A Letter to my Vegetarian Friend Who Wants to Homestead

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My dear, let us start this off at the beginning- welcome!  Oh man, we are so happy to have new people around who share this passion of ours.  And let me tell you a quick secret- you’re already a homesteader.  Even if you haven’t grown or raised a thing.  See, there are some folks that will tell you that no matter what you do, you will never be a homesteader unless you follow their strict plan.  Ignore those people.  They may have some insight or advice later on about something, but for now, you ignore them.  If you have made the choice to know what is in your food, to advocate for better health and food for you and your family, and you are willing to try new things to get yourself there, honey, you’re a homesteader.  Put a tomato plant on your balcony this spring and make it official.  Oh, and those curmudgeons who say you can’t be a vegetarian and a homesteader?  Ignore them too.  They lack imagination.

Cranapple jelly

Now, the nitty gritty.  There are going to be some things that take you by surprise no matter what.  I’m not here to tell you what to do on your homestead, but I would like to throw out some things that maybe you haven’t thought of yet.  And maybe you have, I’m just trying to wrap up some wisdom in a short blog that you might find useful.

First of all, if you want to keep chickens, be prepared for something somewhere to die.  No, you do not have to eat your chickens.  My egg hens are the most spoiled birds ever to walk this earth and we are not eating them.  We are also not in the business of butchering one if she slows her egg production down.  Nah, she gets to live it up in retirement.  But we have had to kill a rooster or two.  I remember very clearly the first rooster we killed on this property.  We had three at the time, all just reaching sexual maturity.  And they tussled some with each other, but boy did they ever give the hens a hard time.  One day in particular I look out to see our gorgeous Cornish rooster in hot pursuit of a hen.  She won’t want me telling this story, but her name is Kaylee, and she is one of my faves.  I’m on my way out anyway, so I just keep a close eye on them.  Well, this particular chase had nothing to do with sex.  He chased her until he cornered her up against fencing and proceeded to peck, spur, bite and kick her repeatedly.  After you have animals for a little while, you kind of learn their behavior, even subtle stuff.  So I already knew this had nothing to do with being an overzealous boyfriend and everything to do with trying to kill her.  I rushed over and through flapping wings and squawking birds, I picked her up.  I was so flustered at the time, I didn’t know what to do so I came straight in the house.  Her face was bruised and she was visibly freaked the heck out.  We sat in the house on the futon while my husband dispatched the rooster.  When he went out, this rooster was beating the crap out of one of the other hens.  Hell to the no, bird sir, we don’t hurt the girls.  Not on this farm.  Could we have sold him?  He was pure bred, probably so.  But if he killed a fancy show hen of someone else’s, oh boy would I have felt horrible.  We knew he had this behavior problem, so passing it off to someone else would have been irresponsible.  Farm animal sanctuary?  Maybe, but the same problem would inevitably arise.  The rule here with the roosters is if they attack us, whatever, that’s their nature, but don’t you dare hurt the girls.

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Same goes for wildlife.  We are very lenient on wildlife chilling at our place.  We have a red-tailed hawk that has his home in a large tree pretty near the chicken coop.  He doesn’t bother us, we don’t bother him.  No sense in trying to run him off, he was here first.  We have also had a fox show up and check out the chicken coop.  We went out and told him, no Foxy-Loxy, this isn’t the KFC drive thru, keep on truckin.  We didn’t have to chase him, shoot at him, whatever else someone else may have done.  Us walking outside and talking was all it took.  But I have my limit on stuff I will put up with.  We went to close up the coop one night and noticed not a single bird was in it.  Except the dead one being gnawed on by a possum.  That possum went to the big farm in the sky.  It took us days of having to put the girls on their roosts at night before they would even go back in there.  I don’t blame them.  And before you feel too sorry for that possum, he had been hanging around for a while not showing any sign he was an asshole.  Then one day he just waltzed right in and killed one of my girls.  She was a golden laced Wyandotte named Webb because her feet were webbed at birth.  She was a good layer and liked hanging out with her humans.  So I kind of took it personally.

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I guess the point is, if you have livestock of any kind, there will be times when you may have to go to lengths you’re not currently good with.  I get that.  Hell, we have an adolescent possum that lives near the chicken coop.  We have been discouraging him from hanging around because we don’t want to kill him.  But if he makes the decision to kill my chickens, it is my first responsibility to keep my feather babies safe.  Relocating is a bit dicey; possums carry a disease that is incredibly harmful and often painfully fatal to horses.  It’s all a balancing act.

