The Good Life

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When you walk through the gates of my little urban homestead, there is a sense of serenity within its walls.  The trees grow abundantly and circles and rectangles and wild tufts of herbs and flowers and vegetables grow everywhere.  Climbing grapes and flourishing raspberries, rows of corn.  The chicks chirp madly for more food and the hens strut about their yard.  The farm dog stretches lazily on the couch.  The cats are curled up in the sun.  Homemade bread and fresh eggs for breakfast with hot coffee on the porch listening to crickets and birds sing.

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Yes, we lead a very sweet life.  This is the life of a homesteader.  I have given you 27 ways and gone into more detail over 24 days of what loveliness goes into being a homesteader.  I hope you know now that you can homestead anywhere, at any age.  You can start with baking from scratch and move on to full out farming later.  That you should most definitely get a cute apron.

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Always buy the best you can afford.  Cast iron is the best.  Do your chores kind of slow.  Keep your mind easy.  Get a pen pal.  Strive to live an old fashioned life.  There are great joys and blessings that come with being a homesteader.

Now, I happen to know of a darling homestead coming up for sale.  It is fully solar powered, with a wood stove, and a root cellar.  It has a chicken coop and outbuildings.  It has established gardens and a sense of home and place.  It is beautifully kept up, wood floors, large kitchen.  My homestead goes on the market today.  I am going back to the country.

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I will post the MLS as soon as I have it.  If anyone knows of anyone who wants a sweet little urban homestead in Colorado, I’ve got one!

I’m going to have goats again, y’all.

Homemade Gifts, Cards, and Letter Writing (Homesteading #23)

Homesteading is about living on less so that you can work less, do what you love more, and attain financial security.  Homesteading is about doing more yourself because the pride that comes from the work of your own hands is unprecedented and you can control your own environment.  What you put on your skin, in your body, how you treat the soil, it all matters.

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Homesteading brings with it a peace of mind that we have mostly lost in our fast paced, make money, do everything lifestyles.  Our ancestors worked hard but they also did methodical, slow work where one can get their mind right.  Slowly stirring curds to make cheese, hanging clothes on the line in the fresh air, planting seeds that will feed the family through winter in jars on root cellar shelves.  Doug chops wood when he is upset with me.  There was one winter that we had a lot of wood!

Another beautiful aspect of homesteading is homemade gifts and cards.  Really, the mass marketed, big box store, kids in China made crap has got to stop.  No one wants a skirt that will fray in a month, or appliances they will never use, or heaven forbid, tchotchkes.  We have to dust enough!

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A bar of goat’s milk soap, a jar of preserves, chokecherry gin, pickles, or chutney.  Hand written recipes, a wheel of cheese, a plant for the garden, or saved seeds with a story.  Or something really special like a quilt, or something woven.  A hand poured candle, or a keep sake box.  Jacob, my daughter’s boyfriend, welded together parts to make a snowman for me for Christmas.  I love it.

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Hand painted cards are a lovely surprise, or have a child draw out the card.  Write personal notes.  Don’t depend on the card company’s catchy phrases.

Make a phone call.  Write a letter.  Send a card just because.

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I am anxious this fall to get out the sewing machine and the crochet hook and start creating skirts, shawls, and quilts.  To set up my paints and be ready to paint a canvas or use watercolors to create cards to send to my pen pals.

These things come from the heart.  And heart is the very soul of homesteading,

Would you like to be my pen pal?  There is nothing like opening the mailbox to find a letter, neatly addressed and stamped.  I love to put it in my apron pocket and then sit with a cup of tea and savor both.

Mrs. Katie Sanders, 1901 Brown Ave, Pueblo, CO 81004

Here are a few more ideas:

Simple Gifts and Spiral Notebooks

Painted Letters

Make Your Own Body Products

On “So You Want to Be a Homesteader” Day 22, let’s look at another way to DIY and save money!  Get super clean, chemical free, fragrant, lovely, moisturizing beauty and body products by making your own for your homestead.

