Now before you start picturing me on my soap box shouting at you about moving off grid and living solely off the land… that’s not what this is.
I think we can probably agree that self-sufficiency is a good thing. It’s common sense, right? But for those of us who have chosen to follow Christ, we always want to shine the light of scripture on the decisions that we make in life. So that led me to the question, what does the Bible say about this way of life that we have chosen? Is this just some silly whim that my Mountain Man hubby and I have found ourselves following or is there more to it than that? Are we crazy to be actively working towards a life that does not require him to work a regular 9:00-5:00 job outside the home?
Well, the Lord put some scripture in front of me during my morning devotions a few days ago that about knocked me off of my chair (Proverbs always does that too me, especially early in the morning.)
Proverbs 27:23-27 (NLT)
23 Know the state of your flocks,
and put your heart into caring for your herds,
24 for riches don’t last forever,
and the crown might not be passed to the next generation.
25 After the hay is harvested and the new crop appears
and the mountain grasses are gathered in,
26 your sheep will provide wool for clothing,
and your goats will provide the price of a field.
27 And you will have enough goats’ milk for yourself,
your family, and your servant girls.
Again, I’m not saying that everyone is supposed to abandon life as they know it and start farming; however, there is a very clear message here regarding the dependency on money and position as well as dependency on comforts and conveniences handed down by previous generations.
In fact, I believe there are 3 principles in this passage regarding self-sufficiency.
vs. 23 Know the state of your flocks, and put your heart into caring for your herds.
These days, not everyone has a flock of goats or sheep on the back 40. But we are all given blessings in our lives that we are to take stewardship of. Whether it be our animals and fields if we are farming or the career that provides our income we are to “know well” their condition and pay attention to our current financial situation.
So what does this look like in practice? If you have a farm, are your animals well fed and taken care of, are they ill and in need of doctoring? Are you caring for your garden well and using up the food that you’ve been blessed with or are you letting it go to waste? And if you are not farming, are you working hard for your employer and proving yourself a valuable employee? Are you being smart with your money and living within your means? These are all questions that we need to be asking ourselves. In general, we need to be asking, “am I a good steward?”
2. Money isn’t everything
vs. 24 for riches do not last forever, and the crown may not be passed to the next generation.
Money and position are fickle things and it is dangerous to become too reliant on our current financial status or the conveniences that make us comfortable. There are no guarantees in life, and if you are living outside your means in order to maintain that status you are putting yourself and your family at great risk.
It is imperative to plan ahead for the event when that paycheck might not come. An illness or injury can take away your ability to work outside the home at any time. Even if you were born into wealth this verse is a clear warning (“…the crown may not be passed to the next generation.”
Whether you are naturally inclined to a “prepper” mindset or not, the fact of the matter is that disaster can strike, whether it be a natural disaster or even war, political unrest, economic collapse… hard times can come and if you aren’t prepared your family will suffer. Have a back up plan, build a savings account that can keep you afloat in hard times and keep a small store of long term storage food and supplies that can sustain your family in the event of an emergency.
3. There is wisdom in good ole fashioned self-sufficiency.
vs. 25-27 After the hay is harvested and the new crop appears and the mountain grasses are gathered in, your sheep will provide wool for clothing, and your goats will provide the price of a field. And you will have enough goats’ milk for yourself, your family, and your servant girls.
This passage is pointing to both the wisdom of having a back up plan for provision that is not dependent on others and of the satisfaction of a job well done, reaping the benefits of nature that God has provided us with. Again, I’m not saying that everyone is supposed to abandon life as they know it and go off grid; however, if you believe in the true infallibility of scripture then you have to take each passage for exactly what it says. There is a beautiful connection between man’s labor and the nurture of God that modern society so often neglects. He created this world, rich with the things that will sustain us and keep us healthy, and although our world today is making that more and more of a fairytale, we need to get back in touch with that connection between our labor and God’s gifts in and on this earth.
I recently read a wonderful description of self-sufficiency or subsistence living as “removing the middle man” from the equation. In these modern times most people trade their time and labor for a paycheck in order to acquire food and shelter. Self-sufficiency simply removes the middle man so that you are working to provide food and shelter in a more direct way.
