Sunday, September 21, 2014

Monday, July 14, 2014

2014-2015 School Year

It's that time of the year again when I start to obsessively comb the internet for new homeschooling books and ideas. I'm switching things up just a little, but our year will look similar to last year.

Singapore math: I'm giving the kids until the end of Aug to finish the current book and am hopeful we'll be able to start 3A the first part of Sept.

Story of Our World: We're still working through the first book about ancient times. I'm going to try to pick up the pace so we can finished by the end of 2014 and start on the next book..

Noeo Science Chemistry: This is new for the year. I tried Apologia and hated it. The kids didn't mind it too much, but there weren't any colorful pictures and I thought the textbook was dry and the activities were lame. Noeo looks awesome and combines classical and Charlotte Mason types of learning/teaching. I'm looking forward to chemistry because we've studied animals since the beginning of time.

Easy Peasy for English: I need a bit more direction teaching the kids grammar (they hate Language Lessons for the Well Trained Mind) and literature so we're doing Easy Peasy for the year. It's free and mostly online so I don't have to teach it. This should give me time to work with the younger kids while the olders are working independently.Maeve still dislikes reading, but loves being read to so I'm hopeful this will be a good compromise.

Handwriting Without Tears: My kids like it and I like that I don't have to do anything except check work.

I bought Sonlight language arts for Oren because I think he's ready to be more included in our schooling. Tillie will do Montessori type stuff and probably drive everyone crazy.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Our Newest Addition

We recently brought home a yellow lab named Finley. He turns four this year and is a really nice dog. Tillie can pull on his tail and he will not react. He's gentle with the kids, obeys commands, and has transitioned almost seamlessly into our family. The chickens are the only ones that aren't too thrilled with another dog. They pay no attention to our other lab, Bridget, but when Finley goes running outside they squawk like they are under attack. In true lab form, he only pays attention to the chickens when they have kitchen scraps.


I've been keeping track of what I'm spending on produce and I'm averaging about $40 per week. I shop every two weeks so I spent $80.31 today on produce. I bought:

 3 pineapples
2 pints of blueberries
3 honeydew melons
1 cantaloupe
2 bunches of bananas
2 pints of mushrooms
10 # of carrots
1 mango
5 pears
9.49 # of cherries
12 # of  apples
6.97 # of grapes

We have lettuce and chard growing in the garden that will provide more vegetables.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

How to Shop for Groceries and Save Money

Grocery shopping on a budget for a family of six can be challenging. I shop every other week and try to stay out of the grocery store between trips. Before I go to the store, here's what I do:

1. Take inventory. Am I out of oil? Do I have enough spices for another two weeks? What staples am I missing?

2. Check the ads. New ads come out every Wednesday. I look through the ads for Aldi, Fareway, and a new, local grocery store that just opened.  I do all of my shopping at Fareway and they will price match everything as long as I have the ad or can pull it up on my ipod (or smart phone, but I don't have one of those). I look for things that are super cheap. I've been shopping for awhile so I know that if cheese is 2 for $3 that I need to buy a lot of it this trip. If apples are $0.69/lb, I will buy more apples than other fruits. I only ever buy fruits and veggies that are on sale and I always buy fresh and not canned.

3. Go through my recipe box. I look for recipes that will use ingredients I already have in my pantry and ingredients that I saw in the grocery ads. I make a big list of dinner meals for two weeks and add any needed ingredients to my grocery list.

There is a program called Bountiful Baskets.  I think Bountiful Baskets is a great idea and want to jump on the bandwagon, but I don't think it's cost effective for a big family. I buy a lot of produce.

Here's an example of my latest grocery trip:

3 pineapples
4 cantaloupes
20 lbs of apples
8 quarts of strawberries
5 pints of blueberries
3 heads of broccoli
a 4 pack of peppers
15 lbs of potatoes
3 stalks of celery
a bunch of bananas

I spent $74.66 and am happy with what I paid. I price matched the blueberries and strawberries and the apples were $0.99/lb. Fareway had already marked down a couple of other things that I can't remember to match either Hy Vee or Dahl's ads.

When I got home from getting groceries, I got out my list of meals and my calender and planned out breakfast, dinner, snacks, and daily food tasks for the next two weeks. I have found that I save a lot of money and don't waste food when I plan out detailed menus.

Thursday, May 22, 2014


The garden is almost finished! I still need to plant watermelon and the hot peppers and then I am done until it's time for the beans and fall stuff.

So what did I plant this year? Well.....

 These two beds are by the front door. One contains basil, parsley, thyme, and some carrots. The other is full of carrots and cilantro. For the record, I am not a cilantro fan, but I do like it in salsa.

The section to the right of the pavers is my perennial flower garden. I added lavender and two yarrow plants.

