A Morning on The Farm

Dawn breaks on our view

Dawn breaks on our view

The girls are ready to be let out.

The girls are ready to be let out.

 

The garden isn't looking like much,  but take a closer look. . .

The garden isn’t looking like much, but take a closer look. . .

A row of onions has overwintered and is stretching arms high to meet the rising sun.

A row of onions has overwintered and is stretching arms high to meet the rising sun.

Spinach and lettuce have sprouted.

Spinach and lettuce have sprouted.

And there will be peas for shelling.

And there will be peas for shelling.

What a blessed life we live!

 

 

 

You Don’t Have To Be An Expert

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Looking back over our journey there is one factor that has held us back most.

I don’t know. . .

I don’t know how.

I don’t know if it will work.

I don’t know if we’ll like it.

Well, I’m here to tell you.

If you don’t know how, do a quick internet search, ask a neighbor or go to the library.  Once you’ve done that, if you’re still unsure, just go ahead and poke your toe into the water.  I won’t say dive in with your eyes closed.  Proceeding slowly, however, there is much about farming, (and just about everything else) that can be learned along the way.  So your chickens get a little too much scratch at first.  You’ll soon notice egg production “lay off” and make an adjustment.  So your garden doesn’t produce well, make a note and try something different next year.  You’ll learn.

If you don’t know if it will work, again, internet, library, neighbor.  And again, poke that toe into the water.  Move slowly, try not to spend too much, and make adjustments as you go.

If you don’t know if you’ll like it, there’s one sure way to find out.  Remember the first time Mom put broccoli on your plate?  Well, maybe not.

But she probably said, “How can you know you don’t like it if you’ve never tried it?”

Find a neighbor with goats and ask if you can taste the milk.  Chicken-sit for a weekend. Grow a few tomatoes in a pots.  Again, moving slowly and trying not to spend too much, you’ll get a good idea if this is the path for you.

Bottom line is that you need not be an expert to get a start.  Even the “experts” had to start somewhere.  If you find you don’t like keeping chickens, gardening, baking your own bread, or milking a goat, put an ad on craigslist and another upstart can benefit from your experience, while you make back some of your investment.  And remember, the modern world will probably be waiting for you with open arms.

There is very little in life that can’t be undone.  So dispense with the “I don’t knows” and go get your boots on!

 

 

 

If I Could Only Have Three

Recently I attended an essential oils class with some friends and one friend posed the question “If you could only have three, which would you choose?”

Now most of you know I am a huge fan of essential oils, and use them for many applications here, from health and beauty, to cooking and cleaning.  I like the way they work.  I really can’t imagine, now that we’re daily-users, ever having only three.

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If I had to choose, I’d narrow it down to. . .

  • Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia)  I mostly use this topically for cuts and scrapes, but it is also good for relaxation, immune support, allergy relief and just plain smells good.
  • Frankincense (Boswellia frereana) I use this to improve skin condition, improve brain function, calm emotions, and for immune support.  Plus who wouldn’t want to smell like baby Jesus?
  • On Guard (a blend of wild orange peel, eucalyptus, Clove bud, Cinnamon bark, rosemary)  I use this to make my own household cleaners, to make my own sore throat syrup, diluted as a hand-sanitizer during flu season and applied to feet for immune support.  We’ve even used it in gel caps with olive oil to replace antibiotics. It worked as quickly as the antibiotics worked for a prior similar skin infection.  I know this is anecdotal, at best, but it did work for us.  We followed the same protocols as with “real” antibiotics, including using it for a full ten days even though the skin was healed within a week, and replacing gut flora with probiotics.

Of course I have to mention that nothing in this post is approved by the FDA or to be taken for medical advice.  If you have a medical concern don’t hesitate to call your healthcare provider.  You should always do your own research before using any alternative methods to treat yourself or your family.  I started with a great book by Valerie Ann Worwood, The Complete Book of Essential Oils & Aromatherapy. (affiliate link)  Beyond that, I like the information provided at Learning About EOs, and Everything Essential.me.  

Remember, just because something is natural, doesn’t mean it is risk free. Anything can be dangerous if used incorrectly.  Have you ever tried to take a deep breath of water? Wonderful stuff, good ol’ H2O, but if you use it wrong you’re in deep trouble.