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That was the first thing that actually got us hooked on this lifestyle.   In my early thirties I started to get acne.  As an ex-model, I am afraid that my looks became quite a bit of my identity.  Beauty products and makeup filled our bathroom vanity.  The caked on foundation just made my newfound pimples worse, which required more makeup!  Add on chemical laden lotions, face wash, soap, and sunscreen and our family was a walking cancer hazard.  Things were about to be turned upside down.

I read a book about natural beauty and was so inspired by the lovely herbal things I could make, I threw out a trash bag of body products, one of medicines, and one of cleaning products, and not long after became a Certified Herbalist.  I haven’t worn foundation since and my skin looks great (save for a decade-plus older).

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When we went fishing last weekend, I forgot to bring the coconut oil (SPF 16) so the lady next to me at the beach let me slather some sunscreen on my very light skinned girl.  She burnt.  She never burns with coconut oil.  It is a proven scientific fact that sunscreen causes skin cancer, but the industry is just too big to stop.  Retinal A, which is found in many anti-aging products, is the number one cause of skin cancer.  It is time we take our health, our life, and our beauty back into our own hands.  And it couldn’t be easier.  I have attached links to many of my blog posts on how to make body products.  Enjoy concocting your own! (Or my daughter’s website is http://WhiteWolfHerbs.com if you would rather have her make it!)

How To Make Homemade Soap

How to Make Your Own Witchhazel

How to Make a Nourishing, Infused Oil for Dry Skin

How to Make Your Own Sunscreen (stop poisoning the kids!)

How to Make Your Own Lotion (from my shop to your farm kitchen)

Of Sea Salt, the Art of Bathing, and Writer’s Block

Sugar Scrubs and Breaks from Normalcy

An Interview with a Hunter

Hunting is something that has pretty well horrified me since childhood.  Throughout history the entire world has subsisted on wild foods and hunting, and then agriculture.  I understand this, and I know that the taking of one life to feed a family for most of a year compared to the life of a factory farmed animal is a much more humane option.  I doubt I will ever don a rifle and go hunting, but I wanted to hear first hand from a hunter.  So, while we were out fishing, Bret answered some of my questions.

He first went pheasant hunting when he was six years old with his grandpa.  His family are avid hunters.  I asked how he felt when he first saw an animal be shot.  He didn’t think anything of it.  He had been raised around it.  This made me think about my Uncle Jim who told me stories about slaughtering pigs.  I gave him a squished up face and said I could never do that.  He said if I lived at that time I could and I would!  So Bret never really thought anything of it.

His favorite is hunting doves.  He and his friends go every September.  By the time the small birds are dressed, they are but appetizers, tiny morsels with a jalapeno tucked in and wrapped in bacon.  They are apparently quite delicious.  I have read that many homesteaders dine on blackbird and pigeon.  They are very common birds.

I asked about hunting mammals.  He shot a mouflan sheep before in Texas.  They are everywhere, he said.  I asked if he felt bad.  Again, no.  He explained to me that the vast majority of hunters are not new to guns and shooting.  They practice, they aim, the animal rarely feels any suffering at all.  If they do run, it is from adrenaline and then they drop.  Most of the time, they die immediately.

Bret is not a fan of trophy hunting.  He also feels that it is a terrible waste of meat to kill a deer just for sport.  “That is eighty pounds of natural, organic meat that can feed your family,” he said.

“Far better than factory farmed and much healthier too, I imagine,” I added.

“And it tastes better,” he said.

He told me how the Department of Wildlife has done an amazing job at increasing animal populations.  Hunters and the DOW work together for conservation.  If there are not enough deer in an area, there will be no hunting.  If there are too many (they will end up on the roads or starving), a certain amount of tags go out for that area.

I asked if he has ever gotten an elk, as he goes out hunting for his birthday every year.

“No,” he replied, “It’s really about the experience.”

