Consider how the wildflowers grow....Luke 12:27 NIV
Living small in our 880 square foot cottage and micro farming on approximately an acre of land.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Recipe Wednesday #5: Macaroni and Cheese Dinner

If you have kids and a budget and a busy schedule, you have macaroni and cheese.  I stopped buying the boxed versions and started  making my own a long time ago.  It just takes a little longer, really, it is healthier and you can customize it into a delicious and frugal meal.

Cook 16 oz of macaroni according to package directions.  Drain and set aside.  In the same pot, melt 3 tablespoons butter and blend in 2 tablespoons flour.  Stir in 1 1/2 -2 cups of milk (depending on how saucey you want the cheese sauce) and blend in well with the flour/butter.  Stir frequently until thickened and bubbly.  Stir in your choices of cheese (about 8 oz worth).  I use whatever I have on hand which may include  muenster, cheddar, provolone, swiss, colby jack, and/or gouda.  Stir in the cooked pasta and salt and pepper to taste.

To make a meal of it, add in cooked chopped ham (as in picture above), or cooked ground beef, or grilled chicken.

You can also change up this recipe and use boiled potatoes or rice or cauliflower, instead.  Or add in cooked vegetables.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Pitter Patter of Little Feet Coming Up

(From Mellow Mermaid Etsy Shop.  Click pic to see the store.)

I went to take care of the rabbits the other day only to walk in on some wooing going on.  I admit, I got the giggles and cheered Hassen on as he somewhat successfully mounted Pfeffer and got down to business.  I can't be sure if he actually got tab A in slot B, but it's a good sign.  In two weeks I'll check her tummy for signs of pregnancy, and every week after that until I'm sure she's pregnant.  It could be some time.  They are both young, both unproven, and brand new at this.  

I will say this, though, they are more affectionate with me and a LOT hungrier lately!

Monday, April 28, 2014

Free Frugal Food!

With Spring here, I'm hoping to spend less and less money in the produce department, particularly on greens.  Today, I decided to forage the yard for whatever was edible.

I found dandelion greens, chives and lovage!  

So, I raided the fridge for grape tomatoes, leftover pickled banana peppers, green olives, shredded carrot and shredded extra sharp cheddar cheese.
I added a little salt and drizzle of olive oil.

Stuffed a pita (actually had enough for two) and enjoyed a fine, flavorful lunch!

We also did some baking today.  Here, my second son is mixing up oatmeal raisin cookies.

I had bananas going soft and black and apples past their prime and getting icky spots.
So, I made a vanilla, cardamom and nutmeg banana bread and a crumb top apple pie.
(Yes, that is my stove top.  I only have a 20" stove/oven unit).

Bundle and Giveaway

Today is the last day to get the Ultimate Homemaking Bundle and giveaway for an ipad mini!  Click HERE.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Weekend Warriors

The end of the week is the best time for us to hammer out a good, solid work day.  After homeschooling, we all head out and start tackling the long overdue jobs.

Hubby started the day by picking up the used John Deere lawn tractor we bought.  Total blessing from God!  Our old one's engine blew last year and I mowed our property all season long with an old fashioned rotary push mower.  Hard work, twice a week to keep up, 2 hours each time....boy I got in shape fast!  Hubby was working out of town then, so the job landed in my hands.  This year, we really wanted something a bit easier.  I would have settled for a gas push mower, but hubby really wanted a riding mower.  Luckily, we found one locally for a steal.

After getting the tractor, he worked on the old rototiller.  It wouldn't start at all last week.  This week it starts but won't stay running.  He and our neighbor have been tinkering and making phone calls.

After that, hubby started cleaning out our road frontage.  There was a few years of sand and salt, leaves and vines grown in along the stone wall that needed cleaning out.  The ditch needed digging from all the sediment.
Once homeschooling was done, the children and I were able to join hubby and lend a hand.  Our oldest brought in the mail and I was happy to see that our plants arrived!  Roses, raspberries, black berries, gooseberries, service berries, strawberries, hostas, day lilies, and even a bunch of free plants like poppies, gladiolas and balloon flowers!  I got on task getting about half the plants planted.  The other half will have to wait.  I need a load of horse manure for the roses.

After planting, I managed to pull up and fill in the last of the decorative pond.  I transplanted some bulbs for the time being.

I seriously wasn't sure I'd have enough fill for the pond, but turns out I almost do!  We have more roadside stuff we can add to hole.

Speaking of having enough, hubby had emptied new soil out of the compost heap to fill up my first raised bed.  We had a composting bin, too, but now that hubby is building me a bunked compost heap, we're getting rid of the bin.  I emptied the contents of the bin into the heap and it'll start decomposing quite nicely soon!

