30 August 2010

Westward Ho!

We are in the thick of moving,
so posting may be scarce for a while!

We are traveling by covered wagon
but it looks a little different from the one that
Laura and Mary Ingalls traveled in!

Our horse "team" is Old Blue, our paid-for 1988 truck,
and the "wagon" is on loan from my dad,
for which we are very grateful.

We are sure wishing that we could be satisfied
with just one wagon full of stuff, though!

How did Pa and Ma Ingalls do it?

29 August 2010

Princess Art

I snagged this book at a Home Educators Convention
about a year and a half ago,
and it has proved to be a great investment in the Treasure.
Her normal 6-year-old passion for everything Princess
has been a blessing in many ways
as it has opened the doors for many heartfelt
talks about purity, pridefulness, responsibility and service.

It has also been a catalyst for developing her artistic abilities.

At first I had to do most of the drawings myself
and "show" her how to draw, and then she would color the picture.

Then she started drawing most of the princess parts
and asked me to add the smaller complicated details.

Recently, she has just blossomed.
She now dives in and does it all herself.

(I think when she saw me buy 10 packages of bright markers
for 70 cents each at a recent discount store sale
and knew they were just for her to use up
over the next "academic year"
that it really boosted her confidence.
Or maybe she's just getting close to being 7....)

Love the brown skin and the strong-woman stance!

Whatever it is, I'm loving her work.

The attention to details keeps growing.

And of course.....They all live happily ever after.
Ahhh, to be 6-going-on-7 again!

23 August 2010

The-Man's Chunky Vegan Gravy

My Man loves traditional white flour biscuits and milk-sausage gravy,
but they just don't qualify as healthy food.
So he keeps experimenting,
and he's come up with substitutes for both that we really enjoy.

Here's the Almost-Vegan-Biscuits recipe that I posted earlier,
and now for the gravy to top it:

The Man's Chunky Vegan Gravy

1/4 c. chopped green pepper
1/4 c. chopped celery
1 med. onion, chopped
Saute above in olive oil.
Meanwhile, in blender jar, whiz up
1 cup raw cashews
with enough water to turn the blades. Add
2 cups of cooked garbanzos
and enough more water to make the blades turn easily.
When the pepper, celery and onion are sautee'd enough,
add the cashew/garbanzo mixture to the veggies,
then put
2 cups water
2 tablespoons mira-cleer or cornstarch
in the blender jar and whiz well,
then pour into the pan with veggies and cashew/garbanzo puree.
Season with
1 tsp. liquid smoke
2 tsp. sausage seasoning
(use your favorite, and I will post our recipe soon)
salt to taste
(we like Herbalmare)
Keep it stirred and cook it until it is the consistency you prefer.
You may need to use more or less water to make it how you like.
Serve over hot biscuits.

The-Man likes his gravy to be the consistency of what I call "glop."
You know, when it falls off the spoon, it goes "glop" and lands in a chunk.
Me? I like gravy. I like it to run off the edges of my biscuits
so I can chase it with my fork and sop it up...

But this stuff is good enough that I'll eat it any way he fixes it!

Sausage Seasoning

Here's a recipe that we've adapted from one by the same name from a cookbook entitled "The Gluten Book" by LeArta Moulton. It has been a great help in seasoning our vegan food. Maybe you will enjoy it too.

Grab a bowl, this makes about a cup of seasoning:

3 Tblsp. Ground Rosemary
10 Tblsp. ground Sage
3 Tblsp. Herbalmare (an herb-infused sea salt from the health food store)
3 Tblsp.+1 tsp. powdered Marjoram
3 Tblsp.+1 tsp. crushed Basil
3 Tblsp. + 1 tsp. Paprika
3 Tblsp. + 1 tsp. Garlic powder

Mix ingredients well. Store in jar with airtight lid. Label. Shake before using.

22 August 2010

A Cheerful Front Stoop

My home-educating philosophy has evolved
(out of sheer desperation as we are packing and moving)
from "Let's sit down and learn this"
to "Oh. You want to do what?
Ok, sure! Here's the stuff to do it-- Go have fun!"