Another thing to keep in mind is, starting out isn’t cheap.  We are in year three of having a garden and we are finally seeing financial returns on that endeavor.  That hasn’t always been the case.  And I wouldn’t say that the garden broke even this year either.  Maybe.  But we put up some expensive fencing to keep the chickens from eating our tomatoes and the wild rabbits from eating…. well, everything.  Perspective is a good thing to keep in mind here.  We had gallons upon gallons of tomatoes this year.  Organic, fresh tomatoes.  And we made tomato sauce, enchilada sauce, hot sauces.  And ate them straight out of the garden.  The price of those same products at the store would have been pretty significant.  It evens out.  Eventually.  But a lot of expenses are going to be start up costs.  Buildings, equipment, stuff like that is a one time expense usually.  The best advice?  Take it slow.  I know the feeling that you have to put it all in now, and be a level 84 smith/gardener combo straight out of the gate is strong, but resist!  That little voice that says do everything right now is the voice that leads so many homesteaders into trouble and off the farm.  More people try this and quit than try this and make a go of it.  And repeat this to yourself every day- just because I can’t do (insert homestead thing here) today doesn’t mean I have failed.  I have more to learn.  Don’t quit.  This is hard.  This life is hard.  Whoever coined the term the Simple Life doesn’t live it.  But don’t give up on it.  If it is your dream to homestead and raise your family on food you grew, keep at it.  To borrow from Tom Hanks, “the hard is what makes it great.  If it wasn’t hard, everyone would do it.”

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So I said this was a short blog.  I guess I lied.  It happens.  Whenever I get to talking about this, man can I ramble.  But this is a scratch on the surface of what we do.  So let me say this:  I don’t know everything, far from it.  But at some point I have been where you are, and I am happy to discuss our journey if it helps you.

Grow something and be happy.  Because no matter where or how you homestead, happy is all that matters.

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Another Day

Cranapple jelly

We are finally digging out from the week of butchering.  I never thought I would get my kitchen clean again.  Honestly, it’s still not clean, just parts of it.  And because time does not stand still on a homestead, no matter how small, we are also working on preserving more food in the kitchen today.  I have one long counter that has been cleared of tools, dishes and random debris and wiped down.  That’s where I set up to start cutting up and canning apples and cranberries.  I have been doing the Mount Everest of dishes one sink at a time in between cooking down apple-cranberry jelly and cranapple butter; my husband is making adjustments to the homemade smoker we are trying to get up and running so we can smoke the bacon and hams from the two pigs we just butchered, in between cutting up pumpkins and squash so I am able to can them later.  There is cauliflower and broccoli in the garden that needs to be cut and frozen.  A pile of laundry that endangers those that walk past.  Food to prepare.  And like everyone else, we are still expected to get enough sleep and drink plenty of water.

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Later today I will be turning 6 lbs of apples into canned apple pie filling.  And we have some blackberries from this years bushes that will make an excellent cobbler.  We found a source for seafood that is fresh, brought up from the coast a couple of times a week, so sometime today I am making seafood chowder in quantities enough to feed an army.  Or two hungry farmers over the course of a couple of cooler fall evenings.

Butcher day

It’s funny, we had a slower day yesterday for the first time in weeks, and I won’t argue it wasn’t well deserved.  But working in the kitchen all day isn’t the worst way to spend an afternoon.  I enjoy what we do here, and making beautiful food that preserves all the hard work we did over the summer just feels like the right way to use up a chilly fall Tuesday.  My whole body is still sore from butchery week, and there are movements in the kitchen that don’t change no matter the task, so some of my muscles are just getting more use.  My feet and legs are tired from standing in the kitchen for a week then running my butt off at work all weekend.  I don’t want to be anywhere else.  I don’t want to be at the spa or the beach.  I want to be in my kitchen, cooking and canning, and especially eating.  I want to be sipping a cup of coffee while I look over a recipe for a jam I have never tried.  And I want to be looking out my kitchen window at the chickens, scratching through the newly turned soil in the pig yard, while I’m washing dishes.

I didn’t pick an easy job or an easy lifestyle, but I picked worthwhile ones.