Take a few moments and read these verses over again. What is the Lord showing you? The word of God is living and active, even verses that we may tend to view as “out of date” or “no longer applicable” are meant to encourage us, admonish us and instruct us. I urge you to apply these verses to your own life today.
This summer I was in a scramble for a spelling curriculum. My daughter was getting ready to start 1st grade(ish). (One of the beauties of homeschooling is that we don’t have to conform to one grade, or one curriculum, or one… anything!)
Now, I know that spelling in the first grade isn’t actually a necessity but I felt like it would help her with her confidence in reading. I knew that if we backed up her current reading level with similar spelling words or word families that she would start to gain some proficiency and confidence.
At first, I asked around my local homeschooling circles and found a few wonderful curriculums, but I just wasn’t feeling it. I decided that (at least at this current stage) we needed to keep it simple. You see, one of the beautiful things that I have learned while being involved in Classical Conversations is to keep things “stick and sand.”
The premise of “stick and sand” is that you really don’t need anything more than a stick and some sand to teach your child. Leigh Bortins, founder of Classical Conversations encourages us to ask ourselves,
“If I only had a stick and sand, could I engage and effectively dialogue with my students about the concept I want to teach them?”
First, I searched online for a weekly first grade spelling list. Once I found one that I liked, I just wrote the words out on our little dry erase board that hangs above the girls’ work table. They also have their own small dry erase boards to write on. (Here is an affordable way to make your own dry erase boards. This is what we use, not only at home, but at our CC Community day as well.) If you do not have (or do not want to make your own dry erase boards,) a simple paper and pencil approach is just fine. (Remember, stick and sand.) We love using dry erase boards because lets face it, to the tiny humans, EVERYTHING is more fun while writing on dry erase boards.
Each day while I am getting other things ready for our school day, my 6 year old copies each of the words (my 4 year old attempts to copy 2-3 words, which is quite a stretch but REALLY great practice.). That’s it, spelling done for the day and it only took 5 minutes.
So let me show you what it looks like during our personal school week.
Day 1: Have your child copy the words from the board onto their personal dry erase board (or paper.)
Day 2: Copy the words from the board using magnet letters and a cookie sheet (their favorite.)
Day 3: Copy the words from the board using these awesome, dry erase word family wall hangings.
Day 4: At the end of the week, we have our spelling test. I take my board down and dictate the words to her while she (only my 6 year old participates in this test) writes them out from memory.
Simple copy work is a very helpful tool and a fundamental piece of classical education. It accomplishes training in multiple areas all at once (integration of subjects is a very important part of Classical Education.) While the student is copying down the words, they are practicing not only spelling but also reading, hand writing, sitting quietly, fine motor skills, and strength in hands for writing. All of this in one quick, simple lesson that requires very little one on one help from you (which frees you up to tend to a sibling, switch loads of laundry or empty the dish drain.)
It’s that simple. For now at least, this method is working great for us. In the future I intend to start using more copy work but I know that for right now, this was all that we need.
I just thought I would share this for any of you with younger kids who are just starting out or who do not have the money for an expensive spelling curriculum right now. I cannot stress enough that YOU ARE ENOUGH. You do not have to have an expensive curriculum (although in some cases it is very nice.) Keep it simple, keep it “Stick and Sand.”
*Disclaimer* The dry erase, magnets and wall hangings are all things that are a little step up from “stick and sand” but I really lucked out at a yard sale this year and got some great school supplies from my dear sis-in-law/former kindergarten teacher. If you don’t have these supplies on hand, USE WHAT YOU HAVE or what you can find affordably. Pencil and paper are JUST FINE!
Disclaimer: Okay so I think one of the tiny humans around here deleted a bunch of my pictures so this post is going to be hit and miss on the visual aid. I do, however, have about 50 of these…
MOVING ON…a few weeks ago I posted about my self-inflicted “Chopped Challenge.” If you missed it, you can check it out here.