Many EOs should be diluted for topical use, and most brands are not safe for ingestion. You really have to be diligent about knowing what you’re purchasing and how you’re using it.  I’ve heard of people ingesting them daily for ongoing health, but I wouldn’t do that any more than I would take an antibiotic indefinitely.  If it can kill MRSA in the lab, my guess would be it can wipe out normal flora in your gut.

I try to use common sense with anything and not get too wrapped up in hype and mommy trends, but this one really has worked well for us.  We still have a few “real” medicines, supplements and beauty treatments in our bathroom cabinet, but the EOs are quickly taking over.  I mostly use DoTerra Essential oils, but I don’t sell them, and I do occasionally get oils from other companies.  I’m not into the EO wars happening on online forums, which say company A adulterates their product, or company B, or C is run by a quack.

The bottom line is that each person has to do her homework and decide what works for her family.

What are your “Top Three”?

Happy Sunday!!

Winter is making it’s final  roar, this early March.  At least I hope it’s the final roar.  I know our winter has been mild and short, but I so want my toes in the dirt!

Our cat decided my pot of lettuce seedlings in the window looked like a good place to do his business, so I took a deep breath, reigned in the urge to kill him, and dumped the contents in the snow covered knapweed patch above the driveway.   Guess I’ll have to start over.  I have to get the potting stuff out anyway, since I still haven’t started my peppers and tomatoes (I know, I’m so late!), but it is disappointing nonetheless.  Especially since that freeloading cat isn’t even a good enough mouser to earn his keep.

Good Morning!

Good Morning!

Many hands make light work.  Who needs a bread machine?

Many hands make light work. Who needs a bread machine?

Mastering the fold. . .

Mastering the fold. . .

. . .and squish.

. . .and squish.

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Today, we’re all tucked snug into our little old farm house enjoying our Sunday.  I’m waiting for the bread we mixed up last night to finish it’s second rise, and the girls have made a “tiny house” in the living room.

Boxes for "walls" and couch cushions for "the bedroom"

Boxes for “walls” and couch cushions for “the bedroom”

Today is Daddy’s Birthday, so later we will join the family at the in-laws’ house for chili and fry bread, and cake.  Did you know that sometimes I cheat and use boxed cake mix?  It’s true, I do.  You may, however, take comfort in the fact that I use fresh homegrown eggs, and I don’t follow the directions.  I’m wild that way.

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Happy Sunday!

 

My Four Favorite Fixes For Sick Kids

With so many opinions out there as to what one can do when the kids get sick, I’m sure you aren’t hurting for advice.  And since I’m just a Mom, not a Doctor, I wouldn’t be qualified to give advice even if you did want it.  You should contact your healthcare provider for that.  But I’m an over-sharer, so I’m going to tell you how we handle sickness on the Half Acre anyway.

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We’re pretty laid back about sickness here. We’ve had the benefit of a Pediatrician with a soothing voice, and air of calm, who walked me through the first few colds/fevers with our oldest.  As a result I’m now the one with the soothing voice and air of calm.

So here are my four favorite ways to treat sick kids.

1) Do nothing.   I usually don’t treat anything, even fever, unless the kid is miserable to the point of being unable to rest, unable or unwilling to hydrate, or not improving for several days.

2) Snuggle.  Okay, I guess the above really can’t count as doing nothing because I will, and do, leap on any opportunity to snuggle.  I can usually gauge how ill the kid is by her willingness to snuggle.

3) Push fluids.  I usually stick with water, unless there is a reason to suspect dehydration, such as vomiting.  In that case I try to replace electrolytes by offering broth, ginger tea, or sometimes electrolyte replacing drink mixes.  When my oldest was around a year old, she had a miserable flu, and wouldn’t drink anything for me, so I used an oral syringe to carefully and slowly drizzle an ounce of Pedialyte in her cheek pocket once every hour until she would drink willingly. She was MAD!  But she didn’t get dehydrated.