Where the bin used to be was some nice, new soil.  I dug it out and found other places of good soil to fill my small raised bed.

 Which I decided to fill with strawberries in hopes that I might actually get a decent strawberry crop.  I hope the raised bed will protect them from the slugs that usually eat them before I do.  One year, I only had one juicy strawberry.  I picked it and discovered a slug had started in on it already.  I ate in anyway.  I was so desperate for my own fresh strawberry!

All the soil work is dirty work.  I call this my country girl manicure!

To top it off, not only were we blessed with a lawn tractor and soil for my little raised bed, but our neighbor came down with his loader and gave us wood for the trees that were cut on his property the other day AND helped us move the large chunks of wood that were in the way at the top of our property.  We have great neighbors!  

Hubby and the older two boys stacked the slab wood for firewood, too.  They also moved the slab wood we'll be using for the pig sty in place.  We just need fence posts.  Hoping for another generous miracle there. 

We also did some raking, moving of things in the way and cleaning up.  The yard is looking better and better.  Things are coming together!

A Busy and Fun Work Day

The other day after homeschooling in the morning we took advantage of the absolutely perfect weather to get a good workday in.  One of our bigger projects on our little homestead is pulling up the decorative pond.  The pond was put in by my brother who lived here before us.  I hate pulling up all his hard work.  The pond really is lovely when up and running and we enjoyed it for years, but I'm hoping to put a goat barn in that area in the future.  Plus, our two youngest already fell in it this year!  That scares a momma.

I've got the upper level of the pond pulled out and almost filled back in.

My preschool son decided to take the rocks that surrounded the upper part of the pond and make a stone wall.  Some of those are good sized rocks!  If he couldn't lift them, he rolled them.  

However, they're supposed to go here, in our stone wall that edges the top of our property.  

It is always nice to add a little play to work when appropriate.  I couldn't quite muscle out the pond liner on my own, so I tied it to the 4-Wheeler and my oldest discovered he could surf.  So, I took him for a ride around the yard.  Don't worry.  My top speed was 3 mph.  Let's have fun without an ER visit, shall we?

We're trying to raise money for a barn.  We would greatly and humbly appreciate it if you considered donating towards our dream by clicking the barn picture the right or clicking HERE.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Raised Beds

My husband got a hold of some slab wood, so I snagged a few pieces and made a raised bed for early crops.  Our children were eager to fill it, but it was going to take a lot to fill it.

So, hubby tackled it, emptying the newly made soil out of the compost heap.

And that day he tilled it, set up pea fencing and I planted it.  It has peas, radishes, turnips, lettuce, kale and spinach.  I look forward to seeing sprouts!

I built another smaller raised bed next to it (not in the picture).  It isn't filled yet and I'm not sure what I'm going to put in it, but I'm thinking I may move my strawberries into it in hopes of a better strawberry crop.

I'm beginning to get addicted to raised beds.  I want to build more and more and just fill them with wonderful goodies!  But, I think two this year are plenty.

We're trying to raise money for a barn.  We would greatly and humbly appreciate it if you considered donating towards our dream by clicking the barn picture the right or clicking HERE.

The Self Sufficient HomeAcre

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Recipe Wednesday #4: Lentil Barley Ham Stew

This is a hearty, easy, inexpensive and delicious recipe.  Simple, too!  It's a great way to use up that leftover Easter ham (if ham is your traditional Easter meat).  I am not a fan of pea soup after eating it rather unsuccessfully while in the early stages of pregnancy several years ago.  The lentils change it up just enough that I can enjoy it.  Plus, I LOVE barley.  LOVE IT!

Boil one leftover ham bone until a nice stock is made and the leftover bits of meat start falling off the bone.  Let cool.

Remove bone and fatty bits.

Pick off the meat into the stock.

Add a handful of green lentils and red lentils.

Bring to a gentle boil and let cook until lentils are about halfway done.

Add a handful of pearl barley and cook until barley is done.


Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Considering Non-Electric Alternatives

Kendra, over at New Life on a Homestead has a great post on considering non-electric alternatives.  They are going off-grid with a solar panel system.

I love reading real-life accounts of how people are doing this.  We are so electric-dependent that it is hard to think about everything we use electricity for.  The convenience and safety factors are certainly desirable.  While I don't mind running things on calorie power, when life comes at you with a sledgehammer (like my recent fight with vertigo), it is so nice to be able to just flush a toilet, flip a switch, run a faucet, and throw wet laundry in the dryer to catch up on mount laundry.