 

 

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7:58 a.m.  We were packed, in the car, coffee in hand, ready to go.  I wanted to make sure we left by 8:00 since we had a 12 hour drive ahead of us.  We could take our time and sight-see a little and still be in bed on time once we got to the hotel.  If only things actually go according to plan, right?  We left on time, and we made good time through Kentucky.  Then everything slowed down.  We were on our way to the Homesteaders of America’s first conference in Warrenton, VA.  I can honestly say there isn’t much that I have been more excited to attend.  I bought us tickets when they were released, maybe as long ago as January.  I booked our hotel months out from the event.  We spent a week fortifying the chicken coop and yard so they could have access to outside 24/7 while we were gone but still be safe.  I looked up restaurants in the area so when we sailed into Warrenton Friday night we could go enjoy a meal and ease into our weekend.

Between work stress, knife work for my hubby stress, and the farm stress, the weeks leading up to this long awaited event were so mind-numbingly exhausting and trying.  We had so many things we needed to do to get the property more secured for the three days we would be gone.  And of course, we had to clean and get ourselves ready for a pretty good hike.  That meant that in between catching up laundry, making sure dishes were clean so the house didn’t stink when we got home, and packing, the pigs escaped.  The ducks couldn’t figure out the new way to get in and out of the coop.  The rabbit enclosure started to collapse.  More than once I sat down in a huff like a toddler and nearly in tears, proclaimed “we just aren’t going”.  My parents came out on a Saturday in the pouring rain and helped my husband fortify the fencing on the hog yard.  I was stuck at work, hearing second hand about how everything was going wrong right before we were going to be 808 miles away.

The night before we left, we spent the entire evening getting food ready for travel snacks, packing and unpacking the suitcase and trying to decide the best route to take.  The drive was easy, just really long.  I wasn’t prepared for the mountains in West Virginia.  My poor little car wasn’t either.  She did her best, but it was a chore to get up those hills.  Even taking into account the time change, we didn’t roll into the hotel until 15 hours later.  Despite the exhaustion from the drive, the excitement for the conference the next day meant I didn’t sleep well or much.

We got to the check-in early the next morning, just a few minutes after they were opening up the grounds for the conference goers.  That meant we were one of the first 100 who got a tote from Fluffy Layers.  That started what was to be an incredible day off right for this chicken obsessed girl.

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I have been trying to decide the best way to articulate the Homesteaders of America conference all week.  And honestly, there is so much to say and I am poor enough of a writer that putting into words the whole day is challenging for me.  They estimated somewhere around 1,300-1,500 people attended, with many bringing their children.  There were vendors, demonstrations and seminars spanning the entire available space at the Fauquier County Fairgrounds.  Overwhelmed is an adjective that comes to mind immediately.  But in such a good way.  We met so many people, so many likeminded people.  Later when I was trying to describe it to my husband, I said I felt like we found our people.  What made that sentiment all the more applicable was that only moments later, Joel Salatin would take the main stage to speak to a standing room only crowd.  And he said we found our tribe.  In many things in life, those of us who choose to homestead, who choose to grow and raise our own food, to make do instead of buy new, who choose a life full of simplicity that is in fact hard and not at all simplistic, we are the weirdos.  We are the folks that others frequently ask, “why?”  But man, did we ever find our tribe.  I feel that I behaved quite well, since one of the things my sweet husband asked before we went was, are you going to fangirl when you get to meet Joel?  Or Doug and Stacy?  Nah, I got this.  Omg omg omg omg!!!

We talked to so many people we had just met, and it felt like we were meeting up with old friends.  We talked to folks about pigs, rabbits, sheep, chickens (obviously), tools, blacksmithing, canning, gardening, mushrooms; we exchanged ideas and inspiration.  We learned and planned ways to improve and expand our own homestead in the coming months.  And everyone around us was doing the same.  Children that had never met were playing and making new friends.  Even the police tasked with keeping a rowdy crowd of homesteaders safe commented to the organizers they had never had a group that large behave that well.  I guess that’s what happens when you find other people so like you.

