Creating a Life to Help You Really Live

There is a peacefulness here in the mornings. The sun shines hopeful light over the mountain sides and the breezes are light. The changes in season are obvious and there is a certain beauty to the washed out pallor of late autumn. During this season, I feel very thankful for everything in my life. Truly, honestly, thankful. For my husband, my children, grandchildren, friends, animals, nature, health, comfort, and this lovely piece of land where the hearth fires burn. We purposely build a life that feeds us, inspires us, and fuels us. A homesteading life.

A homesteading life looks different in different situations with correlating bonds. We have chosen that I be a housewife. I make a little off of book royalties, and herbs, and this and that, but my place is in creating a home. We used to think that homesteading required two people at home. But we learned the hard way that to homestead in the state we were born in, one of us had to get a full time job. Many farmers and homesteaders do. In many cases, both parties work outside the homestead.

Having and pursuing a trade is a wonderful way to work towards self sufficiency. (A note on self sufficiency: it truly takes a community to sustain, but we will use the phrase to denote taking care of ourselves and others to our full ability.) If you can do something well, and it is a needed skill, then you can often support, or help support, your family with it. It is important that we begin to encourage as many folks to go to trade schools as college. The next generation will be stronger for it.

How does one get started homesteading? There are a few gals at my husband’s work that want to come down to our farm and learn to make cheese. I will be happy to teach them. It won’t be long before they begin to bake bread. Or make their own candles. Pretty soon, they have goats and a small dairy. Homesteading grows. You see something you would like to do yourself; sewing, crocheting, gardening, baking, cheese making, soap making, candle making, wood working, raising farm animals, wine making, herbalism, and decide to learn how to do it. You incorporate that into your life. Look at your grocery list, what can you learn to make? Do you need to buy all of the packaged boxes of junk or can you learn to make granola bars, cookies, and bread? Can you make cream of celery soup? Can you make gravy? Spaghetti sauce? Can you grow the tomatoes for it? Oh, then you are really going. Pretty soon you have a full out farmstead.

My granddaughters, Ayla and Maryjane, wearing the dresses I made them.

The peace of mind and pride is profound in this lifestyle. Do it yourself. Even if it isn’t perfect, you did it! The peace of mind of knowing you can heat your house if the power goes out. Feed your family for awhile if there is a natural disaster. Take care of yourself if an economical collapse occurs. There is peace of mind in knowing what you eat and what you drink were grown by you, prepared by you, and there are no crazy chemicals in your cupboard. Your cleaning products are truly clean, your muscles toned from doing everything by hand, your heart light at watching the fruit of your labors expand. This lifestyle is filled with planning, hard work, and life and death, but it is truly living. Being in the midst of it all. Purposely creating a good life filled with sustenance. A good life that feeds you, inspires you, and fuels you. A homesteading life. Start today. What would you like to learn?

Giving Outdated Throw Pillows a Second Life

It occurs to me that sewing might be one of those lost arts.  My cousin and my youngest daughter have expressed a desire to learn.  My older daughter zips away on her machine making pillows for her house that is being built.  It is probably a little unusual for her age.  I can certainly sew, but I am limited in what I know how to do.  I don’t often use patterns and wish I knew more so that I could make elaborate clothing and such.  Anymore though, you can purchase a machine from a craft store and they will throw in sewing lessons.  If you do sew, it is time to take your machine out and freshen up the house for autumn.

Throw pillows always add a dash of personality and color to a space but they begin to look tattered or out of date fairly quickly sometimes.  Today we are taking old throw pillows (or new pillow fills) and giving them a new look.

These are very simple and can be done by hand if one does not have a machine.

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I used a new pillow because these are going into my new shop, but I will be doing this with my old pillows for my house as well.

Measure the pillow, then measure your fabric, adding 1 inch on all sides.

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Iron!  I am the type of dreaded housewife that does not iron.  Lord, if it needs to be ironed, it doesn’t get bought or it ends up in a pile of ironing for close to five years.  But, as my grandma taught me, you must iron in sewing.  Period.  Now, iron your fabric so it looks all pretty.

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Fold fabric in half inside out.  The folded edge is one edge you don’t have to sew!  Pin the sides, leave bottom open.  Sew each side, giving it about a half inch seam.  Take out pins and run your hand along side to make sure you got them all!  (Camouflaged little suckers.)

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Now flip right side out and use a chop stick or the like to gently push out corners.

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Place pillow inside and fold in bottom seam and pin tautly together.  Hand sew or machine sew.

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Easy as that!  Now, I took that pillow before we started and used a large needle and yarn to pierce all the way through the pillow and back out, tying securely to create a crease in the middle.  So when the pillow is done, you can see that little indentation.  I carefully wove a piece of yard through the fabric and top layer of the pillow and brought back through and tied a ribbon.

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But then I found a pretty button so fastened that on!  You could also hem the open bottom instead of sewing it closed and sew on adjacent ribbons to tie closed.  That way you can change your pillow covers and wash them.

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Throw pillows can generally be washed in the washer and floofed and dried in the dryer.  If a fabric is particularly fine, place it inside a bigger pillow case and wash and dry it that way.

For the Love of Farmgirl School (your one stop resource for everything homesteading DIY)

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Even when I wasn’t actively writing this blog for the short time that we weren’t homesteading (I was pouting), I kept pulling up Farmgirl School on my computer.  I used it to find recipes.  How do I make eggnog again?  I need a good recipe for dinner.  How do I make…

IMG_0741I love my blog.  I always have.  I am so happy to be actively writing again here.  Want to make something new for dinner?  How about Margarita Chicken?  Want to crochet some fingerless gloves for someone for Christmas?  Do you want to make soap?  How about cheese?  Interested in getting farm animals?  Maybe you just want to can some broth.  Maybe you want to read some funny, heartwarming stories about a real family and their life.  You are in the right place.  This is your blog too.

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If you love this blog as much as I do, perhaps you will consider sharing it on social media.  Or email it to a friend.  Or share a post on your own blog.  We sure have done a lot and been through a lot in those five years!  And now settled into our forever home, a small homestead in the city with chickens, a root cellar, and the love and experience to enjoy every second of it, I would like to invite you to come around more often, too.  Let’s celebrate all the great things about homesteading and the joys of a simple life.

Creating Hills in the Garden (you be the teacher)

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In this installment of Farmgirl School, you are the teacher!  Please respond with your ideas and experiences.  We will all greatly appreciate the inspiration!

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So, in this crazy idea of mine where we have meandering paths around and through the gardens (on this very flat land), I would like to create some height.  I think it would be interesting to create a look of natural hills and curves.

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Now, how does a girl that may have spent her gardening budget on seeds create such a thing on the cheap?

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Doug’s idea is to outline the “hill” with rocks.  Fill center with the discarded branches around here.  Fill it with fill dirt (am I bringing that home in my Fiat?) and then organic soil.  Seems a good plan.  What else can we do?

What say you?

Ready..Set..Chicks!

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I carried the box of babies, chirping up a storm, out the back door to the garage.  Apparently eleven chickens and a red light were a bit too much in the nursery for a new mom so Emily banished them to the garage!  So out we traipsed to the garage where the set up and Aretha and Ginger had been moved.  The noise raised the attention of Daffodil the grown chicken.  She pulled up tall and started attacking my boot.  Seems one of the babies was talking smack.  Safely in the garage, I dipped each tiny beak into the water and let them have a drink.  They settled in immediately.  The sheer horror and confusion on Aretha’s face was more than amusing as she was ten days old when the chicks came and had clearly made this her domain.  While Ginger hid in the corner, Aretha pecked at their little toes and ran right over the top of them.  I held my breath and tried to calm her but I knew she just had to get used to the new infants.  Which she quickly did.  Lesson one: Don’t put chicks around the big chickies yet.

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Lesson two: Make sure you keep the red heat lamp on them.  A draft will kill such fragile babies.  Lift it a little each week as they grow to help them get used to the outside temperature but if they are huddled beneath it, lower it again.

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Lesson 3: Some will die, it is inevitable.  They are taken immediately from the shell and placed in boxes and shipped all over the country.  It is a hard beginning to life.  The strongest survive.  I came in the other morning to check on the little fluffs and saw one laying down.  They do sleep a lot, sometimes with their little faces in the shavings.  They look dead, but then jump up in a surprise manner to let you know they were just kidding.  This one looked flat, deflated.  Her sisters ran over her and she didn’t budge.  I gently lifted her little body out of the box.  One Buff Orpington less.

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Lesson 4: This is where being a mommy comes in.  Check bottoms regularly.  If they get plugged up with poo, just take a hold of the dried mess and pull quick, like a bandaid.  It will free up the space so they don’t get stopped up.

Lesson 5: Feed organic chick feed, specific to new chickies.  You do not need the antibiotics and fillers that are in conventional.  It doesn’t cost a whole lot more and you know they are getting good nutrition.

Lesson 6: I used a small saucer for water because the chickens were so small but with eleven it sure emptied out quick and there would be a little yellow chick sitting sadly in the middle of the empty saucer.  I couldn’t seem to find the little automatic waterer I had for babies so I went to the feed store and bought a new one for five dollars.  I filled the water reserve and placed it in their box.  They danced around with joy and drank around the miniature water trough.  Make sure you check it a few times a day.  These kids love to scratch and will pile shavings and poo right into the water….often.  As I walked out of the garage, there was the old waterer.  In the chicken yard.  Who put that there?!

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Lesson 7:  Give kisses daily.  Hold them and introduce yourself so you will have a good shot at having friendly chickens like Peep, who you have to be careful not to trip over because she stops right in front of your feet to be pet!

Food, water, kisses…what more could a baby want?