All the same, I'd like to become less dependent on the grid, even if just for storms.  I'd like to get through a storm without praying the power doesn't go out.  I'd like to just shrug my shoulders and say, "so what.  I'm prepared."

Considering Electrical Usage

Monday, April 21, 2014

Best Diaper Rash Remedy Ever

Browned Flour

My youngest can develop some really bad diaper rashes.  I've tried petroleum jelly, commercial diaper rash creams and guards, coconut oil, caster oil jelly, and powders and none seem to really break through the rash.  His rashes can get so bad they eat away at his skin causing open sores.

I had heard before that browned flour was the way to go for diaper rashes, but I couldn't believe it.  Was it really that simple and inexpensive?  What possibly could be in browned flour that would heal a diaper rash so bad that it bled?

So, this crazy momma tried it.  I threw some inexpensive all purpose flour I have set aside for homemade play dough into a dry, hot skillet and stirred it gently until it browned.  I let it cool and powdered my baby's behind liberally every diaper change.  Over night, we had an 85%-90% improvement on the diaper rash!!!  Within days, it is gone!

No more weeks on end of agonizing diaper changes and messy creams!

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Easter Dress

My daughter just loves her Easter dress!  She picked out the fabric herself and helped design it.  I made the pattern by sketching it out on the lining fabric which is the cotton center of a king size bedskirt.

The waistband, complete with decorative bunny rabbit button.

She wanted big, hot pink pompoms for trim, but when I offered the pink centered daisies, she thought they would be nicer.  I agree.  Detail of collar.

I love the old fashioned look to the dress.  While I'm not against modern styled dresses, there's just something refreshing about the old fashioned look.  I'm so glad my daughter likes the look.  I knife pleated the skirt and the petticoat to create a fullness to the skirt.

A close up of the back with a neat row of pink bunny buttons.

The hem, trimmed with the daisies and the petticoat lace.  The lace was given to me by a friend.

For another beautiful hand made Easter dress, click HERE.

Friday, April 18, 2014

First Harvest

Our first harvest of the year, horseradish!  My usually abundant crop has suffered two years of neglect and overgrown weeds, not to mention a need for fertilizing, so I only managed to get a cup of horseradish ready for Easter dinner.  Still, it's free food for the taking straight from the dirt.  No complaints here!

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Playing Catch-Up

I actually missed blogging.  I have a lot of blog posts lined up in my mind, but I was unable to get them posted this past week because Sunday night I came down with a terrible spell of vertigo.  It took three days to recover enough to be productive again.  The meclazine prescribed to me was almost as disabling as the vertigo.  Instead of taking the medicine, which will be saved for when the main attack happens again, I've been dealing with the after effects with a botanical oil blend called Divertigo.  Placebo or not, it has been very helpful.

In the meantime, here's some of what has been going on at our little micro farm:

I found this while raking up near the front stone wall.  If I am correct, this is mullein.  I found another by the side of the house, too.  I am moving them into the garden since mullein is a valuable herb in my book.

Hubby started tilling the garden, but we could really use a bigger tiller than my little Mantis.  The ground only just thawed, so it is pretty heavy and wet still.

I started cleaning out the old garbage heap down in the back of our property to make room for the animal pens.  I found some old saw blades and that neat old lock.  

I, yes, I built this raised bed for FREE using the waste from the saw mill and some scrap 2x4's laying around.  I reused old screws, too.

I started work on daughter's Easter dress.  She picked out this pink bunny fabric at JoAnn Fabrics when it was 40% off.  I drafted the pattern myself.  I'll be posting the finished dress, soon.

Our neighbor generously stopped over with a box of beef from his beef herd!  What a blessing!

Sunday, April 13, 2014

The House Is Getting Neglected For a While

The housekeeping and cleaning can wait.

It can wait for rainy days.

With every nice day we have, I need to get out and get yardwork done.  Gardening.

There is just so much to do out there!

It's been years of unintentional neglect.  Between hubby's old job keeping him away from home, and my bouncing year to year between being pregnant and having an infant, things just fell to the wayside.

We're ready to reclaim the land we have and put it to good use and make it beautiful.

So, the house can wait.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Considering Our Barn

We have rabbits living in our basement right now.  Soon, we will be receiving a pig and chickens.  These animals and all their feed/supplies need a place to live.  So, for a couple months now, we've been looking at small barns and sheds.  We looked at so many and just haven't been able to settle.  The ones more easily affordable aren't quite what we're looking for and the ones we love aren't easily affordable.  It is a scary concept to drop the last of our savings on building for the property, especially when you KNOW added expenses are going to show up.