4) On Guard.  With especially nasty bugs I use doTerra’s On Guard protective blend.  I usually use a few drops rubbed on the bottom of the feet.  For a sore throat, I mix it with raw honey and a little water and use as a cough syrup. We grownups have been known to take it in veggie caps, or in our tea.  In my experience it will fix up a sore throat in about a day when sipped in tea.  I’m not making claims here, just sharing my experience.  Also, I don’t sell doTerra, I’m just a really happy customer.  (If you’d like to learn more, visit my friend, Eve here)

Although we’ve been blessed with generally healthy kiddos, I haven’t always treated illness the way I do now.  It’s taken me seven years to cultivate my current attitude regarding what is or isn’t a serious medical issue, and I expect experience will change my views many more times over the course of motherhood.  We do not hesitate to avail ourselves of modern medicine when we feel it’s warranted.  We even keep a few “real” OTC meds around, but thankfully we rarely need to use them.

Obviously, we love our children, and don’t want them to suffer any more than they have to. We also don’t want to deprive them of an opportunity to develop a stronger immune system on their own.  Is this the only way to approach children’s health?  Nope.  It’s just our way.

What do you do when your babies are ailing?

 

 

 

Update On Straight Talk Wireless

Since my article on Straight Talk is consistently in my “top posts” list, I thought it was time for an update.

At the time of my previous post we were happy with the cell coverage, and with the price, but we were having issues with making payments, and with reaching customer service. At the time Straight Talk also wasn’t offering any really great phones.

Well I don’t know if a lot of folks made complaints and were heard, or if Straight Talk is just catching up with the times, but they’ve made improvements and I’m extremely happy with them now.

First, I finally signed up for auto refill, which I was hesitant to do before. I was concerned that I would forget a payment was coming out of my account and get overdrawn. I decided I just needed to get on top of it and remember it the way I do for Netflix, ABC mouse, and Hulu. Not that big a deal. I get a text message each month letting me know my service is about to refill, so if I need or want to I can go online and cancel the payment. I didn’t even have a problem updating my payment method when I recently switched banks.  My service has been seamless.

Second, they’ve gotten some really good phones on board and they allow you to bring your own phone by purchasing a SIM card from them. I finally went back to using a smart phone, the Huwei W2, a Windows 8 phone. It runs Pandora, Netflix, Hulu and all the games my kids want to play. We may use these features less than the average family, but we’ve never had a problem with the service getting bogged down and buffering a lot, except when we’re in poor cell coverage. At home, where there is no cell service, I am able to connect to wifi, which is nice when the rest of the family is hogging the media devices and I need to check my email.

It seems like the $45 Unlimited plan really is unlimited, which is getting to be a thing of the past with the other carriers.  Like I said, we may not use it as much as most folks do, but we haven’t gotten any nasty-grams about using too much data, and we’ve never been cut off.

As I said before, either enough folks complained and were heard, or Straight Talk finally caught up with the times.  They are providing comparable service to the “big guys” for no contract and at a reasonable monthly price.

I am currently a satisfied customer!

Happy New Year!

2013 has come to an end and looking back on my goals from this time last year I feel pretty good!  As usual, some things get pushed to the back burner, re-evaluated, or nixed altogether, but I did meet several goals and we’re closer in general to living the life we dream of.  I did do more hiking and camping, which automatically includes more time with the family, and adds exercise!  I only blogged about half as much as I had hoped, and my goal to bring the camera along was soon forgotten.  Perhaps a new goal should be saving up for a pocket sized and user friendly camera this year!

We haven’t gotten any measurable snow this winter (boo!) so on days when the fog clears and it is sunny, I’m resisting the urge to go dig in the garden.  It really is too early.  But a girl can daydream, and scheme.  I’ve been laying awake at night thinking of how I’ll reorganize the garden this spring.

This year I plan to move our berry bushes from where they are into the main garden.  Every year I end up with some wasted space in the garden which soon fills up with weeds.  I’ll move our berries from the “back forty” where they are often under watered and forgotten.  I’d also love to find space in the garden for some concord grapes.  We just finished the last jar of juice from a bunch of grapes we got from a friend two years ago, and I will definitely want our own source for more of that!  I can’t wait to get started!

