Archive for July, 2009

Homesteading: the television

July 30, 2009

I have been thinking. Well, when I have a few quiet moments, I try to think and those moments of quiet are rare. So really, I guess I have a lot of thoughts.  But perhaps when those thoughts are strung together, it constitutes thinking!

Anyway, I’ve been trying to figure out when my “homesteading” actually began.  I guess I should give my opinion of homesteading.  I believe homesteading is an attitude, an attitude of independence.  Independence in my lifestyle; independence in my thinking.  It doesn’t matter where I live, in the city or the country, I will always be a homesteader.

So, I guess our homesteading began when we decided to put away our television.  It’s been an on and off decision throughout our marriage but today, we don’t have television hook up.  We have a lot of T.V. sets because of homeschooling and the huge amount of media work that’s done in our home.

Dave doesn’t watch T.V. much and never has.  I was the one who ended up with the “problem.”  Okay, let me justify, just to ease my conscience a bit.  I was home with many babies, babies who only communicated by crying/smiling or with one syllable words.  Changing diapers and breast-feeding really didn’t challenge my intellectual need.  Dave worked quite a bit – he was in ministry – need I say more?!

I became addicted to soap operas and was Oprah’s biggest fan. And, I was a news junkie – almost every hour in the evening till the 11 0’clock news. What was I expecting?  For the world tragedies to change in a couple of hours?!

One day when Catherine was almost 2, I was watching T.V. and sewing while she played with her toys.  She wasn’t even watching the T.V. when a commercial for Pillsbury came on.  Remember the Pillsbury Dough Boy and that silly  “woohoo” he did at the end of the commercial?  Well, Catherine, who wasn’t even watching, mimicked the “woohoo.”  I looked at her and thought, what else is going into that head of hers from the T.V.?  Some of the topics on those soaps weren’t exactly “kid friendly!”  This was the beginning…

At this point, we were in Seattle and do you know what the average is for days of rainfall?!  A lot!!!  The challenge to find alternatives to T.V. was frustrating at times, especially when my kids were young.  I began sewing most of their clothes, cooking more, gardening, making soap, and bread.  Without the T.V., my time was my own (well, with this many children, my time is rarely my own but at least it didn’t belong to the T.V.!) and I wasn’t bound by half hour increments in the day.  Also, I got to bed earlier!

The next hurdle was not using it as a babysitter for my kids.  Did I mention how much it rained in Seattle? 🙂  I became very determined and strategic in my mothering.  I had goal charts (on poster board!) for each child in my kitchen – this was huge for keeping me on task when it would have been much easier to turn on the T.V.

Please hear me…I wasn’t successful over night.  Addictions are difficult to overcome.  Mine had to be replaced by something else, something else that kept my attention.  And at times, my attention was only kept by sheer self-discipline.  I failed a lot…but I didn’t give up.  And that’s what made the difference.

I read a book, Amusing Ourselves to Death, by Neil Postman.   To muse is to think.  Amuse is the absence of thinking.  This book is good food for thought.  It was a turning point for me, especially in helping me to understand my “news” cravings.  

I am a homesteader, independent in my thinking.  I choose who influences my opinions and thoughts.  Television was detrimental for me and how I thought.  

So there you have it!  Our first homesteading decision was to get rid of the T.V.  Without its influence, we had greater freedom to think beyond the boundaries of  societal “norm”.  We were not bombarded by commercialism and fashion “do’s and don’ts”.

I’ve always been a little “marches to the beat of her own drummer.”  Without the T.V., I don’t know how odd I really am!

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Who would’ve thought….

July 27, 2009

We are a house divided.  Yes, it’s true.  We are still kind to one another, for the most part, but there have been moments when fangs have been bared and tempers tested!

It all started about 3 weeks ago, a normal day, nothing unusual except for the sneezing…

Lauren, my second eldest, came to me with a complaint.  She was tired of waking up congested and having to put make-up on puffy eyes.  Her query to me – 

“Mom, is there anything I can do about this!?”

I shared with her that up until my thirties, I had put up with the same thing.  Sneezing and blowing my nose, headaches and puffy eyes till about noon and then I was fine for the rest of the day.   I read an article about white processed flour and sugar and the effects it can produce.  I decided to cut it out of my diet to see what would happen.  Within a week or two – the “allergy symptoms” were gone and so were the headaches in the morning!  I would occasionally eat freshly ground whole wheat and natural sugars.   I also discovered that corn syrup did a number on my system and was responsible for most of my headaches.

It was during this diet “test” that I realized the true effect of processed food for me.  The hardest part – when I went off, I reacted even worse than I did before I cleaned out my system.  I love to understand “why” things work but I must confess, I really don’t know why this worked for me – to get rid of the processed sugar and wheat.  I just know that I felt much better and the mornings were much more pleasant when I didn’t feel like I had a hang-over!  Just ask my kids – they’ll tell you!

