Tag Archives: Natural

How do we…stay warm

It snailed today.

Yes, you read that right. It’s not a typo.

And, no, it doesn’t have anything to do with slimy little creatures with shells on their backs.

See that “snow” on the straw bales? It’s actually hail.

Get it? Snow + hail = snail. I’m so puny.

See? Little tiny hailstones. But it was cold enough today for it to have been snow.

Never even made it to 50° outside. Probably going to have our first freeze tonight.

The weather brings to mind a question we get asked every time the temperatures plummet. And since we turned on our heater today for the first time this season, I figured it was a good time to answer everyone’s most pressing question.

Do we stay warm enough in the winter?

The answer is, “Of course!”

The the real truth of the matter, however, is that YOU might not think so, but we stay plenty warm. Relatively.

Yes, it’s a relative answer. WE think we stay plenty warm, but most people who live in climate controlled comfort would be rather uncomfortable at times. Case in point, as I sit here this evening and write this post, the thermometer is showing that it is 59° in the trailer. Now that is pretty chilly, I will admit. And I am about to turn on the heater to take off the chill before we turn in for the night. However, if we were not headed into a sub-freezing night, I wouldn’t bother. I’m just about perfectly comfortable as I sit here and type. How? I’ll share with you some of our tips to stay warm in the winter.

Tip #1: Your attitude affects your temperature. Ok, so I don’t know for sure if having the right attitude can actually physiologically affect how warm you feel, but it sure seems that way. We CHOOSE to live closer to the changing seasons. By having a cooler house in winter and hotter house in summer, not only are we saving money on heating and cooling bills, but we are more connected to the outdoors and the seasonal changes around us. We LIKE the changing seasons and don’t want to insulate ourselves from them too much. And honestly, you get used to it after a little while. I’m sure you’ve all heard of those people who live in Alaska coming down to the lower 48 and thinking it feels like summer when everyone else is all bundled up? Yeah, it’s like that. You can get used to anything. We chose to get used to colder temperatures in the winter.

Tip #2: Layers! I nearly roll my eyes every time I hear someone complaining that it’s cold at 65° when all they are wearing is shorts and a t-shirt. Unless you are one of those people from Alaska that I just mentioned, or you are doing physical work, yeah, you’re going to get chilled at that temperature. Go put some more clothes on. Throw a blanket around your shoulders. Something to help your body stay warm. And remember that your blood circulates through your whole body. So even if your legs themselves don’t feel particularly cold in shorts, your blood is getting cooled as it travels through them and contributing to your feeling of chilliness. Most people that I know just go bump up the heat a few degrees if they feel cold. We choose to put on more layers of clothing. It’s kinda nice having a whole different wardrobe in the winter. “New” clothes every 6 months. Woo-hoo! Oh, and this goes for night clothes as well. In cold weather, we bundle up to go to bed, often wearing a hoodie to keep our heads warm as well. I even made Flower Girl a sleep sack so that she stays warm enough, even if she kicks the covers off. It is basically a fleece nightgown that is long enough that it has a closure at her feet. Kinda like a combination nightgown and fleece sleeping bag. I am hoping she hasn’t grown out of it yet.

Tip #3 – Get moving! Want to warm up quick? Do some physical exercise. When we lived downtown, I would run up and down the stairs several times to warm up in a hurry. Even light housework like picking up toys, etc will get the blood flowing and warm you up.

Tip #4 – Auxiliary heat source. When we lived on the grid, I used to keep space heaters strategically located around the house so that when I got chilled, I could cuddle up in front of one. Living off-grid in a camping trailer now, that is not really an option. But you know what works great? Hot water bottles.

We got these last fall and Christmas and we use them All. The. Time. when the temps are cold. I have a problem with my feet getting cold before bed. And when my feet are cold, I just can’t feel warm. So I heat up my hot water bottle, put it at my feet in bed, and drift off to sleep in cozy warmth. They also work well to sooth sore muscles and relieve monthly cramping.

Tip #5 – Turn on the heat when you need to. So yes, we have a heat source in our trailer. And yes, we do use it when it gets cold. It is a propane fueled catalytic heater made by Mr Heater. The one we have is the Big Buddy.

