5 Ways to Support your Immune System during CORONA-MADNESS 2020

Everyone is in a panic.

Toilet Paper, hand sanitizer and water are flying off the shelves like it’s a zombie apocalypse.

(And the media-hype fear mongers have you right where they want you.)

Fear.  It’s a powerful, tool in the hands of those who would want to control you.

CHILL.

Is it possible for a  major pandemic illness to sweep the country or the world?  Well, yes. It is possible…

Is this is the next black plague?  No.

However, it seems to be all anyone can talk about, so I’m here to share what my family is doing to avoid the the Corona Virus, Influenza, the common cold, the Black Plauge … and to keep the zombies at bay.

It’s very simple.

Keep calm & use common sense.

You don’t need more toilet paper. You need to KEEP YOUR IMMUNE SYSTEMS BOOSTED AND HEALTHY

The most important thing you can do for you and your family is support your internal health, your immune system. Yes, it’s important to wash your hands, try to avoid touching your face, etc. But if you are proactive with your health it will pay off in the long run.

I’ll break it down to 5 basic things:

  • Try to get a good nights sleep.
    •  Shut down electronics an hour before bed.
    •  Turn off your wifi before you go to bed.
    •  Diffuse (or apply topically) thereputic grade Essential Oils like Cedarwood, Lavender, Vetiver, Patchouli, & Chamomile

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  • Get lots of vitamin C – Don’t underestimate this. 
  •  Eat Healthy
    • Reduce your sugar intake (and quick sugar carbs like white bread & white rice)
    •  Focus on vegetables, fruits and protein.
    • Avoid processed, junk food

eat healthy

  •  Take Elderberry Syrup (or gummies) It’s super easy to make your own!
    • Click Here for more info and my super easy recipe.

Elderberry Collage

cold bomb

And let me just add one more thing. Call it a bonus.

STOP STRESSING

Stressing about this and giving into fear will actually compromise your immune system even more. Our body and brain are in constant communication and it has been proven that psychological upsets can result in physical symptoms. Our immune systems are affected directly by our stress levels.

So take a deep breath and chill out.  The zombies aren’t coming for your toilet paper.  You just need to support your overall health and immune system.

 

Life in Alaska at 60° below zero

With the world’s current fascination with life in Alaska, I thought it would be fun to give you a REAL life account of a day in the life. (As opposed to the over-dramatized versions you see on TV.)

Funny story, we have actually been contacted by a TV channel scout to be a part of a new Alaska show and had to laugh and say “No thanks.” Not only do I have no interest in a bunch of cameras following me around, I’m pretty sure everyone in our little community here would send us packing.

However, for the sake of giving the people what they want….

Here are three different perspectives of a day in Alaska at 60 degrees below zero from myself and my two good friends here who all live within about a 5 mile radius we have homeschool COOP together, take care of each other’s places and chores when someone is out of town and generally “do life” together.

So, do you ever wonder what life might be like during an Alaskan cold snap?

Here’s a glimpse:

Friday, January 10th, 2020

Eastern Interior Alaska

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Jodi’s Journal –

12:00 AM – I realize what time it is and that I need to go to bed. I’ve been up late writing & tending the fire. I stoke the fire and choke it back so that it will keep us warm without burning all the wood up before I check it again. Next, I pour hot water down the downstairs shower drain to melt any ice build up in the pipe that would cause a freeze. This is the only drain in the house that we seem to have issues with (and the coldest room in the house.)

3:30 AM – Get up to check the fire again and melt/clear the shower drain again.

6:30 AM – Get up to get hubby out the door for work. The weather app on my phone says -53 but it’s all lies, the analog thermometer outside says -60 (maybe even -62.)

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We put most of our time and construction budget this summer to build an attached garage. The heat from the log wall of our house keeps the garage warm enough that the car starts up with no trouble. Matt leaves for work and I, once again, stoke the fire and clear shower drain. There is a thin layer of ice on the bottom of the shower from the last time I poured hot water down the drain.
7:00 – I wrap up in my favorite, fuzzy shawl and curl back up like a lazy bum because I had choked the fire back too far last time and the house is now 56°; also, because I was up until 1 AM with my late night writing session and I’m not 20 years old anymore.