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I have to admit that leading up to the conference, I was getting a little bogged down with the stress of everything.  Homesteading is hard, especially when you have two full time jobs, one of which keeps you far from home half the week.  Leaving the conference that evening after a full day of so many cool things, my heart felt so light.  My head was swimming with inspiration and ideas.  And I have a renewed confidence in what we are doing.  The day after we got home from the conference, we had to butcher our two pigs.  They were 100 pounds past where we wanted them, it was time.  I knew I needed to help but I had absolutely not prepared.  At all.  Think walking into a chemistry test without going to class.  Ever.  That’s kind of how I felt.  Today is day 4 of processing our first two hogs we have ever raised.  We haven’t slowed down, working 10-11 hours a day to get this meat packaged and sorted.  The pig butchery tale is one for another day and another blog or two, but when it was time for me to step up and start working on one of the pigs, I had confidence that with some real time instruction from my husband and the demo we attended at the conference about hog butchery, I was able to dive in and do the work.

Lard canning

I commented the other day that I will need a vacation from my vacation, but really, despite being sore in places I didn’t even realize I had muscles, I feel better than I have in a while.  There is something to be said for touching base with your tribe from time to time, and with that in mind, we are already planning on attending the conference next year.  And hopefully I will be able to keep in touch with the people we met and talked to at the conference.  I could sit and talk for days about everything that we got to see, but there’s broth that needs to be canned and salsa to put up.  Check in with me later, there will be more to talk about.

 

Plugged In, Tuned Out

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We have been so plugged in this week. On social media, watching YouTube videos, texting, TV on, you get the idea. We tend to strike a decent balance between not remembering where we set down our electronic devices and keeping up with the digital world. And my husband and I both recognize that the weeks that we spend less time in front of a screen, the better we feel. The content and context of the screen time is relevant, but so often, when we are trying to find something specific, like a recipe or a video tutorial, we end up in the bottomless scroll. You know exactly what I’m talking about, because even if you haven’t personally experienced it, a family member has in your presence. We tell ourselves, “I will just check this really quickly, and once I get to the bottom of the page, I will go do something productive.” Except the social media gurus know that’s what you are going to do, and if you leave their page, you can’t see the ads they are getting paid so well to display, so they design their sites to be always updating, and never ending. In a time when our collective attention span rivals that of the goldfish for shortness, the minds that brought you the timeline and live videos also made sure that there is always new content on their pages. Don’t leave! What if you miss something? That’s how you sit down to update your profile with a picture of your super healthy and delicious breakfast, and look up to find out you’ve been scrolling for approximately 2 years, 5 months and a week. Quick, take a selfie and document the moment.

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We are all guilty of this. We live in a plugged in world. High school and college classes and projects/assignments are online, businesses conduct meetings with members around the globe onscreen, online searches take minutes to find data to support your Facebook argument, or find a recipe that is on that new diet you’re following. And most importantly, we have access to a constant barrage of advertisements letting us know exactly what is missing from our lives. What I tend to forget frequently is how detrimental being this plugged in is for me. My brain doesn’t like it, and my mood really takes a hit when I spend a lot of time online. I promise I get the irony of talking about being online as a negative as I sit typing a blog on my laptop. The point is more that I have to work to remind myself that going outside or working in my kitchen is going to bring me longer lasting enjoyment than scrolling through my feed. I like seeing people’s pictures, especially of kittens and food, but man does it make my brain turn to mush when I get sucked into reading the news or an article about politics. I like to know what’s going on in the world, but there is a limit to what I can ingest in a day and still maintain a good mood.

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My husband dragged me outside earlier this evening and I took my camera. One of my favorite hobbies is taking pictures and I have dropped the ball on walking around with my camera and soaking up outside time. Just being out, walking the property, catching the ducks playing in the pond, scratching the pig’s ears, and walking with the hens, soothes my whole being like nothing else can. Except maybe bread. My farm is my giant red reset button, and every time I go out and just look around, I am reminded that turning off the devices and looking at what’s real and in front of me is important, necessary and what I need every day.
Tomorrow I will do better. Maybe I will turn the devices off all day, who knows. Wouldn’t that be a trip? To take a step back in time, and not know instantly what is going on in the world? I need to try it.

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Pining for Fall

Pumpkin patch

While fall is imminent, I just wish it felt more like it.  Summer is my least favorite of all seasons and I am ready for this one to be over with.  I realized we are trying to artificially make it fall at my house this week.  While my husband is outside heat treating some knives he’s working on for orders, the smell of what could be a campfire wafts into the house proper.  We harvested pumpkins earlier from the garden and I am ready to find a thousand and one recipes to use up my pumpkins.  While he’s outside working on knives, I’m inside working on baking.  I have squash bread in the oven and I’m thinking about the best way to start butter so I can slather our baked goods today with homemade butter.  We have planted the fall garden, so there is broccoli, cauliflower, kale, brussels sprouts, cabbage, Napa cabbage, and onions out there now, making use of what was the green bean rows.  I have had my pumpkin pie Scentsy on pretty much non stop for two weeks.