Then, I looked out our window.  Apparently, hubby did, too.  We HAVE a barn.  It is sitting in our yard right now!  It's just stuffed to the rafters with STUFF.

We've been thinking this whole barn thing backwards.  We don't need a barn.  We HAVE a barn.  What we need is a storage shed, a nice, simple, INEXPENSIVE storage shed.

We wanted to move the barn we have anyway, so we'll move it to the back of our property for the animals and put the storage shed up where we wanted to move the barn originally!

The savings?  A couple thousand dollars!!

Funny how I pray and pray and pray for answers and God's like, "uh, Kate?  Right there!"

I mean, really, how many times did hubby and I point to that barn next to our driveway and say, "we need a barn like that one for the animals."  LOL!  How linear we think, sometimes.

Granted, I'm not exactly thrilled with getting a metal shed.  I much prefer a nice, sturdy wooden structure, but it'll be cheap enough should we decide to replace it later.  I'm going to have hubby build it a nice floor to sit on, though.  I'll feel much better about it if it has a nice, level, sturdy floor.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Shoshanna's Kitchen

I've been enjoying episodes of Shoshanna's Kitchen on Youtube.  They're only around 5 minutes long and great to watch while folding laundry or doing other mindless chores that don't take too long.

Shoshanna of Bulk Herb Store has great tips and recipes for a healthier, more self-sustainable lifestyle.

Thursday, April 10, 2014


I'm not normally a fan of juice....a lot of concentrated sugars.  I'd rather eat an apple than drink apple juice, but having children I can see the benefits of juice....and of having a juicer.

I can control my ingredients.  (Let's sneak in a carrot here, or some kale there.)

I can forage my ingredients!  We have plenty of wild apple trees in the neighborhood.  Imagine all that free apple juice I can preserve!

My kids think it is totally cool that we can make our own juice.

And I'm happy I picked it up on clearance for $9.99!

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Recipe Wednesday #3: No-Bake Cookies

These are great for the summer time when it is too hot to bake, or when you need cookies quickly.

1 1/2 cups sugar
6 tablespoons butter
6 tablespoons milk
1/4 teaspoon vanilla
3/4 cup creamy peanut butter
2 1/2- 3 cups rolled or quick oats

Mix sugar, butter and milk in a large sauce pan.  Bring to a boil and boil for 1 minute.  Remove from heat.  Stir in vanilla and peanut butter.  Mix in oats.  Let stand for a minute or two, then transfer by the spoonfuls to wax paper.  Allow to cool before storing.
(I store mine in an airtight container in the fridge.  Storing them in the cookie jar made them taste kind of like sour milk to me.)

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Selling Flower Jelly?

A couple years ago I tried my hand at making flower jellies.  After all, I had all these edible flowers around the yard, why not make good use of them?  I made wood violet jelly and white clover jelly.  Both were quite delicious jellies.  This year I want to do nasturtium, borage, red clover, dandelion, lavender and possibly even lilac jellies.

I thought about selling my jellies, but I am not sure my state regulations will allow.  As far as I can tell fruit jellies can be made in the home and sold with proper licensing, etc.  But, does that extend to flower jellies?  And then there's the situation of harvesting.  I keep my harvesting to untreated yards and woods (mainly my own), but how would the state feel about that?

Best I can do is ask!

Update:  My state only allows the sale of home processed high acid fruit jams, jellies and preserves within the state.  I need a commercial kitchen and proper licensing to sell flower jellies. :-(

Monday, April 7, 2014

You know you're in the home of a homesteader when.....

According to a fellow homeschooling mama, "You know you're in the home of a homesteader (or homesteader at heart) when you see THIS on the bookshelf":

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Freebie Fun!

My favorite local vintage treasure shop, Aunt Katie's Attic, was cleaning off their porch and offered this cutie for free.  Luckily, I was able to run down and grab it, even though I didn't quite knew what I'd do with it.

I cleaned it off with a gentle wood cleaner and a toothbrush and placed it here:

In a small house, storage space has to be creative because it is essential.  This got the toilet paper off the back of the toilet, open and in danger of falling into the toilet and looking unattractive to being conveniently stored within the cabinet doors.  I'm not sure what to do with the drawer yet, but perhaps it'll be a convenient storage space for feminine products.  

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Vinegar of the Four Thieves

During the Bubonic Plague, 4 Thieves ransacked the houses of plague victims, yet remained unscathed by the disease.  Upon appearance before the judges, they wondered how this was accomplished.  In exchange for the recipe for the Vinegar of the 4 Thieves, the thieves were pardoned.  At least that is the legend.

