Supporting Local Farms (So You Want to Be a Homesteader Day 7)

It is a good idea to try and be self sufficient enough that you feel secure.  You have water in empty jars in case the water gets turned off.  You have candles, oil lamps, and matches.  You have food preserved and a bustling garden.  You have firewood.  You have some cash in a coffee can.  Going further, it is really satisfying to raise your own food, preserve all of your own food and drinks, and make steps to be more eco-friendly and simple.  We can get pretty darn self sufficient, but really it not likely to be completely self sufficient.  Mainly because we need people.  We also cannot possibly do everything ourselves.  Supporting small, local farms in your state- as close to you as possible- is a great way to build each other up, create community, eat well, ensure humane treatment of animals, and support a more environmentally friendly path.

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We don’t have too many flour mills here in Colorado (do we have any?), and I know no one is growing coffee and sugar, so I do need to buy those.  I can choose organic or small operations to purchase from.  I grow most of our vegetables for the summer and fall here on my urban farm, but it is always nice to head to the farmer’s market and buy some fruit or unique vegetables from the organic farmers there.  We talk about bugs, weather, family, recipes.  I can also get extra produce to preserve if I didn’t grow enough. The money stays in the community, amongst friends.

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Most of the homestead authors I enjoy reading started out as vegetarians.  Many of us have felt strongly about vegetarianism before.  Many of my farmer friends were vegetarians.  We care about the environment.  We care about animals.  So, once we see that tofu and bananas wreck the ozone as much as anything with all the fuel and deforestation required, and that GMO crops (the basis of many a veggie burger), and factory farming are what are destroying our health and our beautiful planet, it makes a farmgirl step back and reassess.

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There are lovely, caring farms and ranches, many around you, that lovingly grow animals for meat and gently send them off into the night.  A world away from the pain and stench of factory farming.  My meat chickens got lots of kisses and lots of sunshine and were dead in less time than it takes to blink.  No pain.

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The key to curing many of our environmental, social, and health problems can be found in our food choices.  By purchasing as much local as possible, from real people in your community, who don’t use pesticides and herbicides, who have bills to pay, and a smile to offer you, and authentic conversation, we can reverse disease, destruction, and separation.  Local is where our food should come from.  As close as possible.  Your back yard is even better.  It is possible to eat primarily local, it just takes some planning and networking on social media and at farmer’s markets to find everything you need.

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I despise the dairy industry and do not want to support them.  Yesterday I visited a small farm thirty minutes from mine where a gorgeous, tanned farmgirl showed me around.  She loves each and every one of the newly hatched chicks that ran by chirping, the bucks who got out and created a lot of babies this year, the old goats, the babies frolicking with their mothers, the pigs, the dogs, the land, that life.  I packed three gallons of delicious, fresh milk into my car.  Today I am making cheese and ice cream.

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Local is not more expensive.  Creating a good network of fellow farmers and ranchers is imperative to becoming a successful homesteader.

Hygge Lifestyle (simple pleasures and joyful living)

As the season begins to change, and the light appears more golden, as do the leaves, I find myself responding as well.  A natural response to the cool nights, I suppose.  Autumn welcomes in the New Year in many cultures so perhaps that would explain the nesting instinct.  My ancestors of old would be busily putting up food (as I am) and preparing the garden beds to sleep for winter.  Firewood will be cut and stacked soon and soups are on the menu for the first cool day.

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Hygge (pronounced hue-guh) is the Nordic principal of all things cozy and good.  Of cable knit sweaters and wool socks.  Of blazing fires and drinks with friends.  Of self care with baths and saunas and good creams.  Of gifts and community and laughter and warmth.

Perhaps it is because of my Scandinavian ancestry or perhaps it is from living in a four-season climate, that I so love the hygge concepts.  It is one thing to prepare for winter and be ready to survive, it is quite another to prepare for winter beautifully.  It draws in the sensations of warmth and soft textures, and good books by the fire, and romantic evenings in, and game nights with friends, and rose scented baths, and hot chocolate in the snow.