8:00 – AM – I wake kids up and start running a hot bath. Unlike my friends Sara and Charity, we aren’t actually “off grid.” We have electricity to the house for lights, appliances etc. but our Kitchen Queen wood cook stove “Bessie” is our only source of heat, our only stove/oven and in the winter, our hot water heater.  Water is super heated by cycling it through our woodstove and back into the hot water heater saving big $ on electricity. But if we are running the fire too hot for a long period of time without using the excess hot water, the hot water heater will blow off. We have a hose which is supposed to send the excess hot water down the drain but occasionally the hose decides to cut loose and fly out of it’s drain… flooding the upstairs bathroom with boiling hot water. Yesterday, this very thing happened and drained directly onto the downstairs ceiling fan causing a sprinkler effect and sending water flying in all directions.  Thankfully my computer wasn’t sitting at the kitchen table where it normally resides.

8:30 AM – Get the kids started on morning chores and hop in the hot bath with a good book. (You know, because I can’t waste all that hot water… it’s a rough life.)

9:00 AM – We should be starting school right about now but there’s something about life in Alaska that makes time more of a relative thing… when you have almost all sun or all dark… the whole “burning daylight” thing isn’t really a thing.

I go out to feed and water the useless chickens that have taken up residence in the garage. We didn’t have time to build a warm chicken house for them before winter because we were building the garage. I swap their frozen water out for fresh warm water and feed them. I bring in a frozen pot of moose stew in from the garage and put it on the wood stove to thaw for lunch.

Each kid takes a turn in the bath while the other one does school work. Reading time can be either in the bath or snuggled up behind the wood stove. (Hey if we don’t get to take a day off for cold weather, at least there can be a few perks. Interesting fact- even public schools in Alaska aren’t canceled due to weather because of the risk that children might be dropped off at the bus stop waiting for a bus that never comes.)

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12:00 PM – Last night’s wood supply is all used up so I bundle up and make a few trips bringing in firewood.  It’s kind of like carrying in ALL the grocery bags at once, super human strength kicks in when you don’t want to make more than 2 trips outside.

I once again… stoke the fire & clear shower drain. Matt comes home for lunch. This has been major perk here in Alaska, the girls have so much more quality time with us here at home. After lunch we have our read aloud time (we are reading Heidi right now) while Daddy rests his eyes for a few minutes before going back to work.

After the hubby leaves, I realize that the oven in the wood stove is hot enough to bake and I really should’ve been taking advantage of the constant oven today and had a baking day.  That reminds me that I have the first stage of sourdough “resting” in it’s refrigerated state (on the bathroom floor where it’s nice and cold) and pull out my cloche, working more flour into the dough so I can bake bread this evening.

I remember that I forgot to pull some meat from deep freeze in the shed outside so I bundle back up to go get what I need for supper. While the meat is in the deep freeze, it doesn’t really need to be. The compressor on the freezer hasn’t run since late October.  There are boxes of groceries from our last Costco run just sitting out in the shed which has now become a walk-in freezer.

1:30 PM – The girls are finished with school. We normally have about an hour and a half of quiet time (sanity time for Mama) in the afternoon but today I put on some music and they have a “dance cleaning party” instead. We try to change up our afternoon routine once in a while so the kids don’t get too stir crazy.

2:30 PM – Bandit, our one year old pup is bouncing off the walls by this point. He is 2 breeds of hunting dog and a third part cow dog, so to say he’s high energy is an understatement. He seems to be taking it personal that he has nothing to do and is on the (playful) attack. I give him a caribou bone to keep him busy.  Not helpful.  He runs around the house with his bone whining for the next 45 minutes because he wants to go outside and bury it.

3:00 PM – The girls are done cleaning so they get to put on a movie now. I realize that the dog has gone quiet and is missing.  After a brief search I find him hiding in our bedroom devouring the bone in blissful privacy.

I shape my sourdough loaves and set them on a chair in front of Bessie, the wood stove, to rise.

5:00 PM – I stoke the wood stove again and open it up wide now to get the oven hot enough to bake bread and start prepping supper to be cooked on the wood stove.  There is only one “burner” on my stove top but I’m running it hot enough tonight that the entire surface will be hot enough to keep things simmering.

The hubby comes home and tells me I need to go see the moon outside.  It’s bright, full and looks close enough to almost touch.

full moon

7:00 PM – I get the sourdough loaves into the oven and finish supper. After supper we watch a movie and then the rest of the family goes to bed.  I, in my night usual, night-owl fashion, stay up late doing dishes and writing.