So we are "doing" a lot of art.

We are working in some other things, too.
Like *telling time.
Because there are specific times
when she is allowed to go visit the next door neighbors.
(We call that math.)
And there are read-alouds, morning and evening.
She has a burning interest in the *Aztec and *Maya civilizations.
And the *civil war, because we've been reading Addy's story.
Addy is a historical American Girl Doll,
in case you're not in the know because you don't have a little girl...
We had an indepth conversation one morning about *China
and it's population control policies,
because she was asking questions
regarding her cousin who is adopted from China.
(History, Geography and Social Studies.)
Oh, and she has developed a fascination with
the Word program on my computer,
and decided to *write a book.
A princess story, of course.
Because she and her best friend are "making a library."
She is busy *making many books to stock its shelves.
And she *dictated a letter to me for her best friend,
I wrote it down and then had her copy it on paper
in her own *handwriting,
and we mailed it.
(That's English class.)

I could go on and on.
(I won't, because I'm busy...and so are you!)
But you get the idea.
We've switched from the classroom model of education
to a more interest-led philosophy
and I'm really loving it.
It is really fun, and we are both enjoying life more.

When our lives settle down again post moving,
I plan to continue educating this way,
although I do intend to do a little more
 leading in some areas of interest.

But for now, every time I open my front door,
or come home and walk up the steps,
I see these gorgeous colors, and they make me happy.

I love her art.
(Which means you'll be seeing more of it soon!)

"School" is fun because it isn't "school" anymore,
it is life.....a life-style of learning we love,
and we are both satisfied.

21 August 2010

Rose of Sharon

I am the Rose of Sharon...
Song of Solomon 2:1

20 August 2010

No Egg Re-calls Here!

Meet the girls! L-R:
Beauty (Australorpe), Pepper (Silver-laced Wyandotte) and Goldie (Gold Star layer).

With all the recent media coverage of the massive outbreak
of human illness across the country due to contaminated eggs,
we are especially grateful for our girls!

Although we eat a primarily vegan diet,
we do use some eggs occasionally.
About a year and a half ago I decided to
"get some chickens."

The Treasure and I picked out six of them
at a local farm and ranch store...
they were such cute little fluff balls!

It has been a really enjoyable experience overall...
aside from the smell  of their excrement
if allowed to collect too long in one place,
and having to bury each of the three we have lost.

The-Man has the girls trained to jump into the "tractor" he made for them...
the LOVE going to pasture and gobble up the greens and bugs.
We often put them in weedy patches of the garden,
they eat down the weeds and scratch/till the ground.

We've learned a lot, and we have really enjoyed the eggs.
We love that the Treasure knows where those eggs come from.
(She spent a whole morning once, watching the hens,
and came bouncing in and announced,
"the egg just plopped right out of her bottom!
and mom, it was still wet!!")

Here's the chicken-yard. They roost at night in the old dog crate,
and the lean-to on the left shelters their feed and a nesting place.
Feed and scratch are housed in the metal trash can on the left edge of the photo.

 It is satisfying to know where our eggs come from,
and to have control of the living conditions of the birds that lay them.
We hope to get some more baby chicks next spring,
maybe we'll eventually be able to sell a few eggs.

Although the time may come soon when it is not safe to eat eggs
even from our own backyard flock due to disease,
for now we plan to keep our girls around.

19 August 2010

The Beverly Hillbillies Move

Just for smiles, I had to share these photos.
What you see here is what I call
"the poor white trash pile".....going down the road!

The back edges (and more) of our current premises
have been decorated with this assortment of junk for years...
I used to have hope that we would eventually get it all cleaned up,
as I prefer the neat & tidy look...

I'm quickly losing hope now,
as most of it appears to be moving with us.

My only consolation is that The-Man-of-the-Place
actually does use this stuff to create some really functional items
that add to our family's quality of life,
like the canning kitchen mentioned in a previous post.

And he really spends very little on his creations,
as most of this stuff is hauled off for free.