Now lest you be deceived, occasionally I will succumb to the marketing lure for McDonalds – you know, the ” have it your way!”  Only when you say it, say it with a bit of sarcasm like “okay you fool, you know better but you’re forty-something and who are we to deny you what you want?”  Believe me, I pay for it big time afterwards but I never seem to remember that while I’m enjoying my man-made, cholesterol saturated, sodium-filled, artificially concocted sandwich!  And no matter how slowly I eat, the “food” leaves my system faster than it went in!

So back to Lauren.  She went off of wheat and sugar.  She endured the days of not feeling well and all the drainage that goes along with cleaning out your system.  It’s amazing how easily we adjust to feeling good, how quickly we forget how rotten we felt.  She left on working trip with Dave this past Saturday.  Early morning – 19 hour flight…   Dave was going to get coffee and she thought that might help to keep her awake.  Only she drinks coffee like I do – with “stuff” in it.  Lauren didn’t think that one drink with sugar would make that much difference….

She threw-up 3 times on the plane.  I talked to her when they landed in Japan for re-fueling and she was doing some better.  She told me, “Mom, I hate getting sick on a plane but I’m glad to know how much this really does affect me.”  Lucky for her she’s in the Philippines where they eat a lot of fresh food – she should be okay.

So how are we a house divided?  Well, one night we were eating supper outside on the back porch and quite a few diet decisions had been made that day.  We decided to share with Dave, who had been at work all day.  We went around the table.  “I’m off wheat and sugar.”  “I’m off just sugar.”  I’m eating smaller portions.”  and so it went.  It came around to Dave and he said, “Well, it looks as if the only thing left to eat in this house is wheat  and sugar so that’s what I’m on!”  For the most part we are now divided into “wheat, no sugar” and “no wheat, no sugar.”

And just a word of caution if you come to visit us – beware when removing any food item from the cupboard.   If you are taking food from the limited supplies of  the “no wheat, no sugar” camp,  it may cost you a limb!

Books and Magazines I would Recommend

July 24, 2009

I’ve often been asked,” Where did you start with homesteading?”

I read A LOT!!  Anything I could get my hands on I would read.  I loved visiting the old farms where they would demonstrate old farming skills.

The next question I’m usually asked is, “Do you recommend any books?”

The answer is a resounding yes!!  There are some books and magazines which have been instrumental in getting us where we are today.  So I thought I would list them for you and give you a brief overview of why they were helpful to me.

Magazines:

My all time favorite has been Farm and Ranch by Reiman Publication.  This comes 6 times a year and there are no advertisements in it!!!  That was worth the price right there.  When the kids were old enough to recognize the magazine cover, it became a joke that they were on their own for the rest of the day.  There weren’t  many articles on “how to” farm but a lot of personal anecdotes.  Every issue they featured a farm and the family kept a diary for a whole month.  I loved to read these because I wanted to know what it was like day to day to live on a farm.  They featured all kinds of farms, all sizes, all kinds of people.  I remember, particularly, reading one about a family who farmed 5 acres.  What an encouragement!  I knew I would never own hundreds or even 10’s of acres.  I read these from cover to cover and saved issues to reread articles.  These magazines got me through the days when I felt claustrophobic living in our suburban neighborhood.

Hobby Farm has also been a magazine that I enjoyed.  They’ve had a lot of great “how to” articles, a wonderful resource magazine.  The one aspect that I didn’t care for in this magazine is they seemed to be very cutting edge and I wanted to stay more “natural”, organic.  I did enjoy the articles where they featured certain breeds of animals.  Since I knew so little about farm animals, these regular articles opened my options when considering what type of animals we would have on our homestead.

There are so many more magazine publications out there that I’ve looked at, but these two rose to the top of the pile!

 

Books:

Probably one of the first books I purchased was Back to Basics by Reader’s Digest.  I loved this book and would read all the different categories and picture what it would look like on my farm one day!  I do believe I would have done very well as a pioneer and this book fed that notion.  I loved the simplicity of the life that was portrayed in this book.  This is definitely a “how to” book and covers a lot of the ancient or old-fashioned skills of homesteading.

The Encyclopedia of Country Living by Carla Emery  is another favorite.  I liked this book, not just for all the information but also for the little personal stories that Carla would throw in here and there about her life and her progress with homesteading.  This is a thick book, maybe and inch and a half, and full of everything you could think of for homesteading!

I have a favorite story to tell in regard to this book.  Our first year here, we ended up with extra roosters.  I’d never butchered before, nor did I really know anyone who had done it themselves.  Everyone seemed to have a relative that had done it but they hadn’t themselves.  Finally, a friend of mine admitted to this skill.  I would never have guessed!  After much coaxing, she agreed to come over and show me what to do.  My girls were more than eager to learn so she taught all of us.  The only problem, she didn’t know how to dress the rooster out afterwards.  Well, I figured the worst was over so I’d figure the next step out on my own.  My girls remembered seeing a chapter on butchering in the Encyclopedia of Country Living.  Lauren and Emily (Lauren’s friend ) ran and got the book.  Lauren, Emily, and Victoria spent the next hour or so on the back porch with a dead rooster, a couple of knives, and this book opened to the chapter on butchering.  One would read, one would do what was said, and the other would comment on the progress and how disgusting it all looked!  It was hilarious!!