12:00 AM – Stoke fire, clear drain, go to bed

Sara’s Journal –

A Day in the Life at 50 Below
3:00 – My husband Stretch woke up to start the generator and plugged in his truck so he can get into work by 6:30. He had started his truck and let it run for about 45 minutes around 11:45 before going to bed. He also started the wood boiler. Of course, I slept through all of this.
9:20 – I let the three dogs out to go potty. Within a minute the puppy and retired sled dog are rushing back and forth between the two outside doors. One of the kids let them in and yells that Nation, our 18-year-old blue heeler isn’t at the door. I rush outside to find her stuck, her muscles no longer working, hallway to the opposite door. I gently pick her up and carry her inside. Her leg muscles cramp as she tries to walk when I put her down inside. This is probably the hardest part of the intense cold for me, watching Nation suffer in the simple act of relieving herself. We never imagined she’d have to live through another winter, but she’s still here, plugging along.
10:15 – The voltage on the inverter is reading 23.3, so it’s time to fire up the generator again. We are actually planning on running it more often today than normal so it doesn’t go too long between starting. I go out the door, quickly lift up the rigid foam box Stretch built to keep the heat from the heating pads stuck on the generator in, turn the key, and push the start button. The engine sputters then roars with a loud knowing sound as all the parts and pieces get moving. Time to do a load of laundry (a never-ending chore in a family of seven).
11:48 – Batteries are charged, and the generator is turned off. I had to stay outside a bit longer than turning the generator on since I needed to wrap the box that houses the generator in the comforter. By the time I was done, maybe 30 seconds, my boogers had frozen in my nose. Gross, I know, but that’s one way to judge if it’s really cold … how quickly it takes your boogers to freeze. I made the mistake on the way inside of taking a deep breath through my mouth. Instant pain in the chest. No wonder the weather app says the air quality is unhealthy.
12:40 – Homeschool science experiment time. Titus wanted to find out if a myth about 50 below was true. If you opened a can of soda, would it turn into a slushy instantly? So me and him geared up in our coats, hats, and gloves and headed outside. We were thoroughly disappointed when the soda simply fuzzed up with no slush.

1:45 – Maddox checked his tap water and finds that it is frozen. Pretty amazing that an inch or so of water will freeze solid in half and hour. The boiling water was still liquid, so another myth busted today.
2:36 – Battery levels are low, so it’s time to start the generator again. As it struggles to get going, I was reminded of the Little Engine That Could. “I think I can. I think I can … Wahoo! I did it!!” Sadie checked her water again, and it was finally frozen.
3:30 – Pup, the high-strung Wire-haired Pointing Griffon, has decided that today is the day she’s used to us and would like us to learn all about her energy. Finding ways to exercise a 5-month-old puppy that has spent her entire life in a kennel with other dogs and can’t really go outside due to the insane cold makes for an interesting afternoon. Her new favorite thing to do is terrorize the kids, especially the Titus, the10-year-old. Probably because he’s the one that has taken her running the most. Her attempt to play is not very fun for Titus since Pup becomes completely focused on jumping and grabbing at his arms and clothes. Out came the RC car and we had her chase that for a while. Now that she has calmed a bit, the children are watching videos on training overactive, aggressive puppies. Not that she’s mean or anything, she’s just bored and has finally decided to let us know.
4:15 – Batteries are full, so generator is off. The sun is gone and dusk is over. About half an hour more and it will be completely dark outside. Makes the evening long with the short days. I laugh at myself when I look at the clock thinking “I’m ready for bed and it’s only 6:30!”
4:45 – I get a text from a friend who told me earlier in the week she was going to visit. Did I remember? No. Was I still in my sweats and hadn’t brushed my hair? Yep. Was the house a disaster? It’s a good thing she comes from a large family.

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7:30 – Boiler is done running, so the generator gets turned off again. We aren’t the most efficient with the generator when it’s this cold. At this temperature, we have to run the boiler twice a day. It’s actually one of the benefits of the Garn boiler we installed. Our boiler works differently than other systems. We fill it full, fire it up, then two hours later, we have a tank full of hot water that we use for our domestic and heat. It’s great. One less thing that has to watched constantly.9:00 – Stretch turns on his truck and lets it run for about an hour and a half.
10:00 – I’m off to bed. The full moon is shining so bright my entire room is illuminated. Gorgeous.
When I woke up the next morning at 6, the generator decided it was upset with us for letting it get t cold. I pushed the button and all it’d do is click. Good thing we have a spare!

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The door has beautiful ice formations on it!