And, did I mention....it makes him happy?

It took three days to get these loads to their destination.
The trailer in the top photo was severely overloaded,
and caused three different wheel issues...
in his words, "it was so overloaded that the weight
wallered out the lug nuts to where it split the rims
and let the wheel come off..."

The first time, the wheel came off the right side,
 passed him on the left going down the road,
crossed the yellow line and went off in the ditch on the left hand side...
about a quarter mile down the road it finally fell over...
fortunately, no one was injured.

Did I mention how glad I was that the Treasure and I were not along on that trip?
The-Man's father was pulling the second trailer with his truck,
and between the two of them they finally
were able to get both loads to their destination...

of course, had I been on the trip,
I'd have had to ride atop the load in a bentwood rocker
just like Granny...
and I do believe I would have been
flapping my gums about as loudly!

18 August 2010

Is Toilet Paper a Necessity?

Do you have a weekly grocery budget that includes toilet paper,
facial tisssue and paper towels?
Are you as tired as I am of the rising cost of paper products
eroding what is left of your budget for actual food?

Does it annoy you that toilet paper, that almighty "necessity"
is actually something that you use once for hygenic properties
and then flush.....never (hopefully) to be seen again?

Does that seem a lot like just flushing
your hard-earned and not-so-plentiful-dollars down the toilet?

I thought so, too!
So, several years ago I began searching for viable alternatives.

In my lifetime, I have never used anything but toilet paper,
save the rare situation when I was caught unprepared in the wilds
and had to use whatever I could find.

Two alternatives that quickly came to mind
included things I'd heard about since I was a kid.
Folks always joked about using corn cobs for 'doing business'...
and I remember my parents telling stories from their childhood
of always having an old Sears & Roebuck catalog handy in the outhouse.
Mom said they always used the black and white pages first,
as they were softer when crumpled,
and she always dreaded when they were gone
and they had to use up the crisper color-printed pages.

Corn cobs just don't appeal to me,
and we don't get a Sears & Roebuck catalog any more.
(even if we did, I trust my mom's judgement...
I don't even consider those crispy,
all color pages to be any kind of an alternative!)

But I did consider using the pages from an old phonebook.
Then I remembered that we are still using a flush toilet
and have a septic system, and somehow I don't think
stuffing yellow-pages down there would work very well
or keep me in the-Man-of-the-Place's good graces.

So I went on-line to see if I could find any other creative alternatives.
I finally came across an article (which I can no longer find or I would give a link)
that made mention of a very simple alternative.
I quickly emailed the author requesting more information.
He was a physician who was born and raised in another country and culture,
and he kindly answered my many questions.

Basically, millions of people in many parts of the world do not have the access
to paper hygiene products that we do here,
and even if they did they could not afford them.
But they have a basic, simple way to take care of 'business'.
Whether the toilet is a squat style or western bowl type,
you can easily clean up with simple soap and water.

After 'toileting', have a container handy that has
some sort of place on it with which you can fairly accurately aim a stream,
(such as a small pitcher, or a freezer container with square corners)
as well as a source of water, either a sink, spigot or bucket of water.
Fill the container with clean water and have it handy.
Wet your hand (the non-dominant one for those who are squeamish
or have questionable handwashing practices)
with water and then get some soap on it,
and use that hand to clean where the sun don't shine.
With your dominant hand, pick up the water container and aim the stream
at the part(s) you just cleaned, and rinse them and your soapy hand very well.
Grab the washcloth or small towel you have handy
and dry things off.

Next is an important tip for continuing good health:
Wash both your hands very well with soap and water!

Now, don't you feel all fresh and clean?
Once you try this enough to become proficient at it,
you will be amazed that you spent your entire life using yucky toilet paper.
Toilet paper just doesn't get you clean the way soap and water does.

And just think how much money you'll save!

All the gear you'll need for your new hygiene habits fit nicely on a small shelf
or in a little drawer. Just make sure they are conveniently located.

And don't be afraid to experiment.
The equipment above belongs to me.
The-Man-of-the-Place had his own preferences.