We have plans in the works to cooperate with several neighbors in raising hogs this year.  I can’t wait for the home grown, sunshine happy, pork chops and honey glazed ham.  The  honey for glazing will also be home grown if our plans for a neighborhood hive work as we hope.  I’ve heard of folks having a hard time getting their hives established, but I’m not entertaining those thoughts today.

While I did do a better job of getting outside for hiking and camping  in 2013,  I plan to kick it up yet another notch this year!  If it would ever get around to snowing, we’ll be learning to cross country ski this winter.  With acres and acres of orchard and back roads at our disposal there really is no reason not to, except lack of snow.  Until the snow falls we’ll have to make ourselves content with long walks.  I’m excited at the thought of an entire summer with the kids, exploring the woods, enjoying the rivers and lakes, and digging in the dirt.  For me, there is not a  more fortifying exercise than being in the outdoors, enjoying the bounty nature has to offer.

To kick it all off I’m participating in a ten day Shakeology (affiliate link) challenge with some of my closest friends soon!  I’m blessed to have a neighborhood of like-minded mamas who support and encourage one another, with plenty of laughter and hugs, coffee, and wine.  Maybe we toss in a little competition to spice things up too.

My new job is off to a good start, and I do enjoy being on the same schedule as the kids. Is it a lifelong career?  I think perhaps no, but I do enjoy it, and I don’t have a solid idea what else I might do. For now, it is good for our family, and I think I’m good for the job, so no need to rush into more changes.

Here’s to a Happy and Blessed New Year!

What plans are you making?

 

Like the fireworks photo?  You can find more like it, for free, here!

 

 

Winter Unfolding

I was going to title this post “Fall and Winter Goals”, but perhaps it’s a little late to be setting goals for fall since snow is in the forecast and, relatively speaking, in the neighborhood.

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We’ve gotten most of our pre-winter tasks out of the way in the last few weeks. We’ve got plastic on our old single-pane windows, a new frost-free hydrant in the garden, leaves raked, and walnuts harvested.  We could have used more firewood, but what we’ve got will do.

With all of the essential outdoors chores out of the way, I’m starting to feel cozy and creative.  This time of year I love to make things and cook up a storm.  Nate has been asking for homemade bread, which I pretty much gave up on during the heat of summer. And the kids are wanting to do crafts.  Me too.

Araya and I are working on an apron for her Our Generation doll (Target’s AG knock off). It’s her first sewing project, and her seven-year-old fingers aren’t doing too bad a job, if I do say so myself.  On my own sewing docket you’ll find a batch of baby-doll diapers and bibs, for both little girls, who are currently baby-doll crazy, but have plenty of dolls.  This will be the perfect use for an old flannel sheet who’s partner grew threadbare and got tossed out, and for all the girls’ adorable receiving blankets I can’t bear to get rid of.   Shhh, it’s a surprise for Christmas, don’t tell them!

I’m also working on my very limited knitting and crochet skills.  I crocheted a hat for an Our Generation Doll last week, and now I’m working on the matching hat for Araya.  We’ll see. It’s gotten a little wonky, but I don’t know where I went wrong, so I don’t want to indiscriminately rip it out.  Big Sigh. How does the old saying go?  Ripping is part of knitting?  But this is crochet!

The sewing room/man cave combo has become a dumping ground for our infrequently used items, and having my sewing machine in there has made it, too, infrequently used. I’m going to keep my crafting supplies in there, but we moved the sewing machine back down to the living room, so that I’ll use it more.  It’ll also be nice to have a desk space when the sewing machine is closed up.  I’m tired of having all of my computer stuff stacked up by the couch.

The new job is going well, and I’m really enjoying all the extra time I get to spend with the kids.  The reduced income is working out so far.  I won’t say we haven’t noticed, but we were prepared, and I think that softens the blow, at least for me.  Nate is a little stressed out when he looks at the numbers, but only because he likes to see a big margin, and he liked being able to make spur of the moment purchases.  My greatest struggle continues to be cooking at home instead of getting take-out when we are short on time.  When I remember to plan ahead, my crock-pot is my best friend for Camp Fire and Gymnastics nights.