In a world still filled with so many terrible diseases, I am thankful the only ones that plague me are the occasional cold and rare stomach bug.  However, I do have a personal vendetta against the common cold.  I managed to make it through the entire autumn and winter without a cold.  As soon as I felt that warm tickle in the back of my throat, I downed a cocktail of herbs and supplements to stop it.  I successfully ceased at least 3 colds this past year.  But, this time, I thought my throat was dry from teaching a class and was late to start supplementing.  I came down with a full blown cold.  My methods have helped keep it on the milder side, but it was still a week long ordeal of sore throat, sniffles, watery eyes, toothaches, ear aches, post nasal drip.

I decided that I need to finally make and utilize a Vinegar of the 4 Thieves, adding it to my other methods of killing colds (listed below).  What is great about the Vinegar is that you can use it internally, externally and as a cleanser for your house!  I'm thinking great times to use it is after running errands (nothing like having your cashier hack and snot in your face because they don't get sick leave and have to pay the bills...I know, I've been there), being in a crowd (who knew if that baby in the church nursery's runny nose is from teething or a lingering cold), and especially when school begins.  Even though we homeschool, it seems that once school starts, the 1st World plagues begin and entire schools, neighborhoods, even cities are affected.  Several years ago a nasty stomach flu swept through our rural neighborhood.  Even with almost no contact with any of the neighbors, we still got it.  Some bugs really are that potent, and stomach bugs can remain contagious a week after symptoms have gone away.

Shoshanna at Bulk Herb Store has a great page on the Vinegar of the 4 Thieves.  Check it out!

My usual cold-killing-cocktail

Garlic or garlic supplements
Nature's Plus Animal Parade Immune Boosters
Grapefruit Seed Extract
Lemon oil
Local honey
Herbal teas (chamomile, pau d'arco, agrimony, nettles, alfalfa, St. John's Wort)

Friday, April 4, 2014

Power Tools and Magazines

We live in a small house.  We are a larger family with lots of interests living in a small house.  We are a larger family without a substantial income with lots of interests living in a small house.  That means I need to be creative with organization.

I was able to carve out a small space in the basement for my own little sewing area/room.  It had the perfect 2' wide space to put a tall bookcase to house my magazine collection which is spread wherever they fit in the house.  I had stacks on the basement floor, and I had a shelf in my daughter's closet that needed to be evicted from their spaces.  They got moved to this bookcase that I built.

I needed something sturdy, 2' wide, and cheap.  Building this simple bookcase myself was cheaper than custom built or even closet modulars.  And the nice thing was, the lumber store cut the pieces for me!  I just had to screw them together!  I secured it to the ceiling so it can't tip over and voila!  

So, all my magazines (except for my Victoria magazine collection which is in my bedroom) have a home.  

Good Old Days
Country Living
Colonial Homes
Mother Earth News
Hobby Farms
Hobby Farm Home
Cottage Living
Cottages and Bungalows
and various other magazines picked up here and there

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Spring Finally Arrived!

This week has finally yielded temperatures reaching 50 degrees.  Snow is melting, the ground is slowly thawing, and some bulbs are finally pushing perfect green shoots out of the soil.  And in good time, too.  The blower on our outdoor wood boiler gave up the ghost and I threw in the last piece of firewood.

The crocuses are ready to bloom!

I find it amazing that horseradish and chives are resilient enough to push through the ice.  They just don't care!  Yes that horseradish (top picture) is literally growing through an inch and a half to two inches of ice!

I started clearing off the pad for the barn.  There was a shed there a couple years ago, but the snow and ice load collapsed it.  We tore it down, turned it in for scrap, but kept the wooden floor.  The last couple of years, it built up a layer of fallen leaves, pine needles, branches and hickory nuts.  Once that is cleared and as dry as we can expect for this time of year, we can start getting our barn up.

Soon, I'll be able to start working in the garden, particularly starting raised beds of early spring greens and peas....anything that'll withstand a sudden, temporary return of winter.

Otherwise, this time of year is PERFECT for clearing out hedgerows and cutting back anything overgrown.  Everything is either dead or hibernating still, so it is easy to get in and get it cleaned up!  I'm going to have to prioritize, though.  I don't think I can tackle our entire property boundary for prettying up this Spring.

We have to dig our ditches out, channel some drainage, and hopefully get a couple of trees down.  There's also the pens to build for our animals, the garage and shed to clean out, and the hoses to hook back up to their water sources.