Getting Back to Simple (and paying off debt)

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We are firm believers in the powers of intention and manifestation.  You can paint your life however you wish.  We were desperately trying to manifest more income.  On the full moon we generally each light a candle of gratitude and ask for what we would like to see in our life.  Usually it’s more income.  Then it kind of hit me, we have actually doubled our income since June when Doug found a job.  Our online business has picked up and my work down south has too so it’s not a matter of making more money.  I realized we have been spending more money!

Oh, it’s so easy to do, isn’t it?  There was the debt to start paying again, of course, but there are plenty of places money falls through the cracks.  When I first started this blog over five years ago we were seriously starting to homestead.  Before we moved from that house I was canning four hundred jars of produce, growing food and ninety percent of my medicine herbs, had chickens, and Doug milked goats each morning.  I learned to make cheese.  I hand washed our clothes in an old wash bin with a handy plunger-like item that got our clothes far cleaner than the washer.  (We had all our kids at home and a grandbaby on the way so we did go get a washer.  Our washer here still doesn’t clean for anything.)  I made our body products (we sell them in our shop), cleaning products, sewed and handmade presents, and had like minded friends near by.

Being frugal is so much a part of being a homesteader.  Having some money set aside to get by is only a part of it.  I want to get rid of all of our debt (except the house) this year, fifteen months max.  My ideas never go as planned, but it is a good goal!  Debt is our jailor.

But it’s not just about money.  Once we moved around and lost and found ourselves again I had stopped making our own things.  Our skin is drier, we are paying five times more for organic body products when I can make my own.  Same with cleaning products.  I seem to have forgotten how to be frugal.  Frugalness is eco-friendly, healthier, savvier, and freer.  It is in the Homesteader’s Ten Commandments.

I hadn’t been to the library for a year because I have been playing at the book store (expensive!) and I decided that was a good first step.  Walking out of the library with a pile of books and movies makes me feel like I’m robbing the place!  Free knowledge!  I picked up a gem (which I may have to buy) called “Little House Living” by Merissa A. Alink.  As things run out I make the homemade version.  Her book is inspiring.  I have already made the dish soap (took five seconds and very little cash).  I could have written this book four years ago.  I love it and I love that it’s getting me back on track.  I love her rice mix, and her youth, and her story, and her recipes.  She shows us (or reshows us) that it takes no time at all to make your own things and the benefits far outweigh the minimum time and cost.

We will get that debt paid off and I will get back to my Little House on the Prairie self.  It’s good for the soul.

What are some ways that you stay frugal?

 

Farmgirl School; Homesteading 101 (now available on Amazon!)

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I never guessed back in 2012 what this would become.  I set out to chronicle our adventures in homesteading.  To create a template and how-to that we wish we had.  We weren’t able to find information on how to farm high altitude, or how to bottle feed a goat, or how to do any of the hundreds of things we did by trial and error on Pumpkin Hollow Farm.

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Those years on the homestead were some of the best times of our lives.  Re-reading the manuscript was like reading about an old friend.  I laughed and recollected.  I finished the book with a smile.  As if I had read it for the first time.

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This book is priceless, I tell you, it has everything a new homesteader could possibly need to get started on their journey.  Organic gardening, high altitude farming, canning, dehydrating, root cellaring, freezing produce, back yard chickens, bottle feeding goats, taking care of ducks, candle making, soap making, herbal remedies, recipes, homemade gifts….goodness, the list goes on.  The textbook we needed, but in a humorous storytelling method.

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I am so excited to see this book in print!  It is now available on Amazon in paperback and for Kindle.  https://www.amazon.com/dp/152077494X?ref_=pe_870760_150889320

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Wishing you many blessings on your homesteading journey.  See you ’round the farm!

DIY and the Three R’s

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Homesteaders old and new must be so busy we had to find acronyms for everything!  DIY-Do It Yourself.  So, when our friend, Ingrid, said to look up videos on YouTube to see how to fix the fridge, we wondered why we didn’t think of that!  We are homesteaders after all!

Armed with a drill and some online videos, Doug set to work.  Back panel off, fought the shelving unit, removed the ice maker, tried to get the inside panel off.  I went and did yoga in the living room.  Too much for me.  Then I got the phone number for an appliance repair.  Here’s where the Reduce, Recycle, Reuse comes in!  We got ourselves a refurbished fridge.  It’s ugly as sin, shorter than me, and needs a paint job (can you paint refrigerators?), but it will do the trick.  They will take ours, fix it, and resell it.  We keep a small business busy, kept a fridge out of the landfill, saved money, and Thursday we will have cold food.  All in a day’s work!  We didn’t need new.  Just a little thinking through.