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But outside of the seasonal aspects, the Hygge lifestyle is for all year.  Its focus is on friends and family and self love, and good food and good drinks, and noticing the beauty in every moment, in every season, in every facet of life.  Of embracing bliss and goodness and waking up to these lovely days we have.

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The book, The Hygge Life; Embracing the Nordic Art of Coziness Through Recipes, Decorating, Entertaining, Simple Rituals, and Family Traditions is a lovely book to curl up with and incorporate into your home and lifestyle.

Wishing you heart warming and simple joys!

Before You Give to a Charity (really helping those in need)

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‘Tis the time of year for charities.  To give to those less fortunate.  To share some of our blessings.

We often gave money to organizations that helped the homeless.  Then we became homeless ourselves after losing our rented farm.  We opted not to go on welfare, but rather to work very hard to get jobs and get back on our feet.  About this time two years ago we were out of money and hungry.  You can only eat so many dollar burritos from Taco Bell with found change.  We looked into getting a food basket from a local charity that distributed them.  I didn’t have a coat, I was freezing.  We were really struggling and not a single organization could or would help us.  They gave everything to the “poorest” in the county.  Well, you couldn’t have been poorer than us at that moment.  You have to work pretty dang hard to be the poorest in the county.  You have to get on welfare and food stamps, and you can’t try to find work or you would lose your pay out every month.  No thanks.

Then we have the homeless organizations that we gave to.  Those are intended to serve the perfectly able folks with signs-who make more money than anyone I know- on the corners of busy streets.  We did a farmer’s market for years in a park that was popular with the homeless.  They stole, took drugs in the park, excitedly went and got free food from the food kitchen, and had no desire to change their lives.  Or they wouldn’t be homeless anymore.  It was a lifestyle they chose.  They were the first to admit it.  And that really surprised us.

Now, this all sounds a little harsh, but let me be clear, there are people out there that need your help.  They just don’t have cardboard signs and are working hard to try and make it.  They are the elderly on your block who would love company and a meal with someone.  It’s the single mom who can’t afford new coats for her swiftly growing children.  It’s the friend at work whose wife is sick and they need help with meals and cleaning the house but would never ask.  There are people all around you who could use a bit of charity and mercy and help.

Only a few cents goes to the people large charities serve.  If you were to just look around you could have a much more powerful impact, make a personal connection, and strengthen the community you are in.  I will forever be grateful to my old neighbors who showed up at my shop with a box of home canned food, squash, a winter coat, and a hug.

Before you write a check to a big charity, look around and see if anyone near you could use a little holiday help.  We all need a little help here and there.

(Thank you to all of our friends that pitched in back then with money, a place to stay, a dinner, and hugs.  We never imagined we would have been in that situation.  Amazing how much can change in such a short time. We are really grateful for all we have now.)

 

All the Small Kindnesses

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We have a very long driveway.  In the city it would be the length of one long block.  It had one to two feet of snow in any given place so our cars just couldn’t get up the dirt path the last few snowstorms.  Our car along with our housemate, David’s, stayed parked along the road until we could get back in.  Yesterday we came home late, ready to bundle up the baby and load all of our things on our backs to hike up the driveway.  But lo, there was an amazing sight.  The driveway had been plowed.  I could not believe my eyes.  There under the twinkling stars and icy air sat a perfectly plowed block long stretch.

No one knows where we live.  And David is very private so it wasn’t anyone any of us knew.  Just a random act of kindness.  It meant so much yet there is no one to thank.  The only way to show gratitude is to pass it on.

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I write about ways to spontaneously add joy to others’ lives.  I think it is so important that we stay strong in our support for others, even if we do not know them.  Perhaps today compliment five people.  Say a prayer for a family.  Buy the person’s coffee in front of you.  Don’t tailgate.  Smile and greet folks.

A few days ago we pulled into a parking space at a shopping center.  We got out at the same time as the girl next to us.  Her hair was lovely.  I always liked the pixie cut and lamented that I could never pull it off.  It was streaked red and grey in soft curls.  I told her that I LOVE her hair!  She sighed, then beamed a brilliant smile and said that I have no idea how much that means to her.  She is going through chemotherapy and just recently had to cut off all of her beautiful long hair.  She said again how much that meant to her and how we just don’t realize how much our words mean.

Use your heart out there today and don’t be afraid to say nice things to people that you meet.  The smallest kindness can mean so much.  Spread the love and cheer of this time of year!

 

The Encouragers

We all want to help those in need this time of year, but who are those folks?  And how can we, as a community, Elbert county, Colorado, and worldwide, help our fellow people?

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The group that I had inquired about getting a basket of food from recommended that I go to the welfare office.  We are getting back on our feet, we have never had a desire to take government money and are working diligently to get caught up.  There are many out there in the same situation.  I needed a coat but where do all the coats go in these coat drives?  My beautiful neighbors from Kiowa brought me a wool coat.  But, what if I didn’t have the network that I do?  If one isn’t a meth addict in Acacia park or on welfare, how does one get the encouragement and help one needs?  And not just financially, there are those who have suffered tremendous loss, who are grieving, who need things that there aren’t agencies for.  It is hard to say what one needs.  A gentleman I just adored that we did farmer’s markets and craft shows with killed himself in September.  We must not let folks in our own community feel alone.

Because of this blog, my farm on my old street, the business we have have in town, and because of my outgoing husband, we are more known than the average person.  When I felt like our world had ended this year and that jumping off a cliff wouldn’t even send a ripple through the world (very brief, fleeting thought) dozens and dozens of people came forth.  Friends, and friends, and friends of friends, and blog readers, and pen pals, and old customers, and the list still goes on and I am truly blessed and STRONGER because of it.  I needed encouragement and I received it.

But what about those folks we see at the grocery store and say hello to or the couple that walks into my store.  People that lost a child this year, people that cannot afford vegetables, or people that need a hug.  Can we reach out to these people?  We are one with all people.

I am starting something out of my shop.  It is called “The Encouragers.”

It’s easy.  Become an Encourager.  It doesn’t have to cost anything.  Offer to do it one time or once a month.

Choose a situation you want to help with.  You can make an afghan and write a note encouraging someone who lost someone or something this year.  You can pack up home canned goods with a note that encourages someone who needs fresh farm food.  You can write a note encouraging someone who is financially down right now and include a gas and food gift card or a gift card to Target.  The ideas are endless.

The important part of this is the note.  Please write a note encouraging someone.  Speak from the heart.  Send love and hope.  (Spiritual words are okay but since everyone is different religions please leave out specific religious doctrine.)  Maybe include your phone number or an offer for tea.  Wherever your heart leads.

Include your note with your gift and drop off at my shop, White Wolf Medicine, 796 East Kiowa Ave, H-3, by the post office, in Elizabeth.  Or send it to P.O. Box 2012, Elizabeth, CO 80107.  Or, start an Encouragers group in your community.

IF YOU NEED ENCOURAGING: I know it is not something we are raised to talk about and no one wants pity or unwanted words of advice, but if you need encouragement, a hug, a gift card, a note, a cup of tea, or whatever, please contact me.  Let’s get you some encouragement.

Katie- 303-617-3370

wildflower@sacredowlschool.com or message me on facebook at

http://facebook.com/whitewolfmedicine or http://facebook.com/pumpkinhollowfarm (Farmgirl School)

May encouragement be the best gift we give and receive this season and into the coming year.

 

 

 

 

Thankfulness and Determination

 

familyThanksgiving.  I am thankful.  I am thankful for the soft, plush fur of my purring kitten that greets me each morning at dawn.  The pink glow of day through the trees as I awake.  The hot coffee, its earthy aroma and taste, filling me with life.  I am thankful and say “wado” do the Creator each day.

“It’s just material stuff.  You can’t take it with you!” folks say, then go to their warm homes and kitchens.  Easy for them to say.

I know friends and family that have lost children, spouses, their health.  They would rather have our lot.  I know.  We have so much to be thankful for.

My beautiful baby granddaughter is with me four days a week filling my spirit with light.  My children are healthy.  Beautiful.  Pursuing their dreams.  What more could I ask for?

I asked an organization in my county how one can be gifted with a basket of fresh vegetables.  They said they were distributing them to the people in the county in need.  Where do all these things get distributed?  They erased my request from the page.  I shiver without a coat.  Wear the same four outfits mismatched so they look like a new outfit.  We have lived on the kindness and loans from friends for five months.  What Doug makes from his new job goes to support the shop and gas to get to work.  He brings home expired pastries for our breakfast.

“I didn’t realize you were still struggling so much,” a friend says.  How do you talk about that kind of thing?  You don’t.

I am thankful that we have shelter.  When I used to say that it meant I was thankful for my house.  Now I am thankful not to be out of doors.  I am thankful for food.  I am thankful for friends.  And hugs and gifts and smiles and visitors and that I could hang on to my cats.  I am thankful for my husband.  I would not trade our marriage for anything in the world.

“We are definitely not living our life,” he says as I tell him about a video I saw of a woman who has lived off-grid for thirty years.

I started to doubt my own words that I write and speak about.  The manifesting your own destiny and dreams seem a little full of it now.  My roommate agrees.  There is great danger in making people feel like they can achieve anything.

I am thankful.  I am blessed.  I have everything I need.  This I know.  I need to get out there and help and inspire as many people as I can.  And mark my words, readers, this time next year I will be writing you from my farm on how to create a homemade Thanksgiving.

 

 

Ebb and Flow of Farm Life

The ebb and flow, the life and death, the frequency changes and seasons all so crisply clear when one lives on a farm.

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The ducklings do not fail to bring smiles.  Frolicking in their playpen in a casserole dish turned pond.

The farm dog lays under freshly mounded soil by the empty bee hive.  Bumble passed away in the night.  The quiet house without his tick-tick-ticking and the sight of him this morning haunts me still.  Dumping the pile of dead bees in the compost.  A weight pulls my heart.  The dead chicken with suspicious slobber on her feathers.  Death is real and constant.

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The monastery of frogs chant from the pond beneath the full moon.  The baby red winged black birds chirp madly in the greenhouse.  The kittens play.  The seedlings stretch to the sky, the sun on their limbs.  The breeze brings on it blossoms from trees and the scent of dampened soil.  Elsa’s side grows.  Twelve more days until she kids.  Bundles of fluff, lambs who think they are dogs, greet me with kisses and lean against my legs.

Relationships start.  Unexpected, journeys change.  Paths bring second thoughts, perhaps regrets.  Marriages strengthen.  Friends offer embraces.  Words of wisdom and love over the telephone far away.

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The Creator waits for our prayers of thanksgiving as we busy ourselves with endless internal chatter.

Wading through and finding peace in the respectfulness of death, the joy of birth and spring, and my spirit shall join the frogs in their meditation of all that is.  Take a breath.

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Spring is here and the journey continues.

How to Become a Homesteader-Part 5-Community

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In this “How to Become a Homesteader” series we have talked about leaving the rat race for greener pastures, eliminating a lot of unnecessary bills and cutting others.  We have lowered our need for so much income and found a good trade or homestead job that we can bring in what little we do need.  We have discussed farm animals and heating with wood and with telling time on a cuckoo clock.  We have figured what skills we ought to pick up and we are ready to roll.  But there is one very important aspect to becoming a homesteader.  Community.  It seems that would be opposite to what we are trying to achieve.  We want to be self reliant, grow our own food, take care of ourselves, and have less fear.  But, what we are really doing is becoming less reliant on big corporations and more reliant on ourselves and each other.  That is how we were made.

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When you become a homesteader you will naturally attract and meet other homesteaders.  Each has something to offer. It is one big circle out here.  A gentleman took my herbalist classes who has a tree service who got us our first cords of wood and will provide me with wood chips.  He is teaching me more and more about wild plants.  I make herbal medicines and Doug fixes computers but we need some help learning how to build things and with cars.  We have found more and more people that need what we have and can offer what we need.

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Even our friends who aren’t homesteaders, per se, have like minded ideas.  Rodney used to have a large garden before arthritis made it difficult.  Rodney Sr. can fix many things and is very creative.  Kat would love to have chickens and a small homestead.  Sandy and Bill have lots of chickens and a mad goose near their gardens.  Monte and Erik have food, water, and other necessities in case of emergency.

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Monte and Erik, our dear, dear long time friends, are moving across the country next month.  This is a couple that has a framed painting from Emily that she drew when she was six on the wall among their fine art.  The kids used to call them Uncle Monte and Uncle Erik.  We have traveled with them and they were among the first at the hospital when Maryjane was born.  Eating and drinking and watching the Superbowl at their house with all the kids was bittersweet this year.

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In a fit of silliness at the end we planned our ideal homestead and what we can all do. Bret is a hunter and is going to school for mechanics, Dillon (Shyanne’s long time boyfriend) works in construction and can help us build things on this imaginary homestead.  Shyanne is an amazing baker.  I volunteered to grow the gardens and make the medicine.  “I’ll be the bartender!” Erik says and across the room Andy says, “I’ll grow the weed!”  and everyone cheered.

Despite the fact that some of us don’t smoke weed (our son is an executive at a dispensary), and Monte and Erik are moving to Washington DC, and our kids probably don’t want to live that close to us, we enjoyed imagining the possibility.  There is comfort in being near close friends and family and a need to be near others.  The old saying still rings true, “Many hands make light work.”  And since each of us has our own gifts and talents, we can come together to provide a completely self reliant community.

The Inspirational (and Inspired) Life

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I was always fascinated by grandma’s bay window of plants and her rose bushes.  Of Aunt Donna’s heavy laden apple tree, grape vine, flowering bushes, and crisp rhubarb.  I wonder if they know how much they inspired me and that I am a farmer today because of their memories on the farm they grew up on and watching them grow things.

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Jill and Nancy inspired my love of goats.  I had trepidations about goats after babysitting a friend’s unruly rescued male goats.  A bruised hip bone made me very leery of ever having goats.  But these girls showed me how fun they could be.  They let us come over and play with new baby goats.  They answered questions.  I am now ready to start milk shares and am sharing my home (and lap) with adorable and fun loving goats who make this farm more enjoyable.

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Sandy and Debbie inspired me to grow more herbs for my medicines.  I thought it would be too difficult to grow all the herbs I need for my medicines so they grew things for me, with such ease that I felt I could do it myself.

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Kathi taught me and Nancy how to make soap.  Nancy taught me how to make cheese.  Claudia tried to teach me to knit.  Another Sandy taught me to spin.  There has never been a shortage of inspiration surrounding me.  Kat and Rod taught me to be a better parent, be more loving, accept people for who they are.  Pat and Rodney taught me unconditional love.  I have so many lovely friends who inspire me every day and that I love dearly.  I need to tell these people that they inspired me.  Thank them for helping me on my path and for being a part of where I am today…living on this mini-farm, enjoying what I do.

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I  hope I have inspired ideas through my teaching and writing.  That is the thing, we don’t always know how we have affected other’s lives so it is important to live a life that you enjoy and that makes you proud and passionate.  And always be kind.  For others are watching and taking ideas that will better their lives and so makes our short time on earth more enjoyable and filled with beauty and ideas.

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In this blog, every holiday and entertaining picture is with Nancy and her family.  The 5 Farmgirls was made up of me and Nancy and our daughters and Maryjane.  The early pictures of Emily with goats were Nancy’s.  We learned skills together and played together.  That is one of the sweetest gifts on earth.  Someone to inspire and be inspired by and be in cahoots with.  I am so sad that she passed away this morning.  But I will not focus on her passing, but on all the inspiration that she gave to me and the memories we made.  Her spirit is indelibly on this farm as she helped make it possible with her brainstorming over glasses of wine with me.

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I hope that I am an inspiration.  Life is too short to have any other reputation.  Let things go. Don’t focus on the past.  Don’t worry if some people don’t treat you like you think they should.  Focus on those that are good to you.  Notice the good and the blessings.  Do what you want.  Don’t be afraid.  If your heart desires something….a homestead….a child….a beer….it will come to you!  Today work on it coming true!

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March has been a rough month over here.  Many losses of human and animal lives.  The important thing is to focus on the positive.  My son is getting married this summer.  My granddaughter and I have a special relationship.  My children are well and happy.  My marriage is good.  I bottle feed three baby goats a day.  We have hope.  What a beautiful life we live that inspiration is everywhere.

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The Can’t Do It All Homestead

At the beginning of this venture, I truly believed that Doug and I would be able to learn, complete, and excel at every  homesteading skill.  We could be self sufficient!  We don’t need nobody.  We would be so busy chopping wood and weaving clothes, sheesh, we’d do even more than the pioneers!  We’d learn everything and do everything.

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Hmmm.  I made a list.  Remember my list making post?  I do excel at making lists.  They open my eyes and help me figure out what my next step is.  This is a list that I would encourage you to fill out as well.  It can really help your life move in the direction you want it to, see what you is no longer important to you, and what you downright don’t like to do.  Let go of old hobbies and open the door for new things.

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Make four columns.  In the first column write out the things in your life you LOVE to do.  These are things you do without putting them on a to do list.  Things you don’t have to even think about, you love doing them.

  • Raising babies; chicks, goats, kittens
  • Milking
  • Making soft cheese
  • Making food items; vinegars, oils, etc
  • Cooking
  • Gardening
  • Collecting eggs
  • Making things as gifts
  • Preserving
  • Entertaining; being with friends and family
  • Sitting in the sun, working outdoors
  • Making herbal medicines
  • Writing
  • Reading

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Now that you have your list of the things that you need no prompting to do and that you still enjoy, write in the second column the things you like do doing once you get started.

  • Yard work, domestic chores
  • Painting (on canvases)
  • Sewing (not intricately)
  • Yoga
  • Farmer’s Markets
  • Making body products

I was surprised to see that painting was on my once I got started.  I keep planning all these fine paintings.  I am to show my work in a coffee shop next month.  I have nothing new.  Perhaps I am not as into it as I used to be.

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On to the third column.  List everything that you put off.  Things you make every excuse in the book before doing.

  • Training animals
  • Calling customers
  • Filling orders
  • Spinning
  • Crocheting
  • Piano
  • Fiddle

This was an eye opener for me.  I have such a strong vision of Doug and I wiling the hours away playing good country music together.  We love the idea, but hate to practice and don’t really want to get any better.  We want to be magically better.  I used to be quite a good pianist when I was a kid.  It doesn’t come natural to me.  I quickly forgot everything I learned and would have to start over completely.  I took a piano lesson Wednesday to try to get back into it.  I fidgeted on the piano bench worse than any six year old she’s had.  I looked at the clock to see when it was time to go home.  She gave me lots of homework.  I came up with every excuse yesterday why I couldn’t practice.

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I put my fiddle, piano, Doug’s mandolin, and my spinning wheel on Craigslist.  These things require dusting, and moving when we move, and are never used.

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I do not like training animals.  My alpacas will not come near me.  They are not lovey creatures.  I do not like to spin.  These have become expensive stand offish pets.  Cute pets, don’t get me wrong.  I will try to sell them back to where I got them.  This farm is way too small for animals that don’t fit in.

Doug’s list complemented mine.  He enjoys the same things as I do.  He also loves talking to customers and filling orders.  He doesn’t even mind dishes.  We just need to rearrange our chores.

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Now the fourth column is for what you want to learn.

  • Beekeeping
  • Green house growing
  • Making hard cheeses

These are this year’s projects.  If I don’t like them, then I can move on to the next venture.  I do not have to know how to do everything.  I do not have to do everything.  This is still a homestead.  There are plenty of homesteaders out there that enjoy knitting.  I can support them by purchasing or bartering for their wares just as folks out there love my herbal medicines but don’t have a passion to make them themselves.  We all work together to make homesteading successful.  Not self sufficiency, community sufficiency!

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This list can be used in any aspect of your life.  It’s important to stay on top of our goals and release what is no longer important.  I love homesteading, this whole journey, all the learning and hands on projects.  Now, it will be that much more enjoyable!