Gone Fishing (Homesteading #20)

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I flew out to visit my grandparents by myself for three weeks during the summer that I was eight years old.  They took my cousin and I to the mountains for a leisure weekend.  Stars glittered through cracks of the log ceiling of the cabin.  Helen and I giggled and talked but fell asleep soon after a day of playing, swimming, and fishing.  We fished in a well stocked lake and deftly pulled one trout after another out of the blue.  That evening as we sat in the cabin’s kitchen cleaning the fish, I asked if I could take my fish home on the airplane.  My grandma laughed thinking of my mother’s expression after finding fish in my luggage but gently told me no.  We ate good that night.

The last time I went fishing was a at a city park near us when I was twelve.  They were hosting a fishing contest for kids.  They stocked that area with trout and I took home my small fish in a bag.  I named him George and when he died in my hands I swore I’d never fish again.  I have eaten plenty of trout since then though.  I have fond memories of my uncle’s freezer filled with it.  Eating it grilled or fried, its delicious, crisp skin and buttery flesh the very taste of summer and family.  Fond memories.

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I asked Bret (my granddaughter, Maryjane’s daddy and still one of my kids) to teach me to fish.  He drove three hours Saturday to come pick me up, a bubbly Maryjane in tow.  We went to the reservoir.  The parks in the city of Pueblo are all stocked with fish and one does not need a fishing license but we were at a state park so I doled out the $13 and change plus the $7 park pass for the day and we were off.  By the time we got to the park it was noon and sweltering hot with zero trees.  We parked and walked with all of our gear a half a mile or more just to find a place to settle by the water.  The reservoir was packed.  It was a hundred degrees out.  We nestled in near the rocks and set up.

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Maryjane was delighted playing in the water.  Bret strung the fishing line through the fishing pole loops.  It looked like a sewing machine, the way you have to wind it through holes just so, thread it through the eye just so.   He didn’t stop to teach me- I’m sure I looked confused enough.  Plus I was keeping an eye on the little one in water.

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We hiked across the boulders to a clear place and he showed me how you pull your finger against the line, click open the thing, and smoothly let go as the line goes flying into the water.  I set my stance, placed my finger, looked out across the pulsing waters and let go.  It plunked down two feet in front of me.

“Here, let me do it,” Bret said.  He sailed the line out far into the depths.  He handed it to me again and told me to reel in kind of fast, as we were mimicking a fish.  I caught a stick.

We repeated this process, I plunked it down two feet on the other side of me, he took it, sailed it out into the water, I reeled it in and caught something much bigger.  “I have a fish!” I exclaimed.  But it was more likely a log this time and he had to use his knife to cut the lure loose.  I felt bad.

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Then Maryjane and I got hungry and pranced back across the boulders again to eat the tuna fish sandwiches I packed.  We gulped down sweet tea and ate our homemade chocolate chip cookies while Maryjane splashed in the water and Bret and I talked.

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In the end, the day was far too hot.  The water way too crowded.  Usually fisherman go early in the morning or in the cooler evening.  The bugs are out and the fish are more active.  Next time we will go somewhere quieter and earlier, but I had such a lovely day with Bret and Maryjane.  Fisherman walked past us without any fish.  I asked Bret if he and his friend often catch fish.  “Once in awhile,” he shrugged, “it’s really just about the experience.”  I could get used to this too.

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Simplifying Meals and the Budget (So You Want to Be a Homesteader #19)

I am learning a lot this summer.  I am learning to simplify my meal plan, my shopping list, and my budget in order to save time, energy, and a whole lot of money that will be used for other things.

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Making cookies is super easy and keeps Pa from buying packaged.

My meals are usually pretty elaborate affairs.  I would always have a long menu plan filled with delicious looking recipes from magazines and cookbooks.  Great if I happen to have all of those ingredients (not usually), and if I happen to want that particular meal on the night allotted.  No?  Then we were out at a restaurant.

When do you think restaurants skyrocketed in price?  It seems like overnight but yet, a few years later, I am still shocked that $40-$60 is the average ticket for two of us!  We noticed how we feel, the extra weight gain, the heartburn and pinned it down to when we go out.  I generally serve much smaller portions and the food is fresh and additive free at home.  We also took a look at the average we were spending on restaurants in a month.  Lord, have mercy.  That is money that could certainly be used elsewhere.