My first and only rule at the time of posting was NO grocery shopping (aside from a small budget for fresh produce & milk). However, after some further consideration, I decided to make the challenge of decluttering more effective and more in the spirit of the show “Chopped.”
As I said in my previous post, I love the challenge of using 3 random ingredients that makes the show so entertaining. But although it would be REALLY fun to pick 3 totally random things from the cupboard to use each night, I think my dear Mountain Man might not find it so entertaining after an entire month of eating random concoctions. And so, with all that in mind, Rule #2 was born.
Rule #2: 3 items must be chosen for supper each night. One item from the pantry, one item from the freezer and one from the refrigerator.
Here is how it played out for the first week. .
Day 1: Thursday 1/5/2017
“Basket” ingredients: shrimp, random selection of canned tomatoes, bell pepper.
I rummaged the kitchen freezer today knowing that was the most important disaster area in this whole challenge. I struck gold. SHRIMP! We love shrimp, but frugal as we tend to be, it is something reserved for special occasions when we make our favorite jalapeno poppers. Apparently the last TWO times I made poppers we had some shrimp left over and I tucked them away in the freezer for a rainy day… a day that never came. This is the problem with clutter. You have gold hidden in there somewhere and you can’t find it because it’s impossible to see the forest through the trees (or the shrimp behind the cheese.) I remembered a dish that I use to make back in our dual income days when we actually bought shrimp. I searched the pantry and fridge for the necessary ingredients and… viola! Shrimp Creole. mmmm… I was lacking a few of the typical ingredients but I had enough to get by and it was delicious.
Day 2: Friday 1/6/2017
“Basket” ingredients: Tostada Shells. Ground Elk Meat, Lettuce
This meal is one of my more standard quick fixes but I found the half used bag of tostada shells in the pantry and figured we might as well cross that one off my list. Add some home canned pinto beans & salsa, and some diced onion and… Ta Da! Tostados. (I would typically use diced tomatoes and my homemade taco sauce for these, but I was out of the taco sauce and didn’t really have time to whip up more. I’ll share how to make homemade taco sauce on another day.)
Day 3: Saturday 1/7/2017
“Basket” ingredients: Frozen (leftover) Kraut Burger filling, Potato salad, basic dough ingredients from the pantry
So I wasn’t crazy creative on this one either, but when you find Kraut Burger filling in the freezer… Kraut Burgers it is! It was simple to whip up some basic pizza dough for the crust and pair it with some leftover potato salad from the fridge that I didn’t want to waste. Some days you just need to keep things simple.
Day 4: Sunday 1/8/2017
“Basket” ingredients: Pork Chops, Caesar Salad Dressing, Bacon Salt
This simple Pork Chop supper was born from the grand invention of the hubby coming home and asking for grilled pork chops. For my sides I made baked potatoes topped with homemade bacon salt and roasted some Brussel sprouts tossed with the last of a bottle of Caesar salad dressing from the fridge that needed to be used up. Easy Peasy… Pork Chop Supper!
Day 5: Monday 1/9/2017
“Basket” Ingredients: Ground Pork, Shredded Cabbage, Liquid Aminos
We spent the day in town buying supplies for our current renovation and it turned into a long, stressful, rainy day. It was 7:30 PM by the time I started cooking and I needed something easy. I cooked up some ground pork, shredded cabbage & carrots and thinly sliced onions. Added some liquid aminos and we had some excellent… Egg Roll in a bowl (Adapted from the THM cookbook, a really great resource for healthy cooking.)
Day 6: Tuesday 1/10/2017
“Basket” Ingredients: Canned Mexican Corn, Frozen (leftover) Mexican Rice, Diced Bell Peppers and Onions
I found some leftover Mexican rice that I had previously frozen, mixed with browned elk meat, pinto beans, more diced peppers and onions and a few other things thrown into a skillet. Almost like Taco Soup, but with the added brown rice and a skillet meal rather than soup. Again, similar to a recipe found in the THM cookbook, but basically good ole fashioned fill your belly food.