Rarely do we ever have to turn that baby up on high. When we do, we have to turn it back down to low real soon or get heated out of the trailer. Even on low, it is capable of keeping us too warm – see the picture of our temperature reading earlier in this post. It was 74° inside because I was busy and hadn’t turned off the heater.

And in case you were worried, yes, we have a carbon monoxide detector. And no, we do not typically run the heater at night while we are sleeping. These heaters are supposed to be safe to run inside, but we’d rather be safe than sorry.

So yes, we stay plenty warm here in our little trailer on our mountain homestead. And if it’s chilly inside, it’s because we choose to have it that way. Because we’re different like that. But then, you probably already knew that.

Stay warm, my friends. And thanks for reading.

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Granola Recipe

Back this summer I learned to make my own granola and we are loving it! I made up another big batch today, so figured it was a good time to give you my recipe.

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Making Granola in the early autumn sunshine with a borrowed solar oven.

I have spent countless minutes in the grocery store reading ingredient labels on granola packages and still ended up having to accept some ingredients I did not like in order to have the convenience of a cold cereal that is at least somewhat healthier for you.

So I decided to make my own. From be able to use whatever flavors you want to being able to control the quantity and quality of the ingredients, it just makes sense to make your own. Below is the recipe that I make every couple of months. Every time we run out, the Hubs gets a sad face and continually asks for me to make up another batch.

Oh, and speaking of the Hubby, did you see the post he did the other day about flashlights? I was so proud of him for taking the initiative to write up a post for this here blog. Ain’t my man great? 😉

I digress…

The recipe:

Homemade Granola

  • 6-ish cups Old Fashioned oats
  • 4-ish cups nuts or seeds of choice, chopped small
  • 1-ish cup chia seeds
  • 4-ish tsp Cinnamon
  • 2-ish tsp salt
  • 1-ish cup pure maple syrup
  • 3/4-ish cup coconut oil
  • 2-ish tsp real vanilla
  • 1-2 cups raisins
  • 1-2 cups unsweetened coconut flakes

Directions: Place all ingredients except for the coconut flakes and raisins in a large bowl and mix thoroughly. Once mixed, spread a 1 inch portion of the uncooked granola onto a baking sheet and bake in the oven at 300 degrees for about 15 minutes. Stir the granola and bake for an additional 5-10 minutes or until the granola is just barely lightly browned. Empty that panfull into a large bowl and repeat with more granola until the entire batch has been cooked (it takes me four 9×13 pans to cook this amount. You could do it one at a time or if your oven is big enough, all at once – lucky you!) Add the coconut flakes and raisins and mix completely. Let cool and store in an airtight gallon sized container (I use 2 half-gallon jars). Enjoy by the handful or with milk. And feel free to experiment next time.

Notes:

-As you can tell by all “ish” statements, I tend not to measure my ingredients very precisely. I just scoop or pour till it looks about right. 🙂 This recipe is very forgiving that way.

-Nuts: I usually use sliced almonds and chopped walnuts. Lately I’ve been putting in raw pumpkin seeds as well. This time I even added a bit of flax seeds. Whatever seems good at the time and to ramp up the nutritional value. If you really want to be uber healthy, you should soak the nuts ahead of time. I have never done this, mainly because I never think about it ahead of time. It sounds really easy to do, just takes some planning.

-Other recipes will tell you to add the coconut flakes in at the beginning or midway through for a “toasted coconut” flavor. I found that by doing that, I lost the coconutty flavor. So I just add it at the end with the raisins (which don’t taste good baked in my opinion – they get too dried out).

-Feel free to make substitutions as needed/wanted. Your results may vary from mine, but that’s what making your own food from scratch is all about, making it the way YOU want it. Want to use regular oats, not old fashioned? Go for it! Want to play with the ratio of oats to nuts? Awesome! Can’t stand coconut? Leave it out. Make it yours!