The two pots are rosemary and lavender that I started from seed this winter. They are growing and somehow the kids have not yet dumped the pots. It's a small miracle.
These beds are along the side of my garage. One bed is full of spinach, lettuce, and chard. The other bed is full of strawberries and spinach.

The small garden in the backyard is supposed to be full of lettuce, spinach, and chard, but the dog rolls around in it and I think the rain washed away some of the seeds since I planted it early. I'm planning to use the entire area for garlic this fall. I do have quite a bit of chard and spinach up and that makes me happy.

I have another small garden for invasive and annoying perennials. It's full of spearmint, lemon balm, oregano, and I added cone flower this year.

This is a terrible picture, but we added four potato growing thingys this year. As soon as the potatoes grow out of the soil, you add another layer of wood and more soil. One thingy should grow something like 100 lbs of potatoes. We're growing Yukon golds since they're expensive and delicious. I have no idea where I will store 400 lbs of potatoes, but I don't need to think about that just yet.

My big garden was a flop last year. It was so full of weeds that I couldn't keep up. We covered everything with black plastic for about a month and a half and it did wonders for the garden. I have planted 59 tomatoes, most of which I started from seed in January, 15 sweet peppers, three or four butternut squashes, muskmelon, cantaloupe, and a couple of pumpkins. I also planted lots of sugar snap peas in an attempt to be able to put some in the freezer for later. I had one more weedy section that I covered with black plastic and that's where I'll plant the jalapeno and chili peppers. I'll stick the watermelon in somewhere with the rest of the melon.

I'm extremely happy with everything we've done this spring. My aronia bushes all have leaves, my service berry trees have leaves, and all of my fruit trees, with the exception of the peaches, flowered. The only thing left to do is add mulch around the aronia bushes and I think we're doing that this weekend. I'm keeping my fingers crossed that we have a good growing season and will have a lot of tasty, fresh food to eat soon. I love fresh salads.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

All Around the Homestead

We have lots of exciting projects happening around here this spring.

Our ghetto front door has been replaced with a real, normal size door. The guys even added a screen door. Yes, we are fancy. Replacing the door involved tearing out a wall on the porch and leaving a gaping hole in my house for a day. I bet the neighbors loved looking at it.

The three chicks we picked up a month or so ago are growing nicely. Two chicks are red sex links and the big white one is a mystery. She's supposed to be some kind of rare breed. I am going to move the chicks in with the big girls after this week's cold spell passes.

We lost one of our older hens a couple of days ago. She was the alpha and I was sad to see her go. It looked like she had a prolapsed vent, but an extreme version. There was so much of her intestine?? sticking out that there was no way I could save her.

I've had terrible luck finding another French Angora. The breeder closest to me had a barn fire and lost her Angoras. The next breeder I found was almost three hours away and we couldn't get our schedules to coordinate. The third breeder is one I will probably use, but he only had chocolate does and they looked funny. My man, Zircon. will soon have a very cozy colony style set up outside. I'm a little nervous to raise Angoras outside on the ground, but I think it's ultimately healthier for the rabbit and I plan to keep his belly and legs shaved. He will have lots of hiding spots and protection from the weather.

We are getting bees this spring. It was a last minute decision and I hope it works out. I'm reading a lot and watching many You Tube videos. I'm hopeful our equipment will get here before the bees. I went with eight frame hives and medium supers. I like the interchangeability of beekeeping that way.

Every year we try to add a tree or some kind of permanent, edible landscaping. This year we are adding aronia berry bushes and serviceberries. I'm excited. I've started lavender in pots and will eventually attempt to put it in the ground. I plan to also add yarrow, purple coneflower, and Russian sage because it's pretty.

My main garden is a disaster and is in need of a good till.  My smaller garden has been seeded with spinach, lettuce, and chard. I planted garlic there last fall, but haven't noticed it coming up yet. The tomatoes I started in January are big and doing well. I started squash last month and it's not coming up. I had a couple of helpers planting the seeds and think I need to plants the seeds again while my helpers are sleeping.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Kids Camera

Boys being boys

Tillie's head. I have about 10 more just like it.

Can you tell she's almost two?

The butt dance.

My daily uniform of bed head and pjs.

Kickin' it old school with Super Mario World and corded controllers.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

I Hate Winter

I hate winter. Actually, I don't mind winter until after Christmas. February is, by far, the longest month of the year to me. Spring starts this month and there seems to be no end to winter. Blah. Blah. Blah. I feel blah. The kids feel blah. The house seems to be much smaller than it was last fall. The animals aren't too interesting anymore. Crafting is blah. Cleaning is blah. The kids are sick. Again. So we can't leave the house. Again. And even if they were all well and we did leave the house, they would get sick. Again.