He likes to use a plastic water bottle with a special fitting he put in it
called a "nutted ninety." He ran across it in his previous line of work
and isn't sure if it could be purchased in a hardware store or not.

Expirement. Find what works for you.
And loosen up, laugh at yourself a little.
We're all in this together!

If you decide to give up the toilet paper habit,
and extra perk is needing less shelf space for all those disposables.

I love the extra "white space" in my cupboards,
and I love making my grocery budget stretch further.

We find it very satisfying to know that we don't need
to rush to the store in a panic next time it is announced
in the media that there is a shortage of TP in the local stores.
By keeping a year's supply of bar soap in the pantry,
We have the calm security of knowing we have what we need already at home,
and we know how to use it!

Downsizing doesn't need to be painful.
In fact, it can be really fun!

17 August 2010

Happy Man Hotpads

Here's a simple and quick way to recycle some scraps of denim.

Because of all the canning The-Man-of-the-Place has been doing,
with most of it being outdoors over a campfire (which means lots of black soot!)
here is how I found my prized kitchen potholders that I crocheted by hand a couple of winters ago:

Not too pretty, eh?
This stuff has kind of a greasy feel to it, so I know it is not going to come out.
I do love that Man, and I really appreciate all his hard work canning...
he is such a good provider for our family.

But, in order to stay on the best of terms with him,
I decided it was necessary to have a little "discussion"...
which was mainly me explaining to him
how it makes me feel when I spend time creating things
to make our home lovely
and then he grabs them and uses them in ways that
permanently damage them.....
We eventually (calmly) came to a solution.....
He requested a box of rags,
conveniently placed and clearly marked for his use
and four hot pads made from old blue jeans.

I can assure you I set about that day to make his wishes come true!

I grabbed the closest stack of old blue jean legs laying around...

...asked him just what size he wanted his hotpads to be...

...cut out a prototype with pinking shears,
then cut out four more just like it, according to his specifications...

(on the following three hot pads,
I got smart and made a 7-inch template from light weight cardboard
and just traced around it with a pen...
I can get all four layers for one hotpad from one jeans leg)

Then I clipped the layers together and took them to the sewing machine.
Stitched them together with a straight stitch,
and when I got to the last corner I turned around and made an X
to hold all the layers together a little better.

Now, if I were making these for the house,
I would have been a little fussier...
I probably would have just used two layers of denim
and put cotton batting between,
and I would have left an opening and turned them inside out
and then topstitched all around...

...but knowing what is going to happen to them,
I didn't bother at all with fussy!

So there you have it, a stack of four waiting for him
at the place of action.
I think he'll be a happy man!

(After previewing this post prior to publishing,
the Man dryly informed me...
"It should have been entitled Happy Woman Hotpads."


16 August 2010

In Need of Educating

The Princess learned to make tissue paper flowers one day this week,
and was happily busy for an hour or so.
I was busy packing and didn't pay much attention
to what she did with the finished product
until I saw it proudly displayed in the center of our kitchen table.

It is probably a good thing she was gone to the neighbors
for a few minutes when I discovered her masterpiece
so carefully placed in water...
my amusement was hard to contain.

I'm thinking maybe we need to focus a bit more on the Nature/Science department
in the coming school year?

15 August 2010

The Outdoor Canning Kitchen

Our favorite Asian pears

The-Man-of-the-Place has been working harder than he did at his job the past week or so,
putting up the produce that grows on our current property.
At present this consists of tomatoes, pears, a few peaches,
and hopefully a few apples. Mainly pears.
We have 2 Asian pear trees, and one Bartlett,
and another tree that was tagged "Alberta Peach" when we bought it
but several years later produced Bartlett shaped pears.
(No wonder we got it for such a good price.)

Another type of Asian pear
The trees are just loaded with fruit this year.
We are so grateful, since last year we didn't have any due to late spring freezes.

Seasoned pine branches support groaning fruit-laden boughs

The trees are groaning under the weight of the fruit,
so The-Man has supported them using limbs from a pine tree that blew over
in a storm with 84-mile-per-hour straight line winds.