For gardening, my all time favorite is the Square Foot Gardening by Mel Bartholomew.  A friend of mine loaned me the book when I lived in WA state and I used it so much, she finally  said to keep it 🙂  The newest edition, which I purchased this year, is even better than the first.  This book was instrumental in helping me be successful in my gardening attempt and I was actually productive with the little bit of land we had in Seattle.

These pictures give you an idea of what our beginnings for homesteading looked like in our suburban neighborhood!

 

I read anything I could get my hands on that had to do with homesteading, animals, and old-fashioned methods of farming.

Once we moved to our homestead in Georgia, there have been a couple of new books I’ve added to our homesteading collection.

For anyone looking to do pasture animals and having pastures for grazing, I highly recommend  You Can Farm by Joel Salatin.  I wish I had read this book before we put a single animal on our pastures.  Mr. Salatin’s methods made so much “natural” sense and I found out I had made many mistakes.  The one difference between Mr. Salatin and me and my husband, we like our farm to look neat and organized.  This book deals much more with functionality than cosmetics.  However, the worth of Mr. Salatin’s wisdom far exceeded this difference and besides, it was an easy fix on my part!

For every animal that we purchased, we also purchased a Storey book that coincided with that animal.  Storey has a marvelous book series for animals.  They’re easy to read and understand and the books have pictures – which I always appreciate!  Their website is www.storey.com.  They have other books on country living as well.  Another friend said she refers to their Basic Country Skills book frequently.

Again, there are so many books out there but these that I’ve listed have been most helpful to me and our endeavors here at the Lazy B Farm.

Some other titles to consider:

The Backyard Orchardist by Stella Otto

Five Acres and Independence by MG Kains

MaryJane’s Ideabook, Cookbook,Lifebook  by MaryJane Butters  (Lauren and I LOVE this book!!  It’s the fru-fru part of homesteading)

I would love to hear from others who have read books that have been helpful in their homesteading or pursuit of homesteading.  How grateful I am for the opportunity to share and receive from others across the country, especially when farming can seem isolated.  Homesteading can be complex and the wisdom shared from others is invaluable!

Homesteading Tweezers

July 5, 2009

You know, sometimes an item,  just by sheer circumstance or proximity or need, will take on a whole new role or identity.  So it is with my tweezers.  Such a simple item designed for simple tasks.  Yet when this simple tool resides at a homestead, a whole new world is opened for its diversity of use.   

My personal tweezers, so seemingly insignificant

My personal tweezers, so seemingly insignificant.

I have made a conscious decision to chronicle the morphing of such a tame, insignificant “eye-brow plucker” into a multi-faceted, critically needed tool.  This first story appeared in our Lazy B Farm newsletter but it bears repeating so you, the reader, have a complete understanding of the significance of my tweezers, once doomed for the dark corners of my cosmetic drawer.        Enjoy…

I’m learning, there are certain limits to homesteading…I’ll explain.

 My family has been on vacation at a family reunion (Dave’s side of the family) in NJ.  They left Monday and will be home on Saturday.  I stayed behind to run the homestead – that’s another newsletter!

Before they all left, I was looking for my tweezers, which seem to often magically walk away!  I called out to the masses – “has anyone seen my tweezers?”  A lone voice replied, “Yes, I’ll get them for you!”  Megan brought them to me right away and I gently reminded her, again, to please put them back in my bathroom when she was finished with them.    

“Okay, Mom!” 

 Later, Megan was telling me that Colonel, the pony, had a tick on his sheath.  Don’t know what a sheath is?  Well, it’s the skin that covers his “private part” and only males have them 🙂  I asked her pleeeease, would she take care of it before she left so I didn’t have to.  “Sure, Mom, not a problem.” And off she went.

I happened to meet her as I was headed to the garden. 

“Well, how’d it go?” 

“Oh fine, he gets them a lot.”

And I’m wondering, what’s he doing to get them there!?  It was then I noticed a shimmer in her hand. 

“Babe, what’s in your hand?”  

“Oh yeah, I borrowed your tweezers again – they work great for getting the ticks off, but I’m putting them back now.” 

I choked out a “thank you.”

This whole sharing thing has gone a bit too far!  I share my home with the  animals, my food, occasionally my bed, towels, and every now and then a shirt for a new born goat, but I draw the line at sharing my tweezers to get ticks off a pony’s unmentionable!!         (I’m  not even asking if they were washed before they were put back!)