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Eggs, a little milk, chopped spinach and chives, sprinkle of cheese, salt and pepper.  Bake at 350 degrees until a knife comes out clean.  About 20 minutes.

I have found a few ways to make meals super easy.  First, choose a side or a main.  What do I have in the freezer?  Do I feel like wild rice?  What is growing in the garden?  Basically, what do I have?  Chicken, rice, frozen peas, carrots….I can make a homemade cream of celery sauce (milk, flour, salt, celery…you don’t need to buy those cans of cream soup), and fresh salad from the garden.  I plan that the day before so I can defrost as needed.  Things don’t get wasted, nothing languishes in the back of the fridge, and we eat clean and simply.  If I am short one ingredient, I go get it.

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I plan Doug’s lunch the day before as well.  Leftovers?  Sandwiches?  Do I need to make bread?

Hot cereal or homemade yogurt and granola start the day.

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By taking out elaborate and processed foods, I have saved time, money, and a lot of stress.

Now for simplifying the budget; this is important!  I needed to glean through and find lots of money.  Wedding, down payments….I have my reasons.  We usually do the envelope system.  I have $200 allotted for groceries for the week.  I would take two weeks worth of money and go to the store with my elaborate lists and spend the amount.  Until I noticed that I have tons of staples, frozen foods, and vegetables growing in the garden.  I was spending the money just to spend the money!  So instead I only get what I need.  A short list at the end of the weeks of things like flour, yeast, coffee, etc.  We are saving $400 a month on groceries.

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So then I’m on a roll, ’cause Mama wants a bigger farm.  Where else am I spending just to spend?  Well, let’s just say I am busy spending only what I absolutely need to.  No dwindling “extra” money in envelopes and using the dreaded budget buster- the debit card.  I am saving an average of $800 a month!

Try it!  Don’t use credit cards.  Rarely use the debit card.  Pull out a hundred bucks and make it last as looooong as possible.  Use what you have.  Cook simply with what you have.  Try to sell some things and earn a little more and see how quickly things add up.

Simple=Peace of Mind

The Simply Clean Home

Listen, if the baby gets under the cupboard and there is something in there that will kill her, I don’t want it in my house.  What that also means is that anything I use to clean is non-toxic, safe to breathe in, easy on the environment, inexpensive, and effective.  Are you sure it works?  Of course I am sure it works!  I have a zillion animals and a lot of dust.  I cook a lot and like things clean and tidy (for the two seconds they stay that way.)

I use baking soda in place of Ajax-style cleaners.  Put some on a dripping wet rag and smear all over the kitchen sink, the bathtub and tiles, and the bathroom sink.  Now rinse off.  Super shiny!  Add a little bit of tea tree oil to make it disinfectant.  You can also add a drop of castile soap.  I like Dr. Bronner’s.  I tried the discount one and it was oddly oily.

Dr. Bronner’s also cleans dishes but so does a non-toxic dish soap.  Either can be used in a big tub of hot water to clean the floors, walls, cupboards, etc.  A wrung out washcloth with a little soap cleans everything.  A touch of Dr. Bronner’s in the toilet bowl gets it nice and clean.

Once in awhile I will treat my wood with olive oil and lemon essential oil.  It is fabulous.

A touch of vinegar in any mixture disinfects as well.  In a book I just finished, My Life as an Amish Housewife by Lena Yoder (Amazon has it), she mentions adding a 1/2 cup of vinegar to the laundry as a fabric softener.

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I love using the clothes line to dry clothes.  I didn’t have a dryer for pry a decade before my adorable puppy started shredding all the clothes on the line and running around the yard with glee, a pair of stockings in his mouth.  I conceded and got a dryer.  I wonder if he is old enough that I can use the line again.  I love the time spent hanging clothes in the sun and the way they feel all warm as I fold them.  As with all chores on the homestead, it is meditative.  Wait until you read about my clothes “washer” below in the links of recipes I am sharing with you from my past blogs.  I am on the lookout for another one!