I want to move. I want to see my tulips and daffodils. I want to turn my enclosed porch into a sewing nook. I want to open the windows. I want to take a walk. I'd like to worry about getting a sunburn. I want to yell at the kids for tracking mud into the house. I want to use my fancy steam mop to clean up all of the tracked in mud. I want to eat fresh food. I want to see the look on Tillie's face when she holds a worm. I want to complain about allergies.

Seriously, if it snows in May again this year I might just lose my mind.

Thursday, January 23, 2014


I bought myself a spinning wheel as an early Christmas present last year. It's a Louet S17. I bought it used and have had fun learning how to use it. Spinning is relaxing and monotonous and quiet enough that I can do it while the kids are sleeping or in front of the tv.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

French Angoras

You've heard the saying "they breed like rabbits", right? This must not apply to French Angoras. I have two beautiful rabbits; a self chocolate and a broken blue, but they stink at mating. 

My doe kindled, or gave birth, to a litter of six in November. She did not build a nest and tossed five of the babies out of the cage. She ate baby #6. I made her a nest, put the babies in it and it looked like she was feeding them for a day or so. Then she trampled all of them and pooped on the nest. I think she ate a couple more also. Yum-o.

I've been trying to get her pregnant since I bought her in May. It is not working. My buck is enthusiastic and seems to be doing his job, but maybe not? It would seem somewhat tragic for French Angoras if all of their fur prevented successful mating.

My doe is slightly underweight and I was thinking that there might be something wrong with her and maybe that's why she's not getting pregnant. Nope. I figured out that she started losing weight when I switched to a j style feeder in her cage. I think she's too stupid to take out enough food. I've been putting pellets in a bowl in her cage and she's back to eating a decent amount. French Angoras are apparently not highly intelligent animals.

I do love French Angoras and like plucking their fur. I like spinning their fur too so I'm hopeful I can get the breeding thing figured out soon. I'm going to be buying two more rabbits soonish so that ought to increase my chances of them having successful litters.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Natural Care

I've been learning about essential oils, herbs, and other plants for the past year and am becoming comfortable creating salves. Maybe if I'm ever done having children, I'll become a Master Herbalist.

Here's what I keep in the pantry:

-dried platain or plantain infused olive oil
-dried calendula or calendula infused olive oil
-lemon balm
-raw honey
-essential oils. My favorites are lemon, eucalyptus, tea tree, rosemary, and lavender.
-epsom salt
-activated charcoal
-sea salt
-yarrow (I will be planting this in my garden this spring)
-apple cider vinegar
-colloidal silver
-grapefruit seed extract
-elderberry (I made a syrup this year and made the mistake of keeping it in the fridge. It spoiled. I will be freezing it in ice cubes trays this year.)
-Coconut oil
-dried dandelions

Friday, January 17, 2014

Four Kids and Counting

People often ask me if I'm done having kids and the answer I always give is "yes". I said I was done after Finnegan, after Oren, and after Tillie. Am I done? Yep!

I have a pros and cons list going in my head as to why we should or should not have another child. It's a big decision and one that I don't take lightly. One the one hand, I have devoted the last nine years of my life to babies. Nursing babies, changing babies, bathing babies. I don't know if I have it in me to do it again. It would be so freeing to not have a nursling. I could be gone for extended periods of time, someone else could put all of my children to bed, and I could get my body back in shape. Heck, maybe I would even buy a normal bra for the first time in nine years. It would be amazing. I wouldn't have to schedule my days around sleep or tired times and all of my children could dress themselves and wipe their own butt. My days could be spent gardening without worrying about a baby eating dirt or dog poop, sewing without constant interruptions, cooking new, more time consuming recipes, and maybe I could even start up a little business for salves, yarn, fiber, and honey.

On the other hand, I've always wanted four children, but now that we have four, I feel like there are others that we still need to meet to complete our family. We have been blessed with four beautiful, strong willed children. I love feeling the first little kicks from inside my womb. I love wondering who my baby is going to be and then seeing them for the first time. I love how empowered I feel after child birth (NOTE: I do NOT love child birth). I love breastfeeding and baby wearing. I love everything about having a baby. It is an absolute miracle that my body can create, grow, and sustain human life. I think mothering is the most important job in the world and children grow in the blink of an eye.

Sigh. See my dilemma?

P.S. I love my children beyond their newborn days. I love watching them discover their environment. I love those first steps, the first words, and every other first. I love seeing my child grow and learn and think.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Schoolish Things

This school year is productive!

Maeve finally understands math. In fact, she understands math so well that she's almost completed Singapore 2A. Yipppeee. This is huge for her and I'm proud. Finn finished 2A a couple of weeks ago so I ordered 2B, or at least I thought I ordered 2B. It took two weeks for the book to get here and only then did I discover that I had inadvertently ordered the workbook instead of the textbook. I immediately ordered the textbook from a company that is closer to home and received an email today telling me that it's back ordered. Annoying, but no big deal.