Day 7: Wednesday 1/11/2017
“Basket” Ingredients: Frozen Turkey, Letter shaped Pasta , Carrots
This meal was our lunch meal and therefore quick and simple, but it was super fun for the girls. I found some letter shaped pasta in the cupboard, cooked it in some homemade bone broth, added Frozen turkey, carrots and celery and abbra-cadabra… Alphabet soup!
So as you can see it was a busy week for us and most meals were simple “go-to” meals that I make frequently but what a relief to just use what I have on hand and not have the big weekly grocery shopping trip.
The biggest accomplishment this past week that I am SUPER STOKED about was my kitchen freezer. I spent an afternoon emptying the entire freezer and got rid of everything that had been in there too long and had become freezer burnt. It was a bummer and very embarrassing to see the 5 gallon bucket of food that I tossed out. 90% of it was little bits of leftovers that I thought I would use up but because the freezer was so crammed full, I never knew what was in there. I was annoyed with myself for allowing all that food to go to waste over the last year. but the result? Organization and minimalism at it’s finest. I now know everything I have in there and am using it all up efficiently and easily.
I would encourage any of you who are considering a similar endeavor to start by cleaning out your freezer! Only toss out what is freezer burnt and cannot be used. Organize your shelves by category and start using up all that food that you still have. It is SO worth it!
Click here to see my next (and last) post in this mini-series to see how it all turned out.
Well, the new year is here and although it may be cliché, I can’t help but look forward to the opportunity for a fresh start. There is something about a brand new, clean calendar and day planner to make me want to change my ways. And after failing, once again, to avoid the excess sugar of the holiday season my body starts to crave that fresh start as well. So call it cliché if you want but I LOVE resolution season.
One thing that I am really looking forward to making a focus in 2017 is MINIMIZING! I plan to go through my whole house, our property… our life really…and declutter!
I am NOT a type A personality. But I really want to be. I was born with the misfortune of longing for the organization and cleanliness of my mother and maternal grandmother, but alas, I was not born with that gene. I love organization, really I do, but it fails to come naturally for me.
Whether it comes naturally to us or not, organization IS possible, some of us just have to have a little help, a lot of determination and a LOT LESS STUFF.
So I have made my plan on how to start off my new year of minimizing and combining it with my need to get back on the frugality train as well. I am going to make a bit of a game out of it and I’d love for you to follow along in my fun!
I am designating January 2017 as my “Chopped Challenge.”
Being a total foodie, I am a Food Network junkie and one of my favorite shows to watch is Chopped. The idea of being faced with 3 REALLY random ingredients and having to make something enjoyable to eat (using the pantry stocked with basic staples) is really entertaining and stretches my own imagination wondering just what I would do with fruit loops, champagne vinegar and Nori.
So in the spirit of Chopped, and in an effort to declutter my kitchen cupboards and fin
d along with it some much needed grocery budget savings, this is what I came up with.
(My food hording skills are unmatched… and embarrassing.)
This challenge will also help me refocus on the true homesteading mentality. The past year came with some extra business/craziness and to be honest I have fallen off of the wagon and very much back into reliance on the grocery store. GASP!
I am a bad, bad homesteader and should be stoned for my wicked ways.
(Only kidding, the truth is we all have busy crazy times in our lives where we are going to lose track of what is important to us or when we are truly unable to keep up. It’s really no big deal. We just need to jump back on the wagon.)
So here are the rules… or the rule I guess as it pretty much comes down to one thing.
NO grocery shopping in January except for a small budget for fresh produce and the fresh raw milk we buy from the farmer down the road (having fallen off of the wagon a bit this year I did not stock the cellar with winter vegetables as well as I should have and aside from a LOT of pumpkin, I have no other homegrown goodness left.)
- NO buying meat (because our freezers are well stocked with pork, elk, deer and salmon from last years self sufficiency efforts and a small amount of chicken that I already have on hand from my last trip to Sam’s Club)
- NO buying of processed/packaged food. I have some on hand already that I will use up in order to not be wasteful, but once we are out, that’s it.
I would love it if you would follow me along on my silly challenge this month, and keep me accountable. I don’t think there will be any adventures using fruit loops and Nori, but it should be rather entertaining.
To see how it all turned out, you can follow these links.