Winter is shaping up to be great fun this year, and I’m looking forward to snow, hot cocoa, and fire-lit evenings snuggling the family around the Christmas tree.

How is your winter unfolding?

 

 

 

 

A Discipline Toolbox

At the risk of sounding like I’m tooting my own horn, people often ask me how I get my children to be so well-behaved.  Today I’m going to attempt to answer that question as honestly as possible.  I think I can boil it down to four main points.

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  1. They’re faking it.  They are on their very best behavior, and I’m using my “good mom voice” because you’re watching.  We are a normal family.  We have normal children who occasionally talk back, openly defy us, and fight with one another.  They don’t do these things all the time, but when they do, there is a consequence. Sometimes the consequence comes from Mom and Dad, and sometimes it is a natural consequence of the situation.
  2. Luck.  I have to attribute some of our kids’ good behavior to luck.  We are really laid back, and luckily, our kids seem to be pretty laid-back too, which leads to a mostly calm atmosphere at our house.
  3. We took a parenting class.  That’s right, when our girls were nearly two and nearly four years old, it became clear that we didn’t have all the answers, so we went looking for them.  We attended an all-weekend seminar called Parenting With Love and Logic.(affiliate link)  It was kind of a bummer way to spend an entire weekend, but ultimately it was well worth it.  It changed our lives at the time, as we had a couple of little petunias who were quickly learning how to push every button we had.  Parenting With Love and Logic focuses on lovingly letting our children have the consequences of their poor choices, so that they may learn from their mistakes while their mistakes are small.  We don’t use every single tool we learned in the class, but the ones we used right away have had lasting benefits.  Our favorite by far was the Uh-Oh Song. We used a pack-n-play in the living room instead of her bedroom, but it’s the same idea.  Our 18 month old would sit on my feet and scream any time I was engaged doing anything that didn’t directly involve her.  I’m the first to acknowledge that children need to be held and loved and given attention, but I believe in letting them learn to be independent as well.  It’s simply not realistic for me to physically hold a child all day.  Within three days of implementing the uh-oh song, there were no more “mommy’s washing the dishes” fits.  A close second-favorite is giving choices when things are going well, so that kids get a sense of control over their fate.  It comes in really handy.  For instance, if I get a feeling they are going to resist bedtime on a given night, I’ll stop everything about half an hour before our normal bedtime and ask if they’d like to go to bed now or in half an hour.  They always choose to stay up for another half-hour, which makes them deliriously happy.  It also puts them in bed right on time, which makes me deliriously happy. When they grow up and read this they’ll probably feel betrayed.  But then they’ll use the same tool with their kids-because it works.  
  4. We have a routine.  Routine. Routine. Routine.  I’m a huge fan of giving kids a routine.  Does that mean we’re never out past bedtime, or we turn down invitations in favor of nap time?  No. It does, however, mean that most average days at our house look the same.  Our kids pretty much know what to expect from their day.  It’s comforting to them, and I find it really minimizes moodiness.  When our kids are being really rotten, I can usually trace it back to a deviation from, or change in the routine, such as a late night visiting friends, or starting a new sport.  I mentally give it a couple days to settle out, while letting them have the appropriate consequence for their behavior. When they were babies I used advice from the books On Becoming Baby Wise, (affiliate link) and On Becoming Toddler Wise (affiliate link) to get us started on a routine and a sleep schedule, and I was able to change it to fit our needs as they got older.  I loved the common sense approach and attest that it worked for us.  We’ve  been getting good night’s sleeps around here for years.  (Okay, that’s not true.  I never get a good night’s sleep, it’s just not who I am, but the rest of the family is out cold from 8 pm ’till morning.)

The bottom line is that you don’t have to use every bit of good advice you ever get. Choose a few tools that work well for you, and stick with them consistently.  Good behavior isn’t usually something that will just happen on it’s own.  Don’t be afraid to ruin your kid’s day with a well-placed consequence.  After all, isn’t it really she, that ruined it by making a poor choice?  Don’t be afraid to give the gift of the consequence as often as it is necessary. Don’t be afraid.  You’re the parent.  They are looking at you to try and figure out who it is that they are supposed to be.  Help them figure it out with consistent, loving guidance.

What are your favorite tools?