Maeve has taken off with reading this year. She enjoys reading to her siblings and anyone who will listen. She sat on the couch one day and read an entire Frog and Toad book. I keep encouraging her to pick up a chapter book. I moved all of the kid chapter books next to the living room couch and am hoping that will entice her to read more. Finn can also read and continues to improve. Both he and Maeve read from McGuffey's Readers and Finn reads things on his various video games.

I like The Story of Our World. The kids like it too and I think we've finally found a history book that works. The text is informative, not overwhelming, and the activity book gives some good ideas. I am hoping we can complete the book by the end of the summer and start book two next school year.

I am following the science topics from Ambleside Online this year and it's working. We are currently studying planets and are doing one planet per week. I will have them make a big solar system when we are finished. Then we will learn about amphibians. Since we've been learning about amphibians since the beginning of time, I'm probably going to skip frogs and pick something else. Or maybe I'll have them do research project and presentation about frogs. That could be fun.

The kids love Handwriting Without Tears. They have both completed their books from the beginning of the school year and have started the next book. Maeve's handwriting has improved significantly and Finn's fine motor control is better as well.

We are moving like snails through Language Lessons for the Well Trained Mind. The kids tolerate it and listen. I'm going to try to pick up the pace just a bit so we can finish the book and move on to book two.

I am going to add a Bible study to our stuff since we are regularly attending church (Yay! I should have agreed to go to my husband's family's church a long time ago), but are not able to get there early enough for classes. A friend recommended God's Great Covenant and after looking at it, I decided to order it. It looks like something my kids will enjoy and I think this will be meatier than the readings from Ambleside Online.

Oren likes school time and his attention lasts anywhere from one minute to 30 minutes at the table. He can recognize many numbers and can do one plus one, two plus two, and two plus one. He stinks at letter recognition and recall, but he is slowly working his way through Handwriting Without Tears. He loves that book.

Tillie likes to taste glue, bite the tips off of markers, and eat crayons. Her biggest strength is being cute.

Overall, I am pleased with the progress that the kids have made this year so far. It seems like we've finally figured out this homeschooling thing.


My word for this year is surrender.

I am a perfectionist and have trouble delegating and get upset when reality does not match the plan in my head. As one might imagine, this leads to frustration and stress. Lots and lots of stress. I'm giving all of that up.

Monday, January 13, 2014


The last bits of 2013 in pictures.
Our first Americana egg

Corriedale yarn that was spun by me

Our Thanksgiving table

My favorite bread

Corriedale and angora

A scarf that I knitted for Maeve

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Goals for 2014

My goals for 2014, in no particular order:

1. Figure out how to get my rabbit to kindle. My doe had one litter and killed all of them and it's been extremely difficult to get her pregnant again. French Angoras are finicky and slightly annoying, but I love brushing them and spinning their fiber.

2. Keep learning about spinning. I love spinning. I taught myself how to knit around Christmas and love spinning much, much more than knitting.

3. Make soap. Like the real stuff with lye.

4. Sell something from my little city homestead.

5. Put up more fruit. We did a good job last year, but I want more variety. I have no intention of canning any of it because freezing is easier.

6. Have a rock star garden. Yes, I did say rock star.

7. Go somewhere! We haven't been anywhere since Maeve was nine months old. I think it's time if we can find the money.

8. Get bees. I need to read more about them and maybe talk to a couple more people who keep bees, but I don't think it's all that difficult. Intimidating, but not hard.

9. Paint all of the trim upstairs. This is a boring goal, but needs to be done and will more than likely take me all year to complete.

10. Go on a date with my husband. Maybe we can even do one date a month.


I moved everything over to Wordpress and then stopped blogging. I like this format better so here I am.

I never had to deal with death as a child. I was not allowed to attend my great grandparents' funerals and death was never discussed. My husband's grandmother recently passed away and while it wasn't sudden, it has reminded me of my own mortality.

I am aging. My forehead is wrinkly. I have laugh lines. I turn 35 this  year. I don't feel old and my body still moves like I need it to move. I am healthy, but I will die someday and I need to come to terms with this. I am hopeful that I will live to be in my 90s, but what if I don't?

What will I do when my parents die? When my in laws die? How does someone handle the death of a loved one?

Thinking about all of this makes me sad and gives me anxiety, but it seems silly to mourn people who aren't dead. Life is a celebration and should be full of love and joy.

Our family verse for the year is 1 Corinthians 13: 4-7

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

I'm not sure where I'm going with all of this because it's late and I'm tired, but what I do know is that I'm going to do my best to find joy in everyday and show my love to others to the best of my ability. I want to live the rest of my life with no regrets.