Posted in Our Family

A Magical December Day

‘Twas all very strange, really. Something out of a sci-fi movie, perhaps. A thin Santa Claus wearing a mask, shielding half of his face, sitting behind a sheet of plexiglass. All the children in line did not think much about it. We took photos in front of the ho ho ho’ing Santa behind glass.

My granddaughters looked adorable. Beautiful in their holiday attire and excitement to see Santa. Intoxicated by a day with their mama, auntie, and Grammie. We then all sat down and took a group shot with our beloved Santa. The spell was broken when my two year old, Ayla, peeked behind the glass, looked at Santa seriously, and stated, “Bike!” Then gave him her bright, elfish smile. May children always teach us to find magic in the strange and mundane.

We five girls then went to find a place to have lunch but found that indoor eating had been banned. Among shuttered restaurants, we finally found a place open for take out and picnicked in the back of my truck. In the middle of a parking lot, our faces to the sun, we sat in the truck bed dining on crisp salads and chattering non-stop in our way. Dancing and laughing and eating and sunning on a beautiful, magical December day together.

This year may have frustrated me, angered me, confused me, but it has also clarified and prioritized. My close family unit of friends and children has only strengthened. We have spent many precious moments together this year. My home is my sanctuary. My husband and I have spent more blessed time together. I have enjoyed new experiences, met new people, and found solace in books by the fire. This year has amplified emotions to their peak and settled them into joy, gratitude, and empathy. It has showed us glimpses of simplifying and true family and the greatness of living.

I will oft think of the sun shining down warm on the faces of the daughters and granddaughters that hold my heart and the simple and powerful memory of a picnic in a truck bed. May we all notice the magic that surrounds us during this season of hope.

Posted in Homestead

This is Why We Homestead (and how we will prep better this year)

Five pounds of smoky, rich local coffee beans are a comfort to have. We still have 3/4 of a fifty pound bag of organic, unbleached flour. We have lots of wheat gluten and jars upon jars of pulses, like barley, rice, and pinto beans. Did we know that there would be a worldwide pandemic? Yes and no. We knew there would be something, and it is just a smart way to live. To be prepared. It is as comforting as a big cup of hot coffee on a cool spring morning.

We homestead for many reasons. Everyone knows that the power can go out at any time. Job losses and lay offs happen. Natural disasters happen. People get sick. But we don’t just homestead for disaster preparedness; there are other reasons too.

We homestead to save money. A five pound bag of organic coffee is $60, recently roasted locally and the beans are sourced sustainably and fair trade. A fifty pound bag of flour is about fifty bucks. That is a stellar price for organic, unbleached flour. Organic is very important to us and we would like items that we can’t produce ourselves to be fairly and sustainably grown and sold.

We also save money by preserving our own food. I save scraps from vegetables, the ends of onions, carrots, celery, leeks, mushrooms, veggies that are just turning, and make them into savory jars of broth. I make fourteen jars at a time for free, basically. I guess the lids cost a couple of bucks. A quart of organic vegetable broth in the store is a minimum of five dollars. I have jars of broth at the ready for cheaper than a Walmart special.

By having pulses and foods on hand, we eat out a lot less because we have food here. It is all displayed in beautiful canning jars and is easy to see and be inspired by.

We homestead for better food. By growing our own food, we control what is used to produce it, how it is handled, when it is harvested, and its freshness. And to have food. I suppose a lot of y’all are going to have a garden this year after seeing so many empty grocery store shelves! We have fresh eggs (we are vegan outside of that), plenty of grains, beans, nuts, seeds, and vegetables canned and frozen.

We have candles, lamp fuel, water in jugs, cleaning products, a bag of homemade soap, and craft projects for days. But here is what I have learned from this quarantine.

We need to save more money. Well, we need to save money period. All our bills are paid and we have everything we need but in these situations, an emergency fund would be more of a comfort than a cup of coffee.

We need to preserve more food. Last year we moved before harvest time. The year before I started a shop that promptly closed, but took up all my time during harvest season. Luckily I had canned a lot before that, but geez, no more slacking! I usually put up a couple hundred jars of food a year. This year I have a lofty goal of over five hundred jars of food and several gallon bags of frozen vegetables. I am also growing and/or buying a lot of things to dry and dehydrate.

We need to figure out how to save more water. We will look into rain barrels and ways to save drinking water this year in case of emergency. Right now, with our animals, we have maybe two day’s worth saved. Not enough!

Homesteading is an adventure. One can do it from anywhere. Joining a community garden, buying produce from a farmer’s market, canning in an apartment, saving jugs of water under the bed, learning to sew, getting a few oil lamps, buying second hand; the ways are endless. We gradually improve our ways of homesteading by experience. This year will be our most ambitious farm yet and this quarantined time has showed us what we need to focus on. I hope something good will come out of this time for all of you out there. How are you homesteading? What skills will you learn this year?