The Job to Make a Dream

After our farm dream temporarily came to a halt (which ended up being a very good thing as gigantic windmills were installed across the street looming over the farm, the propane tank accidentally blew up, and the distance and dream were just not quite right…hind sight…a very good thing indeed.  Sometimes we have to be assisted out of the wrong path and placed in the right path rather forcefully) Doug dutifully went back to work as I opened the shop so that we could get back on our feet.  There were no IT jobs to be had at the time and the company that returned his call and interviewed him was at a large corporate coffee shop.  He had experience working at our local coffee shop and it seemed a perfect job for him.  However living on just a bit over minimum wage was proving to be frustrating for the work involved.  He wasn’t happy.

A few weeks ago my cousin was rounding up our old pool team to start in the spring and Doug got on the phone with one of those friends, who I believe Doug has known since birth as their dads have played cards together for some odd fifty years.  He owns an IT company.  He has been wanting Doug to work for him forever but we couldn’t get a hold of him last year and he didn’t know what had happened with us, and the timing just wasn’t right.  Doug promised his company six months.  It is now six months, his notice is in, and Doug will be working back in the field he really knows and thrives in.

He will be making a decent wage and the dream of buying our own farm (the size of said farm…urban or rural is still questionable) is back in motion…save, save, save.  I love watching this saga unfold.

 

The Frantic Mom’s Guide to Dinner

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Too bad supper doesn’t roll around when we have excess energy instead of at the end of the day!  “Should we just go out?” one ponders.  But if $40 is to go towards gas and not a so-so restaurant than mama has to get in the kitchen and figure it out.  Pour a glass of wine, Mama, I will walk you through an easy dinner using just what you have in the kitchen.

Choose a protein- hamburgers, veggie burgers, veggie chicken, chicken breasts, salmon, bean patties, whatever you can find.  I found a package of Ahi tuna in the freezer.

Make a sauce for the protein- Find jelly in the fridge or pantry.  Apricot, chokecherry, jalapeno, apple, blueberry, peach….Now combine it with bbq sauce or soy sauce.  The jelly should be the highest ratio.  Add a dried spice like chipotle, red chile, garlic, dill, basil…be creative.  Add a little broth or white wine to thin to desired consistency or use a jar of jelly that didn’t set!  Done.  Top cooked protein.

Meanwhile choose a frozen or fresh vegetable- artichokes, green beans, carrots, cabbage, anything tastes great with this method.  In the boiling water add a few cloves of garlic, a sprinkling of chipotle, 2 tablespoons of lemon extract (lemons soaked in vodka for two months) or fresh lemons, and sea salt.  The water infuses the vegetables lightly.  A bit of butter and salt is all it takes to transform the vegetables.

IMG_2146Make a pilaf.  I used buckwheat which cooks in 20 minutes.  Rice works too.  Cook in rich broth with raisins and salt until ready, add walnuts and walnut oil or any nut or fruit.

In twenty minutes or so you have a gourmet, delicious, nutritious meal on the table while saving money because it uses what is already there.  Now you have time to start Christmas cards after supper!

Once a Farmgirl, Always a Farmgirl

Limbo.  A basement studio apartment graciously rented to us by our friend.  A shop trying to pick up steam.  A man working so hard.  What do we do now?

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We have always had plans.  Dreams.  Goals.  I need a homestead.  I don’t mind if it’s in town or not.  A goat, some chickens, a gardened front yard.  Clothes flicking in the wind on a clothes line.  The windows steamy from canning tomatoes.  Doug’s goal is financial security.  Once and for all.  When we spoke our wedding vows, for richer for poorer, we thought we’d get both!  Done with the poorer, he says.  His dream, his goal, his manifesting is security and to pay a light bill without wondering how to pay for groceries.  Mine is to do the same but in a little homestead.  With lace curtains in the windows, cats by the fire, fresh rolls baking in the oven.  Home sweet home.

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Homestead, here we come.

How to Become a Homesteader-Part 4-Thrift, Bartering, Splurge

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Finding balance is one of the things we all strive for in every aspect of our lives.  Becoming a homesteader is about living the life you want, that you dream of.  It’s about taking chances and knowing you can live on less.  It is about spending time in the gardens and with animals and friends and not giving our life to a corporation, who will have you replaced by the time you hit the parking lot, or grave.  This is about relationships; with community, with friends and family, with nature, with God.  This is about freedom.  When we are living on less, we need to know when to be thrifty, when to barter, and when to splurge.