The tree needs to be cleaned up,
and the Man is thriftily putting it to good use!
When the-Man started canning, he did it indoors, and at the end of the first day,
we were all hot and sticky and grumpy (in spite of having central air)
with no place to really cool off.
(Spoiled rotten, aren't we?!)
So he decided to move his operation outdoors.

Next day or two he fired up his propane camping stove,
and that helped keep the home much cooler.
Then he ran out of propane.
He mentioned needing to go to town to buy propane,
so I showed it to the-Man,
and you should have seen his eyes light up!
My Man loves to cook over a wood fire!

Here is the first version of the canning kitchen.
Simple, and all items we already owned,put to good use.
(The fire-pit is what our family uses on cool evenings
for outdoor bonfires.)
Note the evolving complexity...the shop-vac on the left
is used to "turn the burner on high!" :):):)
I love the way he utilizes stuff found lying around...
(note: "stuff lying around" is a nicer term
for what I usually call "the poor white trash pile!")
The fire pit can now be rolled out from under
the cooking rack,which makes it easier to load the wood
than when he had to take the kettle and grate off to do it.

And here is the current version...
note the windbreak, it helps the pot boil more quickly,
and the wood pile to the right?
You guessed it---the remains of the toppled pine tree!
So now the-Man cuts and prepares the fruit inside,
then takes it outdoors for the jar processing.
His goal is 100 quarts of pears put by for winter...
I think he's over halfway there...

Pears and tomatoes

...but he's only just finished with the Asian pears.
Look what is just beginning to ripen up now!

The Bartlett is sagging under the load...

For the bounty of the earth...
We Give Thanks.

14 August 2010

Bird Blessings

Do you see mama hummingbird on her nest?

And two baby bird beaks?

And here's a little better  view of mama...

We have been so blessed the past few weeks to have this little hummingbird family nesting, hatching and growing up in the branches of a big oak tree just outside our kitchen window.

When I realized we had a nest and mama there,
I quickly put out a feeder with homemade nectar.
(3 parts water, brought to a boil, 1 part sugar added and stirred until dissolved,
then cooled and placed in clean feeder.)

They have been such a joy to watch.
It is the first hummingbird nest I've ever seen,
and the babies are flying about now, feeding at the feeder,
and practicing their dive-bombing moves.
I am amazed at how fiercely they protect their territory...
even though they are tiny, I wouldn't want one coming after me
with that needle-sharp beak!

We are praising the Lord for giving us the opportunity
to view His beautiful creations before we leave this lovely place.
Looking at the tiny nest which that little lady has so dedicatedly
made her place of abode for these many weeks
reminds me that downsizing is a good thing!
If she can sit so contentedly in her little home,
through wind and rain and wildly waving bough,
calmly protecting and nurturing her family through the storms that blow...
the God who empowered her to do that
can do the same for me.

Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing?
and one of them shall not fall on the ground without your Father.
But the very hairs of your head are all numbered.
Fear ye not therefore, ye are of more value than many sparrows.
Matthew 10:29-31

13 August 2010

Daddy's Mended Jeans

This is a pair of my 84 year old father's blue jeans. He's a farmer, and all my life he's worn the same work uniform: leather boots, blue jeans, long-sleeved chambray shirt and straw hat. Since most all he's done his entire life is work, it was rare to see him dressed otherwise, although we do have a few photos to prove that he did!

When one spends a lifetime doing physical labor in cotton clothing, it takes a toll on the fibers. My 76 year old momma was an excellent seamstress before an atypical parkinson's type disorder robbed her of her ability to use her hands, and I remember her spending many an hour at the sewing machine repairing his shirts and jeans. If you look closely, you will see some of her handiwork on this pair. She put patches upon patches, and my frugal daddy loved them. Even now, he is often found in a pair of his old, patched jeans, and he rubs the patches with his big, gnarled hands, and tells me how proud he is of how well my momma could mend his pants so nicely. "She's a good woman, and she's been a wonderful wife," he says. He misses her so much,  and those patches are a little part of her that he can keep close to him.