-A note about price. Obviously the price of your ingredients is going to affect the price of this granola. I have found that it is not really any cheaper to make my own than a good quality store bought, mainly because I use so many nuts, which are expensive. But, and that’s the most important “but”, I can make it exactly how I want it with the exact ingredients I want. I get to control everything that goes into it. And that is worth more than the price tag.

Well, there you go. I finally got my granola recipe up here for y’all, as I said I was going to in a facebook post way back in August!

I hope you enjoy.

Blackberry Syrup with Honey

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So…we’re moving in just a couple of weeks. And we had a freezer full of food to eat up since we will be living in camping trailers and won’t have freezer space available to us (have you seen how small those freezers are?).

We had several bags of wild blackberries in the freezer from two summers ago. First of all, they just needed to be used. Because, you know, two summers ago!

Second of all, as I said, we don’t want to transport frozen food to Nevada. So we either needed to eat them or transform them into something that is doesn’t need to be refrigerated/frozen.

We had so many that we could eat cobbler several times a week from now till we leave. And as much as we all love cobbler, we’re just not that into desserts around here. We see them as a treat rather than a staple.

So a canned good of some sort was the order of the day.

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I coulda made jam. But as much as we had would have probably made about 5 pints of jam. Way too much for us to go through. That would have lasted us years! We just don’t eat that much jam.

So I chose to make syrup. By straining out the pulp and seeds I knew I’d get a smaller volume of juice. Not only that, but one jar of syrup will be gone in just a couple of days. We don’t make pancakes all that often, but when we do, we open a jar of our delicious homemade fruit syurp, use it for the pancakes, and the remainder gets used in oatmeal till it’s gone a day or two later.

I started out with 10 cups of frozen blackberries. I put them in a pot with about 1 cup of water and heated them till boiling, then cooked them for about 5 minutes. I then took a potato masher and mushed them up to get out as much juice as possible.

After that, I scooped them into some jelly bags to drain. You could use a piece of muslin or linen fabric, or several layers of cheescloth if you don’t have jelly bags.

I hung the jelly bags from a cabinet doorknob and let them drip into a bowl.

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They drained like that for about an hour or so. I probably could have let them drain for several more hours and gotten more juice out of them, but I was in a hurry.

I ended up with 4 cups of juice. I added this and one 1 cup of honey to a pot on the stove and started heating it. I chose this amount of honey because that’s what tasted good to us. Feel free to adjust the amount to your liking. You can also use any other kind of sweetener you’d prefer.

Once it was boiling, I sprinkled in about two tablespoons of no-sugar-needed pectin. I figured this would thicken it up into more of a syrup consistency without waiting for it to boil down on the stove. If you’d prefer not to use pectin, you can just let it simmer for a while on the stove, but be prepared to lose a bunch of volume. If you do use pectin, be careful not too add to much or you’ll end up with jelly!

Once it boiled good for a minute or so, I ladled it into prepared jars and processed it for 15 minutes in a boiling water bath. For detailed instructions on water bath canning, check out this site.

You can see from the following picture that the syrup is thick enough to coat the inside of the jar. Yummy!

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I ended up with 5 cups of syrup in 4 jars (two 12oz jars and two 8oz jars).

Can’t wait to have some pancakes!

And yes, we left enough blackberries out to make a couple cobblers. 🙂

Maridy

“I lift up my eyes to the hills, where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth.” Psalm 121

Leaving soon

We have our moving date set!

The house is on the market and Bachan and Pagee have accepted a contingent offer. But no matter what happens with the house, we are moving on May 20th!

Actually, May 18th marks the beginning of the big move with me and a friend taking the moving truck with all the rest of our posessions to NV, turning around the next day (the 19th) to travel back to OR with my mom (“Ahma”) in her RV – which is how Bachan is going to be able to make the trip down – then all of the family back to NV with our various vehicles on the 20th.

Whew!

Makes me tired just thinking about it!

In the mean time, since we only have 3.5 weeks left here in Oregon, we are finishing up with small projects around the house, visiting with friends one more time, and just kinda waiting for the day.

And since we have gotten rid of tons of furniture, look what I finally get!