It’s not that I hate summer, it’s just that I really love fall.  Especially after summer, which is hot and humid and there are a lot of bugs.  I like cooler weather and no bugs.  And baking.  And all of the holidays that come with this time of year.  The holidays that are dedicated to eating.  I know the real reason for those holidays isn’t food, but they are the best because of the food traditions.  Diets go out the window, differences are mostly ignored and people gather round tables to share food.  It has been my thought that a lot of things could be worked out if people just shared food more often.  You and Uncle Larry don’t like each other?  Surely you can find some common ground over Aunt May’s chocolate silk pie.  And honestly if neither of them can cook, don’t even worry about fixing the relationship.  But in all seriousness, if people were more willing to explore other people’s food traditions and share a meal, there would be a lot less hate in this world.

But I digress.  So far this week we have harvested four or five pumpkins, all of which look fantastic.  They were an accident really.  My husband threw a bunch of squash seeds on the compost pile, and now a pumpkin and butternut squash patch have taken over our yard.  As long as I get food from it, I’m all for it.  We also have some potato plants in there that are super happy.  We might get the first potatoes we have ever grown later this fall.  And today we dug up sweet potatoes we had tossed in a pot and forgot about.  We got about a pound of potatoes and that to us is amazing since they have lived on serious neglect all summer.  The pumpkins got a lot of neglect as well.  Once they started doing well we watered them if they needed it, but really growing in the compost pile could be the best kind of neglect.  They get fertilized by everything breaking down out there and the soil isn’t super unforgiving.

The smell of baked things with cloves and cinnamon is filling the house and making me a little hungry.  If you have any pumpkin recipes, send them my way.  For now, I will bake squash bread and wait for the pumpkins we have to cure so I can start cooking with them.

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Chickens everywhere

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We put my desk in the dining room next to the French doors that look out over the backyard.  While I sit here trying to think of clever things to write, I can look out and see what kinds of insanity my birds are getting up to.  Half the time they are on the back porch looking in at me, probably trying to figure out why I would just sit there when they so clearly need treats.  We have one that comes in now to lay her egg.  She is a young hen, she just started laying a week ago.  She watched a different chicken come in the house a couple of times and figured it would be worth trying.  So one day, when the door was open because we were carrying something in or carrying something out, she waltzed on in like she had done it a million times.  Whatever beacon guided her there, I don’t know, but this hen sauntered over to the dog crate we have on the outside wall of the kitchen and hopped on top where we keep a cat bed, typically for the cats.  She kicked and wiggled her butt and threw straw around in that bed for a while, then she went outside.  She repeated this the next day.  And the next.  On that third day, she laid a perfect, teeny tiny, brown fairy egg.  That’s what they’re called when they are small and are usually either laid by a hen that is brand new, or starting to get old.  After she left her present for us, she hopped down and wanted back out.  That was 6 eggs ago.  She comes in every day, rain or shine, to lay an egg in that cat bed.  And then she goes right back out.  So we basically get breakfast delivered to our kitchen.

Chickens are funny.  We don’t really know what possessed her to try that out, to even try coming in the house.  The other chicken does it because she knows that’s where people treats are kept and she gets put right back out.  We have another hen, a small brown girl, the same age as the egg in the house chicken, who waits at the door to the coop every night until you come out to close them up.  She wants to talk and talk the whole time you are in there gathering the eggs and getting the coop ready for nighttime.  Then she gets up in her favorite spot and tucks in for bed.  We have chickens that would follow you all over this property, but the minute you acknowledge they are there, start pecking around like they weren’t just following you.  You’re not fooling us, chicken.  We have a chicken, that when you sit down, she gets in your lap and demands to be held.  Not just to sit with you, she wants to be held.  Put down your phone, human or I will put it down for you.

And they’re smarter than people give them credit for.  They learn and they figure stuff out.  If a chicken really wants something, it will find a way to get it.  Even if that something is just a warm, dry place in a kitchen to lay an egg.