Charity’s Journal –

Ever wonder what life might be like during an Alaskan cold snap? Here’s a glimpse:
4:30 am: I get up to put wood in the woodstove. There are plenty of coals, but at the temperatures we’ve been having, maintaining a comfortable temp in the house requires constant burning at maximum load. I will feed the fire every 3-4 hours all day long. I lay back down in bed but Savannah wants to eat and Luke’s alarm goes off at 5. I guess I’m awake for the day.
5:45 am: Luke leaves for work. The outside thermometer reads 60 below. Inside it’s 63 above.

charity chickens
6:30 am: I go out to the garage to get the fire going out there and feed the chickens. There are a few coals left and it doesn’t take long to reignite. Chicken water is frozen but I’m able to switch it with a bucket that’s still unfrozen by the stove. Also bring in a wheelbarrow full of wood from the outside. If I don’t keep the fire going in the garage, not only will the (worthless) chickens freeze, but I won’t be able to start my diesel vehicle or the diesel generator, from which we get most of our power during this dark time of year.
7 am: One benefit of having to run the woodstove wide open all the time is an endless supply of hot water. Most of the year we use propane to heat at least part of our domestic hot water, but right now the woodstove heats all of it. I take a nice long shower. After that I heat up leftover oatmeal in the oven for breakfast. The heat from the oven brings the inside temp up to 65.
8:30 am: All the kids are up by now. Stryder discovers his fish is in a bad way from getting too cold. We move it to a warmer spot and Stryder works all day at trying to gradually warm it up and bring it around. Unfortunately the next night it expires.
10 am: Finally fully light out. We have begun school, which keeps the kids occupied for the morning.
Noon: Lunch is leftovers today and a chance to run the oven again and add some more heat to the house (we don’t have a microwave). It is perfectly clear out and the sun hits the solar panels for about an hour and a half. We have about 45 minutes more daylight than at winter solstice 3 weeks ago, for a total of 5.25 hours from sunrise to sunset. We’re still getting less than 1 kwh solar power a day and I’ll have to run the generator to charge our batteries tomorrow. I will also run the well pump to replenish our 500 gallon water storage tank and do two loads of laundry to hang in the basement while the generator is running. After lunch we clean up and finish school for the day. I take another trip to the garage to feed the fire.

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2 pm: Looks like the high for the day is 52 below. I make everyone take a mandatory rest time in their beds, though they can read a book if they’re not tired. When everyone is cooped up inside all day, I need a break from the constant noise. I lay down to nurse Savannah to sleep. I don’t intend to fall asleep, but end up taking a 20 minute nap.
3 pm: Everyone but Savannah is up. The kids play and I do a little cleaning and start supper prep. The sun sets and the temperature starts to drop back downward.
4:30 pm: Luke arrives home from work. It is mostly dark by now.
6:30 pm: After supper I need to go to the store for some supplies. Wrangell goes with me to help and I have to tell him how he needs layers, boots, etc….does he not realize it’s 55 below?! I take Luke’s little Honda and the clutch gets stiff before the 5 mile drive is over. Visibility in town is very poor because of the ice fog. We are only in the store for about 20 minutes and I leave the car running. The clutch thaws out but the tires get a little square even in that short time. When we get home I park close to the basement door to unload all the groceries and get them inside before they freeze. I’m even successful at bringing home the lettuce without it freezing! When I put the car in the garage I stock the fire out there up for the night. It’s not above freezing, but considerably warmer than outside.
8 pm: Bedtime. The temperature in the root cellar has dropped to 32 degrees, despite the little muffin fan blowing air from the basement into there constantly. I bring the potatoes and carrots inside and Luke brings me a tarp to hang around the parsnips and beets next to the muffin fan opening in the root cellar. Hopefully this will keep them warm enough until it warms up.
We have a full moon tonight. It’s so bright out you can easily get around without artificial lighting of any kind. If you step outside the cars on the highway half a mile away sound like they are in the driveway. The temperature is 56 below when we head to bed, but we have hope that it will warm up in 2-3 days.

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So there it is folks, the REAL life below zero.

*Special Note: Sara Blackard, my friend who wrote the 2nd journal here, is a fellow writer and published author. If you like good historical fiction with some romance and adventure thrown in, you really need to check her out!

Facebook

Instagram

and on her blog .

This is her most recent book, the first in a fantastic series.

 

 

 

What the heck is a “Homestead State of Mind” anyway?

Today I celebrate the fact that we now have actual internet at our house! After a year and a half of only being able to get some partial use from the internet on a smart phone (with very little phone service) or by going to the library to use the computer, I am giddy with excitement at the idea of being able to start offering some new blog posts and newsletter updates again.  So as I sat down this morning with my cup of coffee I was faced with the question? What on earth do I write about first?

