is ingraining the important things deep.  At a conference I attended Andrew Pudewa once said and I paraphrase here “We want education to be an inch wide and a mile deep not a mile wide an an inch deep”.  Kids have different time lines for teaching those levels, so accept that and plan to spend the extra time helping them.

Although homeschooling is a challenge it is one worth the effort for our family.  Perhaps it is for yours as well.  Just remember as you go that no matter how challenging moments can get, forward progress is the sign that you are not failing your child. 

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Enjoy the ride.


I hope you all have children that are an inch wide and a mile deep.  You can increase the inch as they grow older…happy homeschooling.

They Were Robbed!

Everyone knows that homesteading if full of ups and downs.  So is life for that matter. When it comes to growing food and maintaining animals on the homestead there is only so much we can do.  Although we wish that was not the case, some elements are simply out of our control.

This year I had a great first season with my bees.  We extracted about twenty pounds of honey at the end of August. They were a very busy bunch and have done so well this year. Sir Swine has even taken a shine to watching them fly about doing their own thing.  And happily no stinging!

Sunday I gathered my energy, I have been very ill, and went out to feed my bees.  The nectar flow for the season has ended and to ensure a good group of brood for winter you need to feed your bees.  This is the job of a good beekeeper, which I hope to be.  Upon arriving at the hive I was shocked and devastated.

Where my hive normally can be found calm with moderate activity of my bees coming and going instead I found a frenzy of bees. Many of these bees were fighting, and honey bees fight to the end to protect their years hard work.

I knew instantly that these were not my bees. We were being robbed! 

Tag Along had followed me part way and I yelled for him to go get Dad.

After many different attempts to rid the hive of the robber bees (no we did not open up the hive and please know you should NEVER do that when other bees are present it makes for an easy entance) we finally decided to ruin an extra screen for a window.

Sir Swine went in with the screen cut into various pieces and a stapler and did his best to seal up every crack, crevice and of course the entrance. With thousands of unwanted guests buzzing around the hive there was nothing more we could do. 

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Robbing bees flying around and trying to get into the hive.

Early this morning, long before the bees begin their day, Sir Swine went out with a flashlight to look inside our hive.  The damage has been done. He found only a small cluster of bees in the upper box all on one frame.  This gives me hope that the queen is still alive but I worry the numbers are to low with winter approaching so quickly.
We will be doing everything we can to help them along but the final outcome is really out of our control. 

Hopeful homesteading…

Homesteading Health

Of all the times of the year for a homesteader to go down the worst times are spring and fall.  This spring I ended up with an illness and surgery that followed.   A dear friend of mine was there to help me get cardboard between my tomato plants so my garden could flourish without to much weeding. Thank you Super Sarah!

Here now in the fall I have been experiencing illness again.  For the last four weeks I have been dealing with a bronchitis that simply will not let up. 

Sir Swine has been a trooper helping to try to keep the house up when I am not able.  Harvest season continues though my health does not allow me to work to my full capacity. We are trying. Much time has been spent cleaning and freezing our harvested produce so I can process it later.

When you homestead things need to be done.  It is as simple as that.  Getting them done when you are ill is no easy task.  But for the homesteading wife that likes to preserve as much food as possible for her family, the only thing worse than feeling crummy and exhausted is feeling that way and not having full jars and jobs completed.
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I apologize to everyone that my freezer fill up section was cut short a few weeks ago.  I will be resuming with several more recipes in the weeks to come.  My once stocked freezer has slowly been drained of all my homemade goodness.  I must say that I am thankful for having made those items ahead of time though.

Health on the homestead is an essential part of our lives.  Without good health we are simply unable to accomplish our way of life. 

Prepare yourselves for the cold and flu season that is ahead.  Now is the time to make fire cider, freezer meals, and homemade cough syrup-which also happens to use some great honey my bees provided this fall.

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Homestead honey


Wishing you all good health. Happy homesteading.

Freezer Fill Up:Day3-Freezer Apple Pies

It is day three of our freezer fill up.  I’m not sure about the rest of you but I really enjoy my sweets.  And no dinner is complete without a desert right?

Today’s freezer apple pie recipe is from my wonderful friend Super Sarah.  This lady has three beautiful children, another on the way and she still manages a farm with her husband and an amazing garden.  Thank you Super Sarah for this simple recipe!

Here is what you will need:
Pans

For the crusts:
1 3/4 cups Crisco or 1 1/2 cups lard
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 Tablespoon sugar
4 cups flour
1/2 cup cold water
1Tablespoon vinegar
1 egg

For the filling:
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 Tablespoon brown sugar (optional)

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This one didn't get to the freezer...

Alright, let’s get started on these pies!

Note: the crust recipe makes enough for at least two full sized pies top and bottom. This is not a single pie recipe.

First start your crust by mixing the flour, sugar, and salt in a large bowl. 