You can find tops for empty wine bottles to turn them into lanterns at Lehman's or kitchen stores.  Just fill with lamp oil and whallah!
You can find tops for empty wine bottles to turn them into lanterns at Lehman’s or kitchen stores. Just fill with lamp oil and whallah!

Being thrifty means that we reuse a lot of things and we don’t produce a lot of waste.  This is helpful on our pocketbooks and the earth.  We find we need less.  We don’t go to an office job so we don’t need really nice clothes, nor do we worry too much about our appearance.  We use our clothes until they are torn.  Our cars have to be practically falling apart while driving before we get a “new” one.  We read books from the library and rarely purchase new.  We reuse rubber bands to fasten stems of greens together to sell.  We save all of our twist ties and use them to stake plants to trellises and tomato cages.  Wine corks can be put in the bottom of pots before filling with soil for drainage.  Boxes that are too small to put in the garden or use to store canning jars get torn up and are used as fire starters.  Wine bottles get turned into oil lamps.

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Bartering is imperative in the homesteading world.  Being able to trade for services that we cannot do ourselves helps us live on a small income and helps connect us to others.  Rod put up a screen door for us and Doug cleaned up his computer.  We are trading one of Elsa’s kids for one of Jenet’s Nubian kids.  Last year Joan and I traded canned goods so we would have a bit of variety.  We barter herbal medicines for a lot of things!

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When to splurge?  Buy good quality feed for your animals.  Buy organics for yourself if you didn’t produce them.  When buying tools, buy the best you can so you don’t have to repurchase.  Buy quality seeds.  Not everything need be cheap.  Sometimes a bargain costs much more in the end.

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Then there are other types of splurges.  We live this way to enjoy life.  My post about boxed wine gave folks a good laugh around town, I’ll tell you.  I received large boxes of wine and funny comments.  I bet knowing my affinity for good wine that you can guess that it wasn’t long before I was darn sick of boxed wine!  If it’s under $15, a bottle is worth it.  One can find a great deal of fabulous wines in that price range.  And if Doug and I aren’t running around wine bars all week like we used to, you can bet your overalls that I am going to enjoy my glass of single vineyard, estate grown wine with dinner!

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This weekend we are taking Emily, Bret, and our sweet Maryjane Rose up to Boulder to celebrate Emily’s birthday a bit early.  I bartered for the rooms at a gorgeous Bed and Breakfast.  We will splurge on great meals and make fond memories with our children.

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Enjoy the good life today folks.  Life is sweet.

How To Become a Homesteader-Part 1- Finances

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Our homesteading school garners a lot of interest and folks of all walks of life are more and more interested in leaving the rat race and joining the simple life.  Most people have a romanticized view of what homesteading looks like, but the good news is, most of those images are true.  It is lovely to live so simply and to not worry as much and to have more freedom with time.

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We have a lot of people, friends and family, ask how to get to this point.  How do you achieve the homestead?  How do you get your own place, your own farmstead?  How do you leave your job?  How do you walk away from your lifestyle?

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Here is the very first thing that one has to realize, grasp, and accept before they pursue this lifestyle.  You must be prepared to give up your way of life.  You must be prepared to give up a lot of things, a lot of comforts, a lot, in order to get away with living this way.  But you get much, much more in return.

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1. Regarding Work- unless you are independently wealthy or are expecting an inheritance, you’ll need to make an income.  There are a lot of people with “regular” jobs looking to escape to this lifestyle but do not want to give up the RV payment, the car payment, the cable package, the all electric run home, the big house, et cetera.  But, a lot of times the reason that people want to become homesteaders is to get away from those rat race jobs!  To not be reliant on others to keep them employed.  To not work 40+ hours a week breaking their backs and then expect to be able to go do chores and call in to work if a sick lamb is born.  Homesteading is about being your own boss.

There are the few that enjoy homesteading on the weekends or love their corporate jobs.  This is more about those of you that want to choose what you do from day to day, who want to live closer to nature, and who want to be less reliant on the system, and have faith in their abilities to provide for themselves.