 

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We butchered two of the roosters yesterday.  Before you get too emotional for them, our hens are looking a little bald and a little beat up lately.  Poor Sookie even has a hole in her back the size of a nickel.  So we kept the sweetest one and the other two are freezer birds and stock right now.  I will be canning a ton of chicken stock we are getting off of these guys sometime tonight.  Anyway, so I decided I would try to learn how to do the actual processing.  Usually Hubby brings me the whole bird dressed out and cleaned up and all I have to do is separate cuts of meat and put them in baggies.  I decided it’s time for me to learn the process before that.  If you ever decide to raise your own chickens or ducks for meat, let me offer you a tiny piece of advice for butchery day.  Leave your mouth closed.  What kind of crazy advice is that?  Well, you leave your mouth closed so that when the wind kicks up you don’t end up with feathers in your mouth.  Trust me, you don’t want this to happen to you.

I managed to impress my husband with my willingness to learn this part.  I can’t kill them, I am not even close to being there.  And I don’t know if I ever will.  He and I have talked a lot about this part of homesteading and he is willing to do that part of it.  I would like to be able to help him more, and I am learning new things all the time in order to do that.  If he can get the process started and then hand it off to me, that opens up a whole new range of options for what we can get done.  He worked on his blacksmithing yesterday while I worked on the first rooster.  He was nearby to give me pointers and answer questions, but he also got some of his work done.  The more we can do that, the more successful we will be.

Heck, maybe this week he will show me how to use the chainsaw.

Maybe…

Farm Life

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I’m having a hard time focusing.  It’s been this way for a couple of weeks now.  The weather isn’t helping; it feels like spring some days and it looks like spring some days.  The peach tree thinks it’s spring.  And the chickens are more actively free ranging, searching out the tender shoots of grass and ripping them from the cold ground.  But then the winter-like days return for a few days.  It’s maddening.  Not that I am quite ready for the return of warm weather; warm weather means that oppressively hot is just around the corner, and I have a feeling this year is going to be a hot one.  We have so many different things going on right now that I could turn in circles all day and not do anything productive.  But that doesn’t mean that I am getting any relaxing done either.

The pig pen needs to go up, the chicken run needs to be finished, the coop cleaned out, 10 gallons of broth need to be canned so we have room in the freezer for meat, the house could use a good scrubbing, the lawn desperately needs attention, the flower beds need tending, I need to write, I need to take a thousand and one pictures and I need to sketch us some designs for the homestead logo.  In addition to work, and the other every day things that need doing.  We aren’t any busier than usual, honestly, I am just having a hard time finding a thing and sticking with it.  And every day that the weather changes, it makes it worse.

Today I spent some time taking pictures with my chickens and my husband while we walked the property and talked about gardening plans.  I am also working on some of the pictures I took today with new editing software I found.  This is my happy place, honestly.  As I ease back into my home and my routine here, talking shop with my hubby and taking pictures of my chickens, I remember why we live here and not in the city.  I have lived in the city.  And for who I was when I was there, it was fine.  But now, the city makes me high strung and antsy.  It makes me cranky and it makes me unfocused.

But this week I’m going to focus on fixing my scattered.  I’m going to hang with my chickens and take way too many pictures.  I’m going to cook with my hubby and find new recipes.  I’m going to learn more about photography and editing.  And I’m going to forget the hustle and bustle of the big city.  Well, at least until I have to go back to work.

 

 

Keeping Up With the Jones’

I read something the other day that really resonated with me.  Basically, it said that the economy is geared to make us unhappy.  Because if we are unhappy, we buy more stuff.  Unhappy with the way you look?  We have something you can buy for that.  Unhappy with your house?  Redecorate it with this stuff you can buy.  You get the idea.  And we feed into it.  We (pun intended) buy into that way of thinking hook, line and sinker.  We declutter at the beginning of a new year because we have accumulated a lot of stuff that was supposed to make us happy.  We have whole sections of books in libraries and bookstores, whole websites and seminars, and job titles dedicated to the idea of decluttering and organizing all of our stuff.  But does our “stuff” make us happier?  My new coffee maker makes a better cup of coffee than my old beat up one did.  But it takes up twice the room in the kitchen which makes it harder to keep the kitchen clean.  My new comforter looks nice and suits the bedroom better than my old one, but does it keep us warmer?  Now the old one is being stored, which takes up more room in the closet.  I can donate it, or have a yard sale.  I recently took three large boxes of books to the library to donate them.  And then I quickly filled up their spaces on the bookshelves with new books that have been purchased or gifted to us.  As a society, we have so much stuff, that we design houses with storage in mind now.  Bigger closets, bigger kitchens, bigger bathroom cabinets.  At the end of the day, how much bigger does everything have to be to make us happy?  Better yet, when is enough enough?  How many thousands of dollars do we have to spend on Christmas?  Or birthdays?  How much do we need to be like Dudley Dursley to be happy?