Conventional cleaners aren’t only poisonous when ingested, they aren’t biodegradable, which means they sit on the surface of waterways around the world, killing everything from microbes to fish and then reentering our water supply again.  Save money, go simple, and enjoy your gleaming house (until the puppy comes back in)!

The Handy Dandy Double Tub Washer (not a lick of rust)

The Clean Green Homestead

Fiber Arts, Animals, and Projects

These desert mornings are cool.  I put a cardigan on before I poured my coffee.  I put the chicks outside yesterday but I may need to run the heat lamp out there for mornings.  It’s going to get warm though.  It was ninety degrees yesterday and it will be again today (wasn’t I just wearing a winter hat Sunday?), so it may seem a terrible time to talk about fiber arts!  Fiber arts are apart of our series here and a welcome skill on the homestead.  Think cozy sweaters, gloves, blankets, and unique gifts all created by you.

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I have found that folks that begin crocheting first have a hard time knitting (where is that darned hook?).  I learned how to crochet from my grandmother, among many things (Lord, I miss her!), when I was thirteen.  I entered my first blanket into the school’s art show and won first place.  I was sure thrilled!  I went on to make many a baby blanket (about my patience level) for friends, all of my own children and my darling granddaughters.  Then moved on to cozies for candles and mugs and fingerless gloves.  Lots of fun ideas.  I have a loom downstairs I am just giddy to learn to how to use.  It may as well be a car in a million pieces; I haven’t the first idea how to put it together, let alone use it.  That is a goal for this winter.

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Gandalf at dusk.  That’s not snow, folks.

What about fiber animals?  I can’t have them here in the city (actually….I saw a weird video about folks spinning their dog’s fur), but I have had them before and will have them again.  Alpacas weren’t my loves.  They are cute and marionette-like, and kick.  Some of my friends adore their alpacas, it just may not have been our thing.  I need goofy, friendly, cuddly animals on my farm.  So we got sheep.  Oh goodness, I loved those sheep.  Olaf and Sven were just as bright as a pine cone but they adored me and followed me around the farm, in the house, and rather enjoyed rides in the truck.  They also liked to watch television.  (Spoiled much?)

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I have had a spinning wheel twice, and due to moving and patience issues in me (I do hope those are remedied now that I am an empty nester), I don’t have one, but that too will become one of my goals….maybe.  I once dropped off a whole bag of alpaca fleece a guy sold me to a fiber mill and I got back many skeins of lovely spun yarn.  I wonder if I could do it again myself.

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Homesteading is a lot of doing and a little bit dreaming.  We are always striving to do more, learn more, achieve more, enjoy more.  In the meantime, there are a few projects I am inspired to work on.  Better find some chunky wool…

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Here are some old past posts and projects for y’all!

Candle Sweaters and Pin Cushions (homemade gifts)

The Yarn Weasel

Alpaca Scarves and Crooked Washcloths

Vintage Handkerchiefs (a crochet project)

How to Crochet Fingerless Gloves (easy pattern!)

The Homegrown, Healthy Life (So You Want to Be a Homesteader #16)

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, somewhere during women’s liberation we got led astray.  The frozen dinner folks were ready to pounce.  “Yes, women, go get a job!  We’ll take care of dinner.”  Every convenience began to show up, pushing women into the work force in droves.  Children left raising themselves and food being neatly packaged in factories in other countries.  Oh, and we still get to do all the housework!

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I am thankful for the ability to vote and that my daughters can be lawyers if they so choose, but I will take my original jobs back, thank you very much.  My father-in-law wondered when I am getting a job.  Let me tell y’all about my job and earnings.

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When you gaze down fluorescent lighted grocery shelves with the sounds of bad music and customers in the background, do you ever wonder where the food came from?  Or ever wondered what would happen in an emergency and you couldn’t come shop these aluminum and box lined shelves?  Have you read the ingredients?  Lord, have mercy.  A good 50% of all those foods are poison.  Not to mention grown who knows where, handled by who knows who, sprayed with who knows what.  I am my own food preserver.  I can, I dry, I fill my own grocery store shelves with nutritious, delicious foods.