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There is a new wave of entrepreneurs coming up.  People are realizing that four year college is not the answer most of the time for our young folk.  Heading into their adult lives with debt is not a great way to start out.  Trade schools are rising in popularity and for good reason.  There are few people my age that know how to fix plumbing, who can do carpentry, or who can fix their own cars.  We all got used to hiring people and that is expensive.  But if these young people can grab some of the training and jobs out there to do these things they can work for themselves and make a fair income.  Not just young people, if you need a new career, look into trade work.  If you know how to do these things, focus your energies on these skills to make a homestead income.

I have friends that make their entire living off of farming.  One needs less bills in order to achieve that.  We make a very nice living (it may be considered poverty level, but it works for us!) making and selling herbal medicines and teaching.

If you get your bills down low enough, an enjoyable part time job might be sufficient.

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2. Bills- Do you need a cable package?  Do you need television?  Do you need internet?  Can you use free wifi somewhere?  Get your bills down as low as you can on paper and then you will see how much you need to make per month.  Forget the five year plan, the “when we get this paid off” plan, “when we retire” plan.  Life is short, life is waiting, act soon!

Take away preconceived notions.  You do not need to own a lot of land to homestead.  Find a cheap rental with a friendly landlord.

As you get involved in this lifestyle you will find that you will meet more and more likeminded people.  Homesteaders are an amazing community of people that are always willing to help with advice and expertise and who love to barter!

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3. Debt- It seems impossible to get rid of the debt we accumulated through student loans and losing our house from our previous lifestyle but we certainly aren’t adding any more to it!  We do not use credit cards.  We do not take on debt.  We highly recommend the Dave Ramsey program.  Assume that if you can’t afford it today, you can’t afford it later!  A cash based budget is easier to keep track of.

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4. Rely on Yourself- Learn how to make alternative medicines.  They are every bit as effective as pharmaceuticals.  Barter for what you need if possible.  Preserve as much food as possible.  Heat your home with wood if possible.  Make a list of where your money goes….doctors, grocery stores, clothing stores, et cetera, and see what you can do for yourself.  Break it down even further.  Crackers on your grocery list?  Learn to make them!

It is empowering and takes some stress off of you if you can do it yourself.

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5.  Learn New Skills- Can you get a book on how to make home repairs?  Can you learn to build a fence?  Can you learn to make antibiotics?  Can you learn to can?

Yes you can!

This is the first step in successfully becoming a homesteader and leaving the status quo behind.

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We get to babysit our granddaughter while our daughter is at work part time because we make our own schedules.  We have so much fun with that little munchkin.  We have time to run around with our animals and enjoy the views here.  We have few worries here.  We are in control of our life and is there anything sweeter than that?

 

 

 

 

 

 

5 Steps To Becoming a Homesteader (or just simplifying your life)

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1.Write down your goals. 

Do you want to quit your job?  Move to the country?  Have an urban farm?  Homestead on the weekends?  Live a more peaceful, mindful life? 

We have been on the path to simplicity and homesteading for about seven years now.  It started with reading books like “Animal, Vegetable, Mineral” by Barbara Kingsolver and wanting to learn to can and grow all of our own food.  I started canning (badly) and started a sad little garden in the city.  I got better!

Our goals were to leave our corporate world and busy suburban lifestyle.  When Doug had a nervous breakdown our timeline sped up.  Our goals constantly change and morph each year.  We have a pretty extreme list of homesteading goals right now.  I have no way of knowing if they will work, but I have written them down and am working towards them.  Ask and you shall receive!

  • Find a place with a small house that has a wood stove.  Wood cook stove?  Even better.  Said house should be around $850 a month.  Don’t laugh, it could happen.
  • Small house would be on a bit of land.  I need a full acre of garden.  A quarter acre at the moment provides us with 90% of our vegetables during the summer and early fall, and 80% of the medicinal herbs I use.  Another quarter acre could be the remaining herbs I need to grow, and additional fresh eating vegetables, plus a pond.  A green house and hoop houses could inhabit part of the remaining half acre and a large preservation garden (everything I need to can) and a spice garden (Lord, do I spend a lot on spices!) could round out this menagerie of growing Eden.  An orchard would be added as well and then of course we need room to walk about, have our goats, chickens, and ducks, and be able to ride our bikes to town.
  • A composting toilet and gray water systems could be in place.  We will use as little electricity as possible.
  • This will be a haven for our friends, children, grandchildren, and wildlife.

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2. Learn two skills. 

There was a vast amount of information about homesteading lost with our past generations.  We just don’t know how to do many of the basic skills and farmstead chores anymore.  Find a mentor or a class or a great book and make a goal to learn two things.  Two things a month, or two things a year, whatever works for you.   

A few years ago on this homestead I wanted chickens and to preserve almost all of our food for winter.  The next year I wanted goats and alpacas and to learn to spin.  I learned to spin, didn’t like it, didn’t care for the alpacas, gave away the alpacas, fell in love with goats, got more chickens, and canned over 500 items.  Homesteading is constant rearranging of goals.  This year we got bees and ducks and started growing almost all of our medicinal herbs.  We dug up the driveway to make more space to garden.  Last year we dug up the front and side yards.  Last year I learned to make soft cheese, this year hard cheese.  Doug has learned fencing methods and how to milk a goat.

We have learned what we enjoy, what we don’t, what’s a waste of time, what’s imperative to our homesteading journey.  Learning everything at once is not possible and would be overwhelming.  Just pick two skills.  What do you want to learn?

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3. Get Money Savvy    

Rethink your finances.  Get out of debt.  Stay out of debt.  But don’t wait for pristine credit before you make the jump.

Our BIGGEST mistake that will continue to haunt us for years to come was getting into debt.  We had fourteen credit cards, owned our house (or the bank did), had two car payments and had amazing, perfect credit.  Ironic, isn’t it?  We took the Dave Ramsey program at our church six years ago and it changed our lives.  We paid off and cut up all of our credit cards.  We do not have any still.  We paid off a lot of debt.  We then lost our house and one of our cars in the crash and our credit went to crap.  Which didn’t matter at the time because we were content renting for half the price of our house in Parker.  We have everything we need but there is the little matter of $50 grand from the second mortgage that still says it is an open account and $25,000 for the student loans we still owe.  There should be a money back guarantee.  If you don’t use your degree you should get a refund.  I do not see, with the interest rates the way they are, how we would ever in this lifetime pay these off.  If you are in debt, get out.  If you are not, do not venture into that pitfall.

Save a hundred dollars a month.  Pay yourself first.  Put it in a coffee can or the bank.

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4.  Simplify.  REALLY Simplify!

Every hour you work is money spent on something.  How many hours do you have to work to make enough to pay for the car?  Gas?  The house?  Cable?  Cell phones?  Restaurants?  Is it worth it?  What do you need?  How much time would you like?

It goes against every grain of our society to make less.  The mantra is make more, spend more, the more you make the more you can give, the more you can have, the more secure you will be.  Wrong.  I highly recommend you read “Radical Simplicity” by Jim Merkel.  It outlines our footprint on this planet as well as radically simplifying your life.  If you work less, you leave more work for others.  If you consume less, you leave more for others.  If you have less, you have to work less (this does not include the good kind of work on your own time on a farmstead).  The less you consume, the less resources you take from the planet, less pollution, less animal habitat loss, less unfairness.  Do you need a huge house?  Do you need to buy all of that packaged stuff?  Does it really bring happiness?

My goals are to lessen even more.  We are stressing over bills still and have too much stuff.  What is it with the seven sets of (gorgeous) antique dishes in my cupboards?  All the clothes I don’t wear?  The jewelry I don’t wear?  Where is our money going?  I am now writing it all down, the spending for each day.  See where the leaks are.  See what we don’t need.  What we don’t need to buy.  How much is everything really costing us?

And despite the stressing of leaching money, I want to make less.  No, I have not lost my mind.  I want to stay beneath the poverty line.  I have all the food I need, I am looking at lessening my rent, getting rid of my water bill and most of the electric bill, driving less, less gas money and wear and tear.  High taxes?  Don’t have them.  Where is your money going?

I am ready to simplify even more.  Make less money.  Offer medicines on a donation basis so that everyone can afford them.  Does cable television make us happy?  We don’t really watch it, so no.  That glass of wine in the evenings?  Yes, I don’t have to give that up.  By freeing up your money and where you spend it, you have only what you need and love.  And lots of time to watch the sunset and play with baby goats.

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5. Just Do It!

No more five year plan, maybe next year, only if he gets a raise, or when the kids move out.  There are no guarantees you will live long enough to live the life you really want.  Now is the time to act!

What can I say?  I have friends my age in their forties heading on to the Great Beyond and ones in their eighties who are too tired to do any more.  What is the best time to pursue your goals, cut your spending drastically, move to the place of your dreams, and start living self sufficiently?  Now is a real good time.  And if you cannot move yet or don’t want to, if you don’t want to quit your job or change much at all, just learn a few skills.  Cheese making?  Crocheting?  And urban garden?  Simplifying and homesteading can be done on many levels.