Our View This Winter

I love snow.  I love snow so much that there is a snowflake permanently printed on my body (No, I’m not telling you where)…that is some serious snow love.  But friends I have a confession to make, I am officially over snow.

My View This Winter

This winter has been a long and snowy one that’s for sure.  We’re up to 3.5ish feet out there with snow banks and drifts a good bit higher.  I can’t remember when we’ve had this much snow and there is still more coming!  I went ahead and ordered my seeds this past weekend but I’m not convinced I’ll ever be putting them in ground.  See that rectangular bump? Yeah, that was my garden and somewhere under there is an entire bed of garlic.

view this winter

Now, I don’t want to be nothing but complaints.  I am actually quite amazed at the snow we’ve gotten and how beautiful it makes our whole property look.  There is a little girl here who is beyond excited about it and is always asking to go “stomp stomp” in the snow.

winter view

How has winter been in your neck of the woods? Leave a comment and share, I’d love to hear all about it.


Scenes From the Homestead: Fall

The weather here has been so wacky lately.  Its been generally much warmer than I’m used to this time of year.  It’s made it really hard to get in the fall spirit when I’m still wearing short sleeves to work most days.  None the less, we managed to stay busy and find some fall fun.

Tilly had lots of fun going on a hayride and picking out a pumpkin.  We brought the one she chose home and painted it (think abstract art).  In a week or so we’ll have some sensory fun with the pumpkin guts before feeding it to the chickens.

We took another fall field trip to the orchard to pick apples.  We came home with 45 pounds of apples which, after a few late nights, we canned as apple sauce.  I’m hoping that lasts us through the winter but seeing as I just popped open our second jar, I’m doubtful we’ll make it that long.  What can I say? We take our apple sauce very seriously, it’s pretty much it’s own food group.

A random cold snap (love that New England weather) forced me to pull my tomatoes before a lot of them were green.  We decided to test out an old wives tale that putting them in with an apple will cause them to ripen and it seems to be working.  I only have a few more tomatoes left to turn red and then it will be time can them all up.  We are planning on canning plain tomato puree this year so that we can use it in different sauces and soup.  

What is fall without a corn maze? We visited a local corn maze with friends and had a great time searching for all the clues to complete a dog themed puzzle.  It was a lot of fun and we even had some chilly fall weather for the day so we could wear our sweaters (and take more authentic looking pictures).   

*What has your family been up to this fall? 

8 Things We Don’t Spend Money On

A big part of homesteading is being able to do things for yourself, it takes “homemade” to a whole new level with the ultimate goal being making, building, growing everything yourself. It allows us to save money, control the ingredients / materials that are being used, and teaches us valuable skills.  I am always looking for the next thing to make at home and while some things definitely take practice, I have a lot of fun learning and trying.

1. Yogurt: Yogurt is the most recent addition to my “make it at home” list.  After reading a million blog posts about people making their own yogurt I decided to give it a try.  Turns out that they were all right, it was so much easier than I expected it to be and the yogurt tastes great.  

2. Bread:  I love baking.  It is fun and satisfying work besides, the house smells like heaven when there is fresh bread in the oven. I’ve gotten pretty good at sandwich rolls and flour tortillas and tried many more recipes. A lot of the time I cheat and use my bread maker on the dough setting to mix and rise whatever I am baking.  Either way there is nothing that beats the taste of fresh bread and the cost difference is crazy! 

3. Fire wood:  While it does take a lot of work and owning some equipment (chain saw, splitter, etc.) it is still way cheaper to harvest wood from our own property.  If you don’t have a lot of wood on your property don’t worry, ask around you might just have friends or family that are looking to take out a tree or two.  Offer to take care of it for them as long as you can keep the wood.  We’ve done this several times and it’s worked out really well.

4. Compost:  Why pay for garden mulch and compost when its as easy as collecting food scraps and cleaning out the chicken coop?  We have an on-going compost pile that gets veggie scraps, egg shells, dirty coop shaving, etc. added to it regularly.  When I need to compost the garden I just fill up a bucket from the back of the pile and I’m good to go.

5. Hats / Scarves: Learning to knit and crochet was one of the best things I’ve done.  I have so much fun making hats, scarves and other little projects.  It makes for great homemade gifts and I’m able to keep my family warm all winter with things I lovingly made for them.

6. Clothes repair: A small sewing machine and a well stocked sewing kit has made it so that I never have to pay to have pants hemmed or pockets sewn again.  *I’m short so having pants and skirts hemmed is common.  My machine and sewing kit aren’t fancy but its enough to handle basics and that’s all I need.

7. Cleaning Supplies: I make the majority of our cleaning supplies from laundry soap and all- purpose cleaner to cut rags for dusting, dish towels, etc.  The all purpose cleaner is just a simple mix of vinegar, tea tree oil, and sweet orange oil (for scent).  I picked up a couple big spray bottles from the hardware store and mix a new batch whenever we are running low.  It’s all-natural, inexpensive, and safe for use around kids and pets. 

What do you like to make at home? 

Meal Plan 7.28.14

I feel like every time I write a meal plan it starts with “we’re so busy!” but honestly, we are.  Thats how summer works right? come winter we can just lay around by the wood stove and crochet…ha! who am I kidding?  I’ll try and link up recipes when I have them and you can check out my Pinterest boards for more ideas and inspiration.
Breakfasts: We have a variety of breakfast items kicking around the house and pick and choose as we go.  This week we have yogurt, cereal, and english muffins.

Lunches: I typically pack our lunches the night before.  Most of the time it is leftovers from dinners but some of our other favorites include, english muffin pizzas, quesadillas, crackers and hummus, and sandwiches. For toddler lunch ideas, check this out.

Dinners: I plan these out one for each night.  Typically we’ll have a “breakfast for dinner” night once a week and at least one “meatless meal”.  I try to stick to traditional real food (no food dyes, artificial coloring, flavoring, or sweeteners)  I also try to make as much from scratch as possible, it is cheaper that way and I can control the type and source of my ingredients.

Note: Tilly eats the same things we do because 1. I don’t want to make extra work for myself and 2. I want her to be exposed to lots of different flavors and textures.  I just make sure things are cut into pieces she can handle.

Week of 7/28/14

Monday: Beef with tomato gravy over brown rice (sound fancy, really isn’t)

Tuesday: Pancakes and bacon

Wednesday: Grillin’ up some burgers and mixing up some salad

Thursday: Chicken corn chowder (thank you crock pot!)

Friday: Puppy play date with some friends (We grab sandwiches on the way there)

Saturday: Leftover chowder cause my crock pot is huge

Sunday: Egg and cheese sandwiches

What are you serving up this week?

No Technology Night

Recently Ian and I decided that we were spending entirely too much time on our computers and netflix. We found that once we were finished with our nightly tasks that we would sit down on opposite sides of the couch and be “busy” on our computers until it was time to go to sleep.
Now don’t get me wrong, there are a lot of important, useful things that we use our computers for (This blog and Diaper Parties are two great examples) but there is also a lot of not so important or useful things that we like to use our computers for.
We decided that while we would still continue to use our computers for those useful, important things we would cut back on the amount of time that we spent with them.   We came up with a master plan entitled “No Technology Night”.

No Technology Night is Wednesday night at our house and from the time we get home from work on through the night our computers stay off and put away.   We go about our usual evening routine of dinner, homestead chores, and prep for the next day and then instead of sitting down on our computers we sit down with each other.  The past few weeks we’ve tuned the radio to the Red Sox game and played a few rounds of dominos before heading to bed.

You know what…I haven’t missed my computer! We have had a great time talking, laughing and enjoying a little friendly domino competition.  It is such a nice break in the middle of the week and come Thursday I feel refreshed, its just the thing to get us ready for the end of our week.

Do you have a “No Technology Night” at your house?

Scenes From the Homestead: Spring

Things are full steam ahead on the homestead lately.  Then again, aren’t they always?  The biggest garden we’ve ever planted is in and growing strong.  There is definitely a lot of work to do on it but it’s come a long way from a couple pots of herbs growing on the front steps.

Our bucket potato experiment is going well.  They are growing right over the top of the buckets now and they have been super easy to take care of.  I can’t wait to see how many potatoes we get this fall.

My little Matilda is growing up faster than I’d like to admit.  We’ve already got her helping out, in true farm kid fashion.  Most chores take about 10 times longer with her assistance but we’re teaching some valuable lessons along the way.

The list of projects is growing as always. We just purchased a new (to us) chicken coop that we are turning into a moveable coop and run.  The master plan is to be able to move it from spot to spot so that the chickens have fresh grass to eat.  I also became a consultant and educator with Diaper Parties and I am loving the opportunities to teach families about cloth diapering and natural baby care.

Winter prep never ends.  There is fire wood to split and stack and in no time at all there will be produce to can and freeze.  It is going to be a very busy spring and summer but come winter we’ll be happy we worked so hard…What have you been up to this spring?

5 Things I Learned This Winter

1. The power of immune boosters
Between the students at school and Tilly at day care we’ve been exposed to every cough, cold, and stomach bug that’s out there but despite it all we’ve been relatively healthy.  I’ve been sticking with natural immune boosters and homeopathic remedies as needed and it’s definitely working.  We take elderberry extract every day in the winter time and add echinacea when we feel like we might be coming down with something.  Those along with healthy meals full of fruits and veggies and lots of sleep have been keeping us healthy.

2. Stock up, stock up, stock up, and then stock up some more
We are out of fire wood. As in, the shed is empty.  We cut as much as we could but with the polar vortex and 14 inches of snow our little stove just couldn’t keep up.  All we can do now is run the furnace and plan for next year (watch, we’ll cut a ton of fire wood and it will be unseasonably warm all winter).  The other thing we’re planning for is our garden.  We ate through our canned and frozen produce a lot faster than I thought (Tilly loves her apple sauce).  We are hoping to put in a few rows along side the raised beds and add peas, corn, and strawberries to our usual mix.

3. It’s a good time to remodel the house
Winter is long, cold, and dark and to keep things fresh and interesting we decided to start a whole mess of house projects.  Well, that and we love a good project.  We are currently in the process of replacing all the tile in our kitchen / hallway / stairway and have reorganized both the pantry and Tilly’s room.   Winter is a great time for indoor projects since it’s too darn cold to work outside and it’s nice to still feel like we’re accomplishing things.

4. Know how to drive in the snow
Boarding schools never cancel is a frequent complaint of mine on facebook.  Both Ian and I work at a school with a residential program and staff need to be in to care for the students every day, no matter what the weather.  I am very thankful for our 4 wheel drive vehicles and have learned all about navigating the icy, unplowed, backroads.

5. Have fun!
You have to make the best of what you’ve got and this winter we’ve got snow.  We have suited up and gone sledding a bunch of times and have done some fun art projects with Tilly when it’s been too cold to go out.  Finger painting, coloring, and some water play have kept her and us busy and entertained during even the worst weather.

What lessons did this winter teach you?

Linking Up With: Homestead Barn HopHomemade MondaysModest Monday

Getting Organized

Last year I did a series on our home management binder (part 1, part 2, and part 3) and while parts of it still work for us, we realized this week that we needed an organization overhaul.  You see, this week I had two days of work trainings which left me out of the house from 7am until 5:30pm.  Pair that with a snowstorm and a teething toddler and you’ve got one doozy of a week.  By the time we hit Friday evening we realized we were in over our heads and needed to get organized quick.

To start with, we brainstormed a list of things that need to get done every day.

Dishes: Unload the dishwasher, reload the dishwasher, hand wash the things that need it
School Prep: Pack lunches, bags, any lesson planning or reports
Meal Prep: Take things out to thaw, set up the crock pot, whatever needs to happen for the next day
Laundry: This will vary by day, some days its folding and some days its washing / drying
Toy Clean Up: Put all the toys back in the toy bin, stack up the story books on the shelf

Then we brainstormed a list of things that we need to do every week and assigned them each to a day.

Monday: Diapers and sweeping
Tuesday: Trash and recycling, finish diapers (they have to hang dry)
Wednesday: Bathrooms and put away laundry
Thursday: Kitchen (counters and table) and refrigerator / pantry
Friday: OFF! Hang out and relax
Saturday: Vacuuming and put away laundry
Sunday: Odds and ends (basically, anything we didn’t get to through out the week)

To keep it all fresh in our minds, and to keep us motivated, we typed both lists into charts.  The printed and laminated charts got hung on our freezer with a dry erase marker.  Now, whenever we complete a task we can cross it off (I love crossing things off a list!) and we can wipe them clean at the end of the day / week.

We’ve only been at it for a day but already it seems to be helping. Its 10:40am and we’ve already managed to get the Saturday “laundry put away” done as well as the daily dishes and laundry.  It’s definitely less overwhelming to look at a chart and know that I only have to tackle two tasks and it’s freeing up more time for fun things like blogging, story book reading, and dog wrestling matches.

What ways do you stay organized? I’d love to hear your suggestions

Linking up with: Homemade MondayThe Modest Mom,

Scenes from the Homestead: Fall

We’ve been busy around here…don’t I always say that? well, it’s always true. We’re busy people with long to-do lists and that suits us just fine.  Sometimes I get so busy that I forget to fill you all in on what we’ve got going on, so consider this your catch up.

  • I left my job at camp, where i had worked for 8 years and started a new one, at a school working with autistic middle schoolers.

  • We took Tilly (who will be 1 in less than a month!) to the pumpkin patch and corn maze because what is fall without pumpkins and corn mazes.

  • Lots and lots of canning happened and is still happening. Peach butter, mixed berry jam, pickles, and tomato puree are done and we’ve got apples coming soon and there are still 2 bags of peppers in the freezer waiting to be made into jelly.  

The chickens clucked, Fenway ran around, and life moved on…

Linking up with: Homemade MondayThe Modest Mom Homestead Barn Hop

Fall goals and projects

It’s that time of year again…the time of year when I start writing massive to-do lists in order to get us prepped for winter.  Granted, I’ll never finish all of it but still I like to dream.

In no particular order:

  •  Fire wood, fire wood, fire wood.  A free (other than manual labor) way to keep us warm and cozy all winter…yes please!

  • Apples! Its time to pick them, eat them, can them, dehydrate them