Is there a better way?  Do we have to keep up with the Jones or the Kardashians?  Do we absolutely have to have the newest, shiniest, biggest thing?  In addition to everything else I resolved this year, I think I may have to add a late one.  I want to resolve to accumulate less stuff, buy fewer things, and learn to find my happiness in moments, memories and time with my family.  Instead of buying a new kitchen gadget that I might use three times this year, I am going to be present in the moment of kneading bread while my husband preps stews.  Instead of worrying about how new my jeans are, I’m going to focus on the fact that they have paint stains from when we made our master bedroom our own.  Instead of buying piles of new books by the dozens, I am going to read the ones I own that are sitting in stacks around the house, waiting for their worlds to be discovered.

This year, I resolve to find my happiness outside of consuming.  To be present and notice the texture of a moment.  To be aware of sounds and smells that permeate this existence and find my joy in them.  No, I really don’t need a new car, or a new wardrobe, or a new gadget.  I need to enjoy what I have, but more importantly, who I have.  We sometimes forget that it’s the people and the memories that make us happy, not the things.  It’s hard to focus on the moments when our entire world is geared towards reminding us of all the things we don’t have.  And filling us with an urgency to go acquire them.  But at the end, it’s the people that make life memorable.  And it’s the people that make you happy.

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New Year’s Resolutions Folks

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Here it is, 2017!  Welcome New Year!  Some of us are really happy to see you.  We don’t really want to talk too much behind her back, but last year was a little brutal towards some of us.  We lost family, we lost artists we loved from our childhood and we got beaten up, well, a lot.  But here you are!  New Year!  The days are already starting to get longer, the holiday stress is behind us (unless you count trying to get rid of the holiday food from your backside), seed catalogs are in our mailboxes and Resolutions are being made.  Of course I have some, and I am really hoping this year I can keep a couple.  Resolutions that is, not extra pounds.  You know, past February when most resolutions get the boot.  Last year, I had an easy one to keep, “Love More”.  Oh it was what great resolutions are made of; it was lofty, elegant, vague and open ended.  Heck, if I increased the “love” by just 0.5%, I have resolution success!  That could mean 15 minutes one day of being nice to someone.  Woohoo!  We made it!  Good job, pat on the back.

Well this year, I am adding a “plan” to my resolutions.  This should make them more measurable outside the vague cloud of last year’s resolution.  What do I have planned for this year?  What fresh torture am I going to subject myself to?  Starve and exercise until I am my high school weight?  Get rid of all sweeteners?  Or, (ick), go without all carbs?  Nope, not this girl, not that dramatic.  Instead I think I will try to get into better shape.  Vague, right?  That’s why I am adding the plan of a couch to 5k.  Get rid of sweeteners?  No thanks.  I like sugar, and yes I know it’s terrible for me, but I don’t care.  But I am going to get rid of sodas.  I want to grow 100% of one of our vegetables that we eat.  100% of what we use for the entire year, and preserve it so we are eating our own vegetables in winter.  I want to commit to writing more and growing my craft.  If I wrote half as much as I talk, I could have three novels published by now.  I want to put money into the savings, and I have a small amount already set aside each paycheck starting now.  I want to organize the homestead endeavors better.  And to keep up with the danged homestead binder this year.  I want to pay off a student loan this year, and I have already worked it into the budget.

None of this seems that outrageous at this time.  And with the exception of the couch to 5k, I’m pretty sure I can work towards those goals with 5 minutes a day to devote to them.  We have changed some of what we do and how already, but I want to take what progress we’ve already made and build on it.  We don’t change over night, and none of this will be easy every single day.  We went to Lowe’s today to buy some goodies for the house and I asked Hubby if he wanted to split a soda.  He was the wiser of the two of us and said no, we are sticking with this.  But at least he’s in it with me.  And as long as I can change my attitude, I can change anything.

Happy New Year!  May your year be full of love and good food.

BreadandJalapenos