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A reading corner next to a window! I haven’t had this in so long and I always long for a little space all my own like that. Now, this is in our bedroom, which is still Hubby’s office during the day, but in the evenings, when I am tired from the day and would rather get away to read or journal, I finally have a quiet corner all my own.

After almost two years.

For only three more weeks.

Ah, well. I’ll enjoy it while I have it.

And speaking of enjoying it, here’s the view outside that window as I sit here and blog.

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I sure am going to miss the green!

But, the trade off is worth it.

Heres a picture I took the last time we were on the homestead.

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Flower Girl running around the homestead nearly naked. Playing in the dirt. Having a grand old time. And Princess Girl, at 10 years old, was in nearly the same condition.

The freedom they have there cannot be replicated where we live here in Oregon.

We are so glad that our children are going to grow up with a close connection to the outdoors in a place of freedom and openess. They will not know or remember the scrutiny of neighbors. The claustrophobia of being hemmed in by houses. The fear of living in a neighborhood where you stay indoors or in your yard after dark and the curtains are drawn and the the doors locked.

At Castle Rock, we will not be putting in an air conditioner, which means that on hot summer nights, all the windows and doors are open to let in the cooler night air. The cars will be left unlocked, and probably even the house most of the time. Some of the windows might not even have curtains, or if they do, it’s to block out the sun in the summer.

Life in the country is kinda laid back like that.

And we can’t wait! Only 26 more days!

Maridy

“I lift up my eyes to the hills, where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth.” Psalm 121

Daily Life #9 – Failure is always an option.

First of all, hello to our new followers! I’m so honored that you are here! If you’re new to reading this blog, you can learn a bit about our journey by reading our About page.

So this is Day 9 of my daily life posts. If you’re just tuning in, you can read all of them, or at least go back and read about why I’m doing this month of daily life posts.

And that reminds me; why did I start on January 26th? That seems like an odd time to start a project. Why not January 1st? Or even wait a few more days and start on February 1st? Well, I would have loved to start on January 1st, but I didn’t think of it till the 26th. 🙂 And as for waiting, normally I would have. In fact, I normally would have waited until spring, when my life was a bit more exciting.

But Hubby and I had just watched the movie Julie & Julia. I was inspired by the main character, Julie, who started her project (to cook all the recipes in one of Julia Child’s cookbooks in one year) on a mid-August day. She didn’t wait till it seemed like an obvious time to start something so momentous. She just went for it. And so did I. 🙂

So anyway, Day 9.

Hmmm…let’s see, aside from the usual of cooking, cleaning, and caring for the family, what all did I do?

Ah, that’s right, I did my hair.

Why mention this on a homesteading blog?

Well, just because I’m a homesteader doesn’t mean that I don’t care about my appearance. I like to look nice as much as most people.

Sure, there are days when my hair goes up in a bun and my flyaway bangs get pinned back, or I throw on a hat. But often I like to “do” my hair.

The pictures below were taken a couple years ago when my hair was a bit longer than it currently is, but shows a good contrast between my “Hermione hair” as my man calls it, and how I like to style it on a regular basis.

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Before, with my hair like Hermione Granger from Harry Potter – I had gone to a party where we dressed 80’s style, thus the off-the-shoulder shirt. But then. those are coming back in style, aren’t they?

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After, with my wild hair tamed down (much easier to keep that way in the dry air of Nevada rather than the humid air of Oregon!)

However, in the spirit of reducing (my time, the energy used, etc), I try to find the fastest, easiest way that works for my hair with as little hair product as possible. And now that it’s growing out, that means straightening it, no hair mousse needed like when I let it go curly. Yes, I am blessed with hair I don’t have to wash every day, and it’s cooperative enough that unless I get caught in the rain, I can straighten it one day, and not have to mess with it (other than brushing) for 3-4 days afterward. So I spend 20 minutes on my hair once or twice a week to get it looking how I like it. Then all the other days, it’s usually less than a minute. Can’t get much easier than that!

Ok, let’s see, what else did I do all day?