When I was visiting my daddy recently, doing some homekeeping for him, I grabbed a stack of his old jeans and took some photographs. I needed to document my momma's loving handiwork. She left a stack of ready-to-be-mended jeans and cover-alls upon her sewing machine cabinet the day she left their home 5 1/2 years ago for a doctor's appointment in the city where I live, and she has not been back since. She was ill, hospitalized, and went from there to a long-term care facility near me. My only sibling lives in this area too, and we look after her. She misses daddy. Thankfully, both my parents are still pretty good mentally, though we see some gradual short-term memory losses. They call each other regularly, and both are looking forward to the day when we can finally take momma "home." When our home sells here, we will make those arrangements. Soon.

As I deal with my parents aging processes, I treasure the legacy they are leaving me more and more. I'm so grateful that my momma showed me how to mend blue jeans. I love the bedspreads she made me out of still-good part of daddy's jeans that were too worn to mend any more. I love that my parents taught me much about using up, wearing out, making do and doing without. I rebelled against living that way for a long time, but I've come full circle. I've learned waaay too many lessons the hard way. Thankfully, I've learned that I'd rather wear patched clothes that are paid for than new clothes purchased with a credit card. I'm going home to the country, and I'm eagerly embracing that once dreaded frugal way of life, for I've found that it is truly rich.

I'm married to a man who has the same frugal-country values as my parents. So it comes in handy that I know how to mend jeans and over-alls. It helps that I love to sew, and to create new things out of old. I hope to pass some of those skills on to the Little Princess as well. I think she's gonna need them. I have so many ideas and recycled denim projects going.....so I'll be sharing them here.

I think my momma and my daddy will be proud.....I'm finally getting it.
Makin' somethin' outta nuthin' is waaay more fun than struttin' feathers that you're still payin' interest on!!!

12 August 2010

Almost Vegan Biscuits

Here's a recipe The-Man-of-the-Place wanted to share. We eat a 95% to 98% vegan diet now, but there are just a few things we have not been able to make palatable without the addition of egg, including pancakes and cornbread. You CAN make ok biscuits without eggs, but these are just sooo good.....

To start with, preheat your oven to 375 degrees. Oil a cast iron skillet and put it in the oven to heat.

Grab a bowl and put in:

4 cups whole wheat flour (we grind ours fresh from Prairie Gold White Wheat)
2 Tblsp. baking powder (aluminum free, like Rumford's)
1 1/2 tsp. salt

Mix above dry ingredients together well.

Cut into dry ingredients: 1/2 c. coconut oil

In a 2 cup measure, place:

1 egg, beaten (farm fresh is best, of course!)
1/3 c. wheat germ
2 Tblsp. lemon juice
Give these a stir, then fill to the 2 cup line with soy milk.

Add to dry ingredients, stir till mixed, then roll or pat out about 1 1/2 inch thick.
You want to pat it out however thick you want your biscuits, because they don't rise much.
Cut biscuits out, quickly pull the hot cast iron skillet out of the oven, throw the biscuits in it and place back in the oven. Turn heat down to 350 degrees, and bake for 20 to 25 minutes, till golden brown and done inside.

We enjoy these for breakfast topped with Cashew-Bean Gravy or Honey. They also make great little short cakes under fresh strawberries topped with cream. (cashew cream, that is!)

11 August 2010

Organic Sustainable Agriculture

Here is a website I wanted to share that is a wonderful resource for gardeners:

Organic Sustainable Agriculture

This gentleman has a plethora of information to share if you want to grow high-quality, nutritious, tasty organic food. Not only does he grow his own produce but he has taught and managed agricultural programs for schools.

Jerry has also written a book, maybe two by now. If you are interested in obtaining a copy, please contact him and he will get one to you.

Edit: Here is a link if you would like to benefit from Jerry Travers seminar. You can listen online at:
Organic Agriculture Seminar Podcast  Well worth your time to listen!