That is when it dawned on me that I started this blog, Homestead State of Mind over 3 years ago, and I never really have explained myself or my choice of title.

SO, “Let’s start at the very beginning, a very good place to start…” (if you didn’t just sing that in your head, I’m not sure we can be friends anymore.

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The term homesteading originally referred to the Homestead Act, of 1862 of which granted 160 acres to any US citizen willing to settle on, and farm the land for at least 5 years.  Side Note: My own great grandparents homesteaded land in eastern New Mexico that our family is still blessed to own and it is one of my favorite parts of my heritage.  Now-a-days, obviously there is nowhere in the US that you can actually “homestead” by those terms (yes, even here in Alaska.)

So why is there this large movement of people claiming to be homesteaders?  I’ve actually heard people criticize those of us who use the term “homesteaders” for not living off only of twigs and berries, just as I have heard people criticize  those who use the term “off grid” for having electricity and internet in their home.  

It comes down to this, Homesteading IS a state of mind.  It is the desire for a more self sufficient lifestyle & a simpler way of life. 

Here’s what it means (and doesn’t mean) for our family:

  • It doesn’t mean that we live only off of the land, with no outside income.  My husband works a regular job, and provides for our welfare because that is what God has called him, as a husband to do.  However, he has intentionally chosen work that doesn’t consume him or take him away from his family for large periods of time.  Once upon a time, he was a supervisor in the oil and gas industry in charge of multi-million dollar projects and was on track to just keep moving up the career ladder, but for the sake of his sanity and our family’s welfare, he stepped away from that career path and never looked back.  We have absolutely no desire to chase a dollar or “keep up with the Jones” in any way shape or form.  Our vehicles are functional, not fancy & our home is comfortable and cozy, but maybe not exactly chic.

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  • It does mean we have a subsistence lifestyle which means we try to live as self-sufficiently as possible.  Subsistence is defined as the means of maintaining or supporting oneself.  We hunt, fish, forage, farm and garden for as much of our food supply as we are able.  We preserve food for winter by canning, freezing or dehydrating the food that we raise, grow, or hunt.  Our yard is our garden, we don’t have a carefully manicured lawn for the neighbors to compete with, we have vegetables to feed our family with.  The reason we love going to all this extra effort rather than just buying what we need is that it is important to us to not be completely dependent on others for our survival.  We want to be producers, not consumers, as much as possible.  

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  • It means we worked hard to become debt free and we do things as affordably as we can so that we keep it that way.  If hard work can save us some money, that is what we are going to do.  This past week, my dear hubby cut and peeled logs, milled them as needed (with a chainsaw) and that ended up saving us hundreds of dollars in lumber for our current project of building a bigger shop before winter.  

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  •  It can also mean living a more remote or even somewhat isolated life in order to achieve that simpler way of life.  For our family, that meant moving 3,000+ miles away to the Alaskan interior where subsistence and a simpler way of life is more attainable.  But that doesn’t mean that you can’t live a homesteading lifestyle where you currently are; it is all about making the choice to separate yourself from the rat-race of commercialism and keeping up appearances, and just live your life.

This is just an overview of what a Homesteading State of Mind really means.  Later on I’ll share some small, tangible ways that you can change your state of mind too.  (That is, IF you want to…)

 

The Truth About Chicken Poo

I’ve decided to name this photo “The Truth About Chicken Poo”
truth about chicken poo
You see, I’ve been trying my hand at photography (at a very amateur level, mind you) while starting out on this blogging journey and I’ve found that it’s not always so easy. 
Last summer when I first took this picture I really loved it, really, really, loved it.
And then I saw it..
That speck (or two) of chicken poo, sticking out there like a sore thumb, ruining my beautiful picture of summer bounty. 
This was how my thought process went that day:
“I can’t use this picture!  There’s chicken poo on my eggs!”
“But it’s so pretty…”
“If it isn’t perfect it CANNOT be posted on my blog page.”
“But.. maybe I can learn to use photo shop!”
“I don’t have time for that.”
“But it’s seems like such a waste to not use it, the light was just right that day…”
And so on and so forth.  You see, unfortunately good photos really do matter when it comes to the blogging world.  If your pictures are crappy, well people aren’t going to read your blog.  It’s just a fact of life.  However, I was so caught up trying to make things “social media perfect” that I was refusing to let the reality of homestead life, be shown on my page.
This is the problem with social media in our society today.  We are so careful to only put our absolute best pictures up, only our perfect selfies taken at the most flattering angle, only our Pinterest worthy successes and never our failures.
We are creating an image for ourselves that, frankly, is chicken poo. 
A false image that in turn, makes others feel bad about themselves.
“I’ll never be able to look that good”
“My kid’s birthday cake never looks like that”
“She ALWAYS cooks gourmet food for her family, I don’t have time for that!”