Princess girl and I went on our Bible Study Date. It’s a weekly date that we have. She wants to have more in-depth study time, and I know that if I don’t make it a “date”, the chance of it getting pushed under the rug in lieu of “more important things” like dishes and laundry (heavy sarcasm there) is all too likely.

And, I started working on a belt. This is where the “failure” part comes in. I found instructions online of how to make a paracord belt. I figured it was high time I give it a try. I want a new belt, and I like the idea of having lots of paracord on me. I typically wear a survival bracelet, but I want to change things up.

So, I worked and worked while watching TV with the family. It took me 3/4 of the belt to finally really get the weave right so that it was consistently looking good. And then I ran out of paracord. And still a good 6 inches left till it was the right length. Grrrrrr!

So I ripped it all out and I will start over tomorrow with a different color that we have more of. So, yes, my first attempt at making a belt out of paracord failed. But as Adam from Mythbusters likes to say, “Failure is always an option.” Because even though it didn’t work out the first time, I learned a lot in the process.

And that’s a great attitude to have for a homesteader. Failure is going to happen. Whether it’s that your tomatoes didn’t do so well this year, or the litter of rabbit kits all died from heat exposure (please don’t ask me how I know 😦 ), you are going to fail somewhere, sometime in your journey. The question is, what do you do with that? Do you give up? Or do you collect the data and analyze what happened and do better next time? It’s all up to you.

Daily Life #4 – DIY Mason Jar Spout And Carpet Deodorizer Recipe

So I’ve seen this tip on Pinterest several times and today the planets aligned and I was able to make one for myself.

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And by planets aligning, I simply mean that I happened to have the need for one right when I had a nearly empty salt container.

I finally got around to vacuuming today and wanted to use my homemade carpet deodorizer (recipe below). But I tend to accidentally shake half the powder on the carpet when I try to shake it out without some sort of top on the jar. I thought about punching holes in a jar lid, but then I remembered this tip.

All I did was use a sharp knife to cut the top off the salt container, then put it on the jar in place in the lid. It worked remarkably well! It is the perfect size for a wide mouth jar. In order to use a regular mouth jar, just trace around a regular size lid and cut it down accordingly.

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So, the carpet deodorizer recipe. That also is super easy.
-Fill a quart size mason jar about 3/4 full with Washing Soda (not baking soda)
-Add 10-20 drops of your favorite essential oils (we like orange and clove or lavender and eucalyptus), put the lid on, and shake the jar to distribute the oils.
-Shake the deodorizer on your carpet 15-30 minutes prior to vacuuming (test on obscure area 1st).
-Vacuum as normal.

Notes:

-Do not use baking soda, it is too powdery and tends to leave a white residue, thus why the recipe calls for washing soda. It still absorbs the odors of stinky carpets but is more granular. It can be found in the laundry isle of most grocery stores.

-You can fill your mason jar full, but then you’d want to dump the soda into a bowl, add the oils, mix, and return to the jar. Otherwise the jar will be too full to shake to distribute the oils. I prefer to just do it as stated above so I don’t have another dish to wash.

-I find that I use about 1/4 of the jar (roughly 1 cup of the mixture) per application. Depending on the size of your house you may have to use more or less. This is where the salt container spout comes in handy as I found that without it, too much sprinkles out and I invariably ended up using over half my mix for one round!

-I use this powder every other or every third time I vacuum, depending on how stinky the pets and kids have been. 🙂

I really like that this carpet deodorizer is all natural. No weird chemicals to worry about around my family.

So aside from vacuuming my house (finally!), and in between the daily tasks of taking care of the family, I started researching how to make candles from scratch. An article I read recently got my gears turning and Hubs and I got to talking about all those skills which we have a theoretical knowledge of, but have never actually tried. Like candle making. Did you know that you are supposed to treat wicks with something like boric acid in order to make them burn properly? I had no idea, and my minimalist side is wondering if it really  makes a difference. So my plan is to try a couple different types of wicks and see what the results are.

So in a couple days hopefully I’ll have a post all about making candles. 🙂

Princess Girl and I also got around to mounting the puzzle we finished a couple weeks ago.