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Add the Crisco and use a pastry cutter in incorporate it until it is nice and crumbly.

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In another bowl mix your water, egg and vinegar. Whisk them together well and add to the dry ingredients.  Mix until well incorporated.

Seperate into 4 and place in plastic wrap in your refrigerator.

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While that sits chilling, mix the sugars, and cinnamon in a bowl (I’m relbelious and used the same bowl).  Start peeling and chunking your apples and add them to the cinnamon/sugar mixture.  Mix as you go to avoid browning.

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Once you feel you have enough to fill your pie shell, take your pastry out of the fridge and put it in your pans.  This is very forgiving pastry so I just pat it in since my roller and I have different ideas from time to time.

Optional at this point, is adding a handful of cornflakes to the bottom of your pan at this time.  It helps to absorb some if the moisture and you cannot tell they are in there even.

Fill the pie shells with your apple mixture.  Normally you would have these heaping full, but my pans have lids that I want to use so I had to tame it down a bit.  Feel free to fill as much as you wish.

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Another optional thing I do is to add just a tad of butter on top of the apples.  This is not necessary but who doesn’t like butter.

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Use remaining pastry to cover your pies.  Label them and freeze. To bake simple put in the oven at 350 degrees for an hour to an hour and a half.

Talk about a treat to have in your freezer.  This recipe is so simple you cannot help but double it.  In just a few hours my sisters in law and I made eleven pies.

Go use those beautiful apples and fill up your freezer.

Happy homesteading!

Freezer Fill Up: Day 2-Chicken Pot Pie

It’s day two of our freezer fill up and I am so glad you are back.  Yesterday we covered freezer corn today we are moving on to a ready made meal. 

These are my favorite things to have on hand.  Delicious homemade goodness ready to be baked at a moments notice.

Today we are making freezer chicken pot pies!  Here’s the list of supplies you will need:
Chicken (I used thighs-2lbs)
Carrots, peas, potatos, corn, or any other veggies you like
An onion
Pastry or your own homemade ones. 
Salt, pepper and thyme

Alright lets get started. Please note when I made this batch I made enough for one large pot pie in a 9″ pie pan, and three 7″ disposable freezer pie pans.

First take your chicken and put it in a large stock pot with plenty of salt (2Tblspn) some pepper(1/2teaspoon) and half of an onion. Cover the chicken completely with water and bring to a light boil for an hour or until the chicken is fully cooked and fall’s apart easily.

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Chicken preparing

Let this cool and set to working dicing your veggies.  You can put in any vegetables you like. In our home the regular add in’s are potato, corn, carrots and green beans or peas.  We also add the other half of the onion.

Get a sauce pan nice and hot and melt three tablespoons of butter in it.  Then add your veggies.  Saute them for three to five minutes or until the vegetables are starting to turn. Potatoes and onion will become translucent.

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Sprinkle 1/4 cup of flour over the mixture and let it absorb all of the juices.

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Ladle the broth from the chicken pot into the sauce pan.  I added about three to four cups.  Liquid content is based on preference.

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Pull your chicken out and dice it all up. Add it to your pan as well and stir it all together.  Here I usually add salt and pepper to taste and thyme. 

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Using your pie pans fill each crust about 2/3rds full.  Do not over fill as this could boil over later. 

Place a crust on the top, label and freeze.  To cook simply pull from your freezer and bake at 350 degrees for about an hour.  Remove the lid part way through so you get a nice golden brown crust.

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Enjoy!  This is well worth the time when you have three spare meals frozen for later.

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Three dinners whenever needed.

Happy homesteading!

Freezer Fill Up-Day 1 Freezer Corn

Welcome to our first day of the Freezer Fill Up! I’m so glad you are here. I hope you are excited to fill up your freezers.

My inspiration for these posts is two fold.  First when you have a bounty or can buy inexpensive produce you should stock up while you can!  Second a recent illness has led my family to use up a lot of my freezer stock pile.

Today we are getting started with freezer corn.  This is my mama’s recipe and it is super easy.  Just the way I like things to work this time of year.  In two days I froze over 250 cups of corn!

Here is what you will need:
Freezer bags (lots of them in the size of your liking)
Canning salt
Sweet corn
Butter
Water (tap water is what we use)

That’s it!  Lets get started!

First get your corn off the cob.  You will need 16 cups of corn.

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Next put it in a big pot.  Add 4 cups of water, 1 stick of butter and 4 teaspoons of canning salt. 

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Bring the entire mixture to a boil.  Boil for 8 minutes. Then let it cool.

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Bag and freeze your corn. 

That’s it.  How simple is that! Of you have two pots going at the same time it goes by very quickly. I like to take my cooked stuff and place it in a big turkey pan to cool so I can keep things moving.

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My husking helpers.

See you tomorrow for more freezer fill up ideas!