Comparison is the thief of joy.

— Theodore Roosevelt
It’s a wicked cycle.  And while I do need to strive to have pretty pictures for my blog, and it’s fine to post a successes that we are celebrating or the things we love about our lives, we need to remember to put the REAL us out there, drop some truth bombs, funny pictures and failures.
Let’s stop this epidemic of comparison that is plaguing our culture and put truth back in the picture.
We all have some chicken poo in our lives, don’t photo shop the truth from your pictures.
Everybody’s chickens poop.

He was a bad, bad hound dog… and we loved him so.

Once upon a time, on a cold, winter’s night in Oklahoma, there was a tiny hound dog pup who had been abandoned on the side of the road.  Whoever had left him there didn’t care whether he lived or died, but God knew there was a home for him in Colorado.

Beau (Bo- we never could agree on how to spell his name) the hound dog was the cutest pup you ever did see, he made his way from Oklahoma to our home through some friends of ours who found him there.  We were newlyweds starting our life together and he made the perfect addition to our little family.  Not knowing his exact breed, my dear mountain man was super excited to have a hunting dog.  Visions of coon hunts and treed mountain lions were dancing in his head and in the beginning he really seemed to have what it would take.  We brought home his first coon in a live trap and the dog lost his mind.  Baying like a pro, he definitely proved that he was ready for the chase.  He even showed a lot of potential in tracking a scent but over time it became clear that he would never make a hunting dog.  His legs were just too darn short.  This hound was obviously part basset and was never going to measure up.  But there was no love lost on that account, we was our buddy and our first child.

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We started to research hound breeds to see what we were in for and learned these three basic things.

  1. Hound dogs are stubborn.
  2. Hound dogs’ noses rule them completely.
  3. Hound dogs smell bad.

We found all three of these things to be entirely true.

Beau was exceedingly stubborn and hard to train.  When learning basic commands, we got as far as “sit,” (resulting in him laying down) and for a short time he cooperated with “play dead” (but tired of that game quickly and gave up.)  There was no hope of teaching him to be quiet; his baying and barking were constant unless he was asleep.

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His nose, did, in fact, take over his ability to reason at all.  If we were on a walk, or camping and he caught wind of something interesting… he was gone.  And no amount of calling him or threatening him would bring him back.  He would come back in his own time, when he was done with the chase.

He also couldn’t resist the smell of “people food.”  Every night during supper, our meal was accompanied by the sound of incessant whining.  This whining would continue until we were done when he was given our plates to lick.  (Did you know dogs can count?  There are four of us, and if someone put their plate in the sink instead of giving it to him, he would harass me for the rest of the night because he knew that he only had 3 plates to lick instead of four.)

During the winter, when we had somewhere to go and it was too cold to leave him outside, we had to be sure that we “dog proofed” the kitchen because although he would never dream of dumping the trash or jumping on counters when we were home… once that car pulled out of the driveway, all bets were off.  He would dump trash cans, jump up on the counters (quite the feat for a 50 lb dog that was more than 2 feet long with 8 inch legs) and eat anything within reach, I mean ANYTHING.  At different times over the course of our almost 11 years together, he once ate an entire bunt sized pound cake, another time it was a 2 lb meat loaf, and his most recent transgression was about a 2-3 lb ham.  (It was my own, home raised pork, home cured ham… I really wanted to throttle him after this one but he was so sick from all the salt, I figured that was punishment enough.  The poor dog drank gallons of water over the next few days.)  Oh yes, and another time, he ate a gallon sized bag of homemade deer jerky that probably accounted for an entire shoulder of venison (again ending, with the homicidal temptation for us and gallons of water consumption by Beau.)  What he couldn’t consume while we were away, he would take and bury around the house. I would find, bags of hot dog buns behind the couch, bags of marshmallows under my pillow, and loaves of bread in the laundry basket.

And yes, hound dogs do in fact stink.  No need to go into great detail there, lets just say that long road trips with Beau in the car or truck were sometimes we’re very… very long.  But he loved to “go” so much that we couldn’t bare to leave him behind.  He also loved clean laundry.  If there was a pile of clean laundry, or especially a neat stack of folded, clean laundry, he would be found laying on it; leaving our clothes with just a hint of that lovely ode de’ hound dog scent behind.