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I cut a piece of cardboard the same size as the puzzle, we covered it in Elmers glue, then slid the puzzle onto it and slathered a bit more glue on the top. Then, when it had dried a bit, we covered it in plastic and put a box on top to keep it from bowing. Princess Girl is going to hang it in her room when it is finished.

And that’s how this homesteader spent her day.

Maridy

“I lift up my eyes to the hills, where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth.” Psalm 121

The daily life of an urban homesteader

I’ve been thinking about doing this post for a while now. But several things have stopped me. It never seemed to be the right time and I didn’t know if I was the right person. Half the time I feel like somewhat of a homesteading sham. I don’t live on a farm, and much of my life here in the suburbs is normal, mundane things that don’t have much to do with homesteading. Maybe that’s why I don’t post very often, because I don’t feel like I have very many homesteaderly-type things to write about. But here’s the deal, not everyone can be the type of homesteaders they want to be right away, maybe never. But that shouldn’t stop anyone from doing what they can with what they’ve got. I have a vision in my head of what a homesteader is and does and looks like. Don’t you?

Stop for a moment, if you will. Picture in your mind what is your ideal homestead situation. Mine looks something like this:

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The thing is, I don’t think I fit any of the “perfect homesteader” requirements in my own brain. Especially living here in our normal little house on our tiny little lot in our very suburban neighborhood. And yet, I still identify as a “homesteader”. No, I’m not where I want to be yet. But I am working to get there.

And that’s truly what the homestead journey is all about. It’s about doing more for yourself, being more sustainable, and living a healthier lifestyle,

It really is a journey and you start where you are and you move forward from there.

There’s a great quote out there by Maya Angelou, “Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.”

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So here we are on our journey which we’ve been on for several years now. We started out in 2007 by planting our first garden. Our garden expanded every year and we branched out into raising animals. We got our first meat rabbits in 2012 and our first chickens in 2013. We purchased and moved onto our homestead land in 2014. Things were going great and we were on the fast track to being “real” homesteaders! And then we took what seemed a huge step backward just two months later when we moved to the suburbs in Oregon. The only thing worse I could think of is if we were in an apartment/condo with no yard. And yet we are still homesteaders. We make our own chicken bone broth and bacon lard. Though it is small we do have a garden. We have some chickens. We even butchered our own meat. Once. Our diet has taken a radical turn toward whole foods (not the grocery store!) and eating a more sustainable diet. We’ve started the process of building our own house. I’ve taught myself how to make soap, deodorant, carpet deodorizer, and various other cleaning and beauty products (which I will blog about one of these days). And I’ve dabbled in 3 season / year round gardening (two posts about that #1  #2). Sounds like numerous other “legitimate” homesteaders I know.

So, yes, even though I don’t fit my ideal vision of a homesteader, I am one.

And thus the idea for this blog assignment was born.

I am going to post every day (or as close to it as possible) for a month about my daily life.

I’m going to get real.

And along the way, I hope to debunk some myths people might be about what it takes to be a homesteader.

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So for my first day in my Daily Life posts, here’s me on my daily walk (I try to get out at least 5 times a week). I really didn’t want to post this pic since my hair is all crazy because it’s humid outside (it’s the Pacific Northwest go figure). But this is me being real. Thus, a picture showing overweight me with my flyaway hair.

So do I look like your vision of a homesteader? I don’t to me. Other than the flannel of course. 😉 In my mind, homesteaders are skinny because they eat right and get lots of exercise. You know, somewhat like Shaye Elliot over at the Elliott Homestead. I mean have you seen her? They just moved their farm and are in the midst of a total home renovation on the new place. And she’s, like, 6 months pregnant!

One day I would love to be skinny and totally in shape (and have great hair). But that’s not where I am on my journey. And I may never be. But that doesn’t stop me from doing what I can now to further my journey in homesteading. So I go for walks in order to stay in shape at least a little so that one day, when we are living and working on the homestead, I might have the strength to survive it.

Because homesteading isn’t about the way we look or the piece of land we live on or the number of animals we have. It’s about the choices we make along the journey to become the people we want to be.

Maridy

“I lift up my eyes to the hills, where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth.” Psalm 121