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I am the farmer.  I grow all of our produce for half of the year, increasing yields each season.  I grow our own chickens (a new venture, granted).  We gather our own eggs.  To fill in, I use other housewives’ farm goods; beef, pork, milk, and organic vegetables to preserve.  It takes a village of us.

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I am the cheese monger.  I make our own variety of cheese, along with yogurt and ice cream, and butter.

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I am the baker.  In my bakery I make coffee cakes, and fresh bread for sandwiches.

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I am my family’s own doctor.  I make my own medicines.  I am the veterinarian around here.

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I am the tailor.  I am the accountant.  I am a hell of a gourmet chef.  I am the winemaker.

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I make body products and cleaning products and support my husband in his job.

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I buy organic flour and coffee, sugar and nuts.  Things of that nature.  I save a ton of money by growing, bartering, supporting local farms, and doing it myself.  Just think of all the things I don’t buy!  I don’t really have time to get a job, you see.  I am busy working and giving my family a homegrown, healthy life.

 

 

Saving Money with Free Activities

Maybe you would like a cheese press, or a new hoe.  Maybe a few goats or maybe you realize that every hour of your life is valuable and perhaps you would like a few of them to not be working a job, but rather enjoying your homestead.  In everything, we save money so we can spend on something else, whether it be a new tree or time in a lawn chair with a good book.

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For us, our budget buster is entertaining ourselves.  In a weekend we can easily blow through a few hundred dollars just by visiting a fun strip of antique shops, a few restaurants- it goes fast!  So we try to entertain ourselves with as many free things to do as possible, so we can maybe save for a down payment on a farm in the country or pay the caterer for our child’s wedding!

We had a habit for a long time of meeting our growing family for a meal.  The kids live in all directions and it was just easier to find a central spot and enjoy dinner.  A few hundred dollars, a loud restaurant, and a bit of chaos later, we knew there had to be a better way.  Due to the screwy weather around here, we celebrated Father’s Day yesterday instead of last week.  We still donned winter hats and coats but the sky stayed clear and only a few rain drops threatened our merry band.

We all brought something to eat to share.  Andy and Bree brought chips and prickly pear soda.   Shyanne baked triple berry hand pies and poppy seed muffins.  Emily and Reed brought homemade mini quiches.  I made a mulberry coffee cake and brought along a few thermoses of coffee.  Andy also brought along his ukulele.  What a treat!

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We met at a glorious hidden park in the middle of Colorado Springs filled with hiking trails and trees, rock formations, and wildlife.  Acres and acres of breathtaking beauty, as only Colorado can dole out.

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Cost?  Free.  Priceless time together.

 

Some other ideas for free entertainment:

We have an antenna on our television set instead of cable.  We can see basic channels so we can watch The Voice and most Bronco games.  The rest of the time it stays unplugged behind a painting.

We get free movies from the library.  If it looks interesting, we grab it.  We have seen a lot of wonderful films this way.  We jot down movies from the previews of the films we like and the list goes on.  We particularly love clever British films, especially with Maggie Smith.  New movies are at the library as well.

We utilize the library for our reading.  Reading is free and perhaps the most wonderful entertainment of all, as you can travel the world, see sights, eat foods, meet characters, live different lives, laugh, cry, get inspired!  I do buy books that are not available at the library, but the vast majority of my reading is from the library shelves.  For free.

Museums and zoos all have free days.  Museums and zoos in small towns are a lot more affordable and often less crowded and more fun.

We take long, meandering walks.  It gives us time to talk without distractions and we get exercise.

Play an instrument.  Have fun with the piano, guitar, or ukulele!  The chickens love good music.

I wouldn’t venture to say hobbies are free but there are ways to make them affordable and are a wonderful use of time.  Crocheting, cooking, sewing, painting, wood working, and so many more activities are actually homesteading activities that sweeten life and lead to a simpler, more peaceful lifestyle,

Pull up a lawn chair and grab a drink and set up in the chicken yard.  There’s nothing better on cable television than that!

 

What activities do you do that are free to entertain yourselves?

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