All of these things add up to a very “bad” dog, and that is what we teasingly called him.  But he was our Beau dog, and we loved him so much.  He went on many adventures with us, backpacking, hiking, camping and picnicking.  His joy in life was getting to GO somewhere.  He knew, the moment I started to pack a bag or haul things out to the camper that it was time to go; and we would all be deaf by the time we left from all of the baying and barking he did while impatiently lunging at the door.  If we ever went anywhere without him, even for a few hours, he would bay and scold us for at least 10 minutes when we returned, for leaving him behind.

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But he loved “to go” a little too much and recently started “going” on adventures without us.  Whether it was sheer orneriness or his nose leading him away, he decided that staying in the yard was no longer a requirement for him and he would let himself out one way or another.  He would unlatch yard gates or push past the flexible siding on the house and adventuring he would go.  One week ago today, he left on an adventure and never made it home alive.  He may have been a bad dog on paper, but he was part of our family and our homestead and now we are one less.  There is no one to lick our plates after supper, no one for the garbage man to throw treats too, and no one to scold us when we come home.

Our homestead is a very quiet place now, but I will always hear his baying in my mind.

We love you, bad hound dog.  We always will.

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5 Embarrassing Things Homeschooled Kids Say

I love homeschooling my kids.  It is one of the key components to our “homestead” lifestyle.  Empowering kids to know they don’t need a specialized teacher in order to learn and sparking a love of learning is vital to raising self-sufficient kids.  Homeschooling teaches our children HOW to think, not what to think.  I wouldn’t trade it for the world but let’s be honest, there are a few problems with homeschool life.  One of these things is the constant battle with what homeschooled, tiny humans say to embarrass their parents.

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Here are just a few of my favorites:

  1. “We only do school one day a week.”  This is the one that they love to tell their friends (and the friends in turn tell their parents, earning you the stink eye from the parents.)  The truth is that we have our homeschool COOP once a week and for some reason homeschooled kids seem to think this is the only “school day” that they have.  We do school at LEAST 4 days a week… most of the time… I SWEAR.   
  2. “No we haven’t done any school yet today.”  This is one they love to tell their dad when it’s 11:00 AM and he calls home from work to say “Hi”.  It goes something like this…”What are you doing right now?” kids inevitable response is “Oh, just laying here” (Translation: “I WAS just doing my copy work, but I laid down on my bed to talk to you.”)  Dad’s tone grows concerned “Have you done your schoolwork yet today?” “No, we haven’t done any school yet today.” (Translation: We haven’t done our math or language arts yet and apparently don’t REALIZE that all this other stuff we’ve been doing (ie. Bible story, memory work, copy work, read aloud time, science journaling) is “school work” leaving Daddy with the impression that we just rolled out of bed. (SIGH)
  3. “I don’t know what grade I’m in.”  This is their #1 favorite thing to say to strangers who are interrogating them in the grocery store.  And to be fair to the kids, we as mom’s don’t know how to answer that question either.  We know what grade they should be in by age category but the truth is that homeschooling offers us the freedom to work with our children according to their own level of mastery in each area.  For instance, at some point in time, I had a 5 year old, who should technically be a kindergartener… but she started Classical Conversations at four and insisted on learning to read the minute she turned 5 years old, so she was closer to a 1st grade level in many ways, although we were still doing kindergarten math.  The same year, in language arts my (then) 7 year old was doing the second semester of a kinder language arts program because I felt the curriculum we used previously was lacking in some areas.  So although she was reading at a 2nd grade level, we were catching up on some fundamental phonics,  AND THAT’S OKAY!  So no, random lady in the grocery store check out, none of us really know how to answer that question.
  4. “We just watch TV and color.” Yet another thing they LOVE to tell strangers.  Yes, we use Wild Kratts to supplement our science and trace black line maps with dry erase markers to learn geography, but it sure would sound a lot better if they learned to tell people, “we’re studying biology and European geography right now.”  But no, we watch TV and color. 
  5. “No, I haven’t learned about ______ yet.”  (This one also comes in the form of a non-verbal blank stare.)  This comes as a response to someone asking, if they have learned something yet and as luck would have it, will always be something very basic that you have gone over many times.  The truth is we have no idea where this response comes from, maybe it’s because they don’t recognize the word “multiplication” or maybe because their little brain decided to go on recess break at that moment, who knows.

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The truth is that homeschooling is a unique journey and it rarely looks like a public school setting around here.  (THANK GOODNESS)  But that, especially if you are new to homeschooling, can lead to anxiety over social judgment. Learn to laugh at your kids when they say these things and relax into the arms of grace.  That lady in the grocery store checkout has no business interrogating your kids but maybe rather than elbowing your kiddo into silence and running away as quickly as possible, take a moment to explain to her the hidden translations to your kids’ answers.  Most who are opposed to homeschooling don’t understand it or are working off of a narrow stereotype.  It would do a lot for our cause if we took the time to joyfully share how penmanship and art are connected to science in nature journaling and how that fuels their desire for more knowledge.  Who knows, she might just walk away with some new light shined on an old stereotype.

Chopped Challenge 2017 – All wrapped up?

Okay folks, I know that I owe you all an apology.  I haven’t ever finished this mini-series of blog posts that I began back in January here.

But things have been busy around here to say the least.

SO, after spending the month of January on a grocery shopping fast, I suppose that I ought to be here and tell you I now have it all figured out, that my cupboards minimalistic and I will never return to my cluttered, grocery hording ways…

Not exactly.

But I did learn a lot about myself, really branched out some days to use up ingredients that would have otherwise gone to waste, and tried some new recipes that my family LOVED.

The truth is, that my one month grocery shopping fast barely made a dent in my over stuffed cupboards.  However, this experiment gave me the motivation to declutter and throw out a lot of stuff that I just wouldn’t use, or combine things that I shamefully had MULTIPLES of.  (Like 3 open jars of molasses, 4 open jars of homemade strawberry jelly and 2 jars of sorghum– all because by cupboards were so cluttered I had no idea what was really in there.)  My cupboards are now cleaner and more organized which is such a huge relief and lets be honest, the savings from not shopping for a month was totally worth it.

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Full, but not crowded or cluttered

 

And after a few months of going back to a normal routine, my husband and I have actually agreed that we should do it again…and again… and again..

You may be thinking to yourself, “You can’t clear your cupboards out!  Shouldn’t you be prepared for disaster?  Aren’t you “preppers”?  All of those groceries could feed your family in case of an emergency!”  (Well, you might not be asking yourself that, but it’s what I was asking myself throughout this journey.)  And  the truth is yes, we are “preppers” to an extent yet here is a fine but dangerous line between being prepared with long term storage foods that could sustain us and hording/cluttering our lives with a surplus of random ingredients that will #1 go to waste if unused and #2 rob you of your sanity if you don’t even know what you have. (because it is so cluttered you cant see it all!)

So yes, I will continue to keep our root cellars stocked with long term storage food.  If properly organized and rotated this is one of the smartest things that you can do to protect your family in case of emergency.  But as far as the jumble of random ingredients cluttering my cupboards?  I am going to work very hard to keep that clutter down by continuing to focus on using up what we have on hand and only buying the minimum of extra ingredients that will act as the glue that binds everything else together.

So now that I’ve shared my take-a-way from it all with you, here is a little more about what the rest of our month looked like and what we were eating.  If you are interested in any of the meals mentioned, let me know and I will TRY to write something up to share with you.  (I use the word “try” here because the truth is that I rarely ever use recipes and it is a challenge sometimes to put on paper the madness under my chef hat.  😉

Here are some of the more fun/adventurous suppers that we made while cleaning out the cupboards.  If you didn’t get to see my previous posts in this series for some of our other meals you can see them here 2017 “Chopped Challenge” and here Chopped Challenge – Week 1.

(Remember, I only allowed myself to purchase fresh fruit and veggies- no meat or packaged ingredients for the entire month of January.)

  • Barley Soup
  • Salmon Cakes with Roasted Red Pepper Sauce (we turned the leftover sauce into salad dressing a few nights later)
  • Minestera Soup
  • Grilled Steak Kabobs

  • Bangers & Mash
  • Pancit & Egg Drop Soup (The Pancit was something completely different from our norm and the whole family went CRAZY for.)

Of course on nights that were super busy and I didn’t have time to stretch my brain, there were a lot of our regulars, but always only using ingredients on hand.

  • Posole
  • Hamburgers
  • Spaghetti
  • Jalepeno Popper Soup
  • Tacos
  • Rotisserie Chicken
  • Pizza
  • Fajitas
  • Elk Roast

I highly recommend trying a grocery fast.  We saved  money, decluttered our cupboards and freezers, stretched our culinary tastes and really shined a light on some bad grocery buying habits.

 

Is Self-Sufficiency a Biblical Principle?

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.)

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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.

1. Stewardship

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.

Chopped Challenge – Week 1

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…

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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.

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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.

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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

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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.

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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.