Wednesday, December 30, 2009

More Homestead Happenings

Today has been another great day on the homestead. I just love discovering new aspects about this property. The excitement for today centered around Sarah seeing a kangaroo on our property and Sam almost getting eaten by a bird.

Shawn took Sam and Sarah out on a walking tour of the property today so I would have some time to get the kids' bedrooms more organized. They crossed several small creeks that developed from the recent heavy rains and made their way out to our pond. They climbed up the hill to the pond and reached a point where most of our property can be viewed. It was at that point when Sarah excitedly exlaimed that she could see a kangaroo. Somehow, Shawn was never able to pinpoint exactly where the kangaroo was, but Sarah was adamant that she saw one today.

Then, on their way back, Sam decided that he did NOT want to go the same way that Sarah and Shawn were going, so he proceeded to squat on the ground and have a crying fit. Apparently, a large bird heard my heathen child's fit and mistook him for a small wounded animal. The bird commenced to swoop down to see if it could eat Sam. After several very close and intimidating swoops, the bird must have decided that eating Sam was not worth the effort because it then flew away. Seeing this sure did get Shawn and Sarah pretty excited, but Sam was oblivious. He was very absorbed in his wailing and never noticed the bird at all.

I was excited to use my clothesline twice this week. It's just another way that I'm trying to save money this month. I've found that, despite being bitterly cold, our laundry does get dry if I put it out early enough. I have been putting it in the dryer for about five minutes to fluff it a bit. I'm hoping to see a dramatic decrease in our electric bill by drastically decreasing the amount of our dryer usage.

Yesterday Shawn built a fence. There was one area on our property closest to the house that was missing fence, so Shawn spent most of the afternoon constructing it. It was important to us that we have the area around the house completely fenced in to keep children and chickens inside. Shawn succeeded at the fence-building and did a great job. He also spent some time today planning a new structure for trash burning. We have chosen not to pay for trash service out here. We do recycle and compost what we can, but we're still left with some food scraps and paper products that we're going to be burning. Shawn came inside yesterday evening and said, "You know, I was miserably cold out there building that fence, but there was just something really great about being out there doing that kind of work." That's the same way I feel when I'm out there in the cold hanging wet laundry on the line...This isn't fun, but I'm still glad I'm out here doing it.

We're really enjoying being homesteaders and learning all there is to do out here.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Eating Out Of Our Pantry

I have a new challenge for our family and I thought it would be interesting to blog about it as well. Actually, I'm hoping that blogging about this will help in keeping me accountable.

We were advised at the last minute that our bank is requiring a larger amount at the house closing than we had originally discussed with them. We're trying to offset this unexpected expense by cutting costs and making do with what we have. One of the best ways for us to cut costs is by reducing the grocery bill. So, I am making a serious effort to only cook with items I already have on hand. I need to keep up this effort until February 15th when our financial life should get back to normal.

I intend to blog about my weekly menu plans and report whatever grocery items I buy during this time period.

Fortunately, I've already been in the habit of buying in bulk, so I do have a freezer full of whole-fryer chickens and beef. I have several buckets of wheat, lots of rice and dried beans, and several flats of canned green beans/corn. So, I've got a pretty good start. I do anticipate having to buy some fresh fruits and vegetables, as well as some canned tomato products.

So, here's our "Eating Out Of Our Pantry" menu for this week:

pumpkin muffins
scrambled eggs and cinnamon toast
egg sandwiches
leftover pancakes
homemade granola and fruit


Big Chicken Salad
Beefy Potato Casserole, boiled carrots, peas
Skillet Pork and Rice, green beans
Beef Fried Rice, pineapple
steak, baked potatoes, corn
Crockpot Roast with potatoes and carrots, homemade bread
supper with family

There are no food purchases to report. My last grocery shopping trip was on December 23rd.

On a more lighthearted side note....This morning Sarah was telling me that she liked our new house on the farm. I asked her what her favorite part was. She replied that her favorite part of living here was doing the dishes. She's a very eager helper with washing dishes by hand. We don't have a dishwasher here, so I've recruited her as free child labor. She's cute and it made me smile, so I thought I'd share.

Monday, December 28, 2009

45 pounds lost!!

Shawn discovered the bathroom scale yesterday. We're still sorting through boxes and this was yesterday's big discovery. So, this morning I weighed myself for the first time in several weeks. I'm pleased to announce that I've finally hit 45 pounds lost! It's been coming off slowly..averaging about 4 to 5 pounds a month. I'm certain that I'm now smaller than what I was when Shawn and I married 6-1/2 years ago.

What's ironic about this though is that I'm not really, truly trying to lose weight. (Yesterday I had dessert of homemade cupcakes with homemade icing and this morning's breakfast was homemade pumpkin muffins with Ghirardelli chocolate baking chips in them....mmmm, good diet food!) The weight loss is just an added benefit to changing our family's eating habits. I am overweight and I do need to lose the weight, but I'm not keeping a food diary, or counting points, or starving myself. I did really well using the Weight Watcher's points system after Sam was born. I lost a decent amound of weight then, but still ended 10 pounds heavier than what I am now...and I gained a considerable amount of it back when I stopped keeping a food diary.

My personal opinion (lacking any formal education on nutrition or physiology) is that my body now knows what to do with the food I'm eating. Before, I would consume margarine, cream of chicken soup, and boxed breakfast cereals. My body would get the monosodium glutamate or blue dye #2 and go, "Whoa, what's this and what do I do with it?" Then my body would store the questionable product somewhere (usually my abdomen, face, or hips) until it could figure out how to process it.

Now I like to think that my body recognizes what I put in it. When I consume butter my body recognizes the cream and salt and processes it the way it's supposed to. My homemade granola cereal includes oats, raw honey, butter, walnuts, organic coconut, and homemade vanilla extract. My homemade cream of chicken soup contains butter, freshly milled flour, whole milk, pepper, and chicken. Everything's easy to pronounce and easy to recognize. I like it that way.

I would still like to lose another 19 pounds before I would be at what I consider a healthy weight for my height. After reaching that goal and maintaining that weight, then I'll reevaluate and see if my body needs to lose more. I know at some point I'll probably have to increase my activity level or cut back on the homemade cupcakes to continue to lose weight, but for right now this is what's working...and I'm liking it.

Editing to add: Shawn came home and weighed himself this evening too. He's now lost 15 pounds since we changed our eating habits. There's such a noticable difference in his waist that I knew he must have lost a decent amount too.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

We Are Still Here...kind of.

Just wanted to post a quick note so you all didn't think we'd moved to another continent or something. We are moved in, still sorting through boxes and trying to find places for everything. I absolutely love it here and I don't miss my other house at all! The kids are doing great too. I haven't heard any complaints about wanting to go back to the other house. We are spending so much more time outside simply because it's so nice to go out there and see all the surprises that our property holds. Our first night here was Wednesday night. Thursday morning we woke up, opened the blinds..and sat and watched four deer play (or fight..I don't really know) in the open pasture on the other side of our pond. It was a great way to wake up that first morning. Shawn also says that he saw a bobcat in the patch of pines near our pond today. That certainly never happened at our old home.

Our internet is not as fast or reliable out here, so getting online is more of a hassle. Also, my cell phone only gets reception if I'm standing next to one of our south-facing windows. So, yes we are here, but not as accessible as before. I do promise to post more as things get settled.

We love being country bumpkins. Is it bad that it suits us??

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Moving Day Is Approaching Fast!

Well, so far everything is right on schedule. We're still looking at closing on our home Monday afternoon. The new owners of this house won't be moving in until a week later, so we will have six days to get everything moved. I am excited about this, but at the same time a little sad. Part of that sadness is due to the fact that I really love my home. If I could take this house and move it out to the country, I'd be thrilled. However, the majority of my sadness comes from the fact that I'm going to miss seeing the kids do things in this home.

I'm going to miss the place where we brought our children home for the first time.

I'm going to miss seeing Sam and Sarah play outside in the "jungle" (a small cave-like space where two trees sit close to our privacy fence) while they sing, "Snakes and monkeys in the trees..come along there's more to see..Congo, Congo, boom boom boom.."

I'm going to miss seeing Sam wave to the neighbor's Jeep Liberty as they drive away. Then he says, "Ohhh..Jeep goes back to work. Bye Jeep."

So, this time is a little bittersweet. But, you know, almost everything else I can think of can continue at our new home. Actually, it's probably pretty possible that the kids will discover a new "jungle" somewhere on our 30 acres! When I think.."Oh, I'm going to miss the way that Sarah pushes a chair up to the counter to help me cook." Well, she's still going to do that in our new kitchen. Drew is still going to pull all my pots and pans out of the cabinets. Sam is still going to pace around the fence at our new home just like he does the privacy fence here.

So, here are some more pictures to keep me in the right frame of mind. Here's why we're moving:

An orchard to grow our own apples, peaches, pears, grapes, pecans, walnuts, and hazelnuts.
A nearby garden that already has blueberries, asparagus, strawberries, and blackberries.

A barn with working chicken coop.A woodstove to heat our entire home.

So, while I may miss seeing Sam wave to the neighbors, it's worth the trade-off to have this lifestyle. I want the kids to experience caring for the animals, tending to the garden, and helping harvest the fruit from our orchard. I want the reassurance that comes with knowing where our food came from. As sad as I get over this transition..I am so very, very excited and convinced that we are doing the right thing for our family.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Decorating Cakes

As promised, here's the post about my first experience using natural food coloring.

I've always made the kids' birthday cakes. We don't do big birthday parties or buy elaborate gifts, so this is the little "thing" I do to make each child's birthday special. I used to use the Wilton food colors, which include artificial dyes. Last week we had the first birthday celebration since our food conversion and I was able to make birthday cakes for the first time using decorating colors made from vegetable colorants.

I purchased India Tree Natural Decorating Colors online. It included three small bottles of color: red, yellow, and blue. The back of the package gave hints on how to combine the colors to achieve other colors.

I think that if I had never used Wilton colors, I would have been extremely pleased with the natural colors. However, since I already had previous experience with the rich, vibrant Wilton colors, the softer, more pastel colors from the natural dye were less exciting.

This was Sarah's cake. She specifically asked for a butterfly cake, which worked out nicely since my mother-in-law had already purchased a butterfly cake pan to be part of my Christmas gift! Fortunately, pastel colors work out great for a 3 year old girl's birthday cake.

For Andrew's cake, I went for the simple and easy to transport approach. We celebrated the birthdays at the same time, so I had to make and decorate two birthday cakes in one day. It was my first experience doing that, so this simple cake is what he ended up with. We also had the party at my parent's home instead of our home, so having cakes that could travel easily was important to me this time around.

That number one is supposed to be blue. I kept adding more and more and more of the natural blue food coloring, but this bluish-purple color is the best I could come up with. With the Wilton colors, I could've created 1,000 different shades of blue, but I guess there's got to be some trade-offs when you go from artificial to natural.

Anyhow, I guess the most important thing is that they did taste good and the kids seemed pleased with them.

Here's a picture of Sam's birthday cake that I made before we removed artificial dyes. See how much more bright and vivid the Wilton colors are?!?

When I start getting all nostalic about Wilton colors, I have to remind myself: The dyes cause your 4 year old to act autistic and your baby to scratch his neck until he bleeds. It's not worth it, it's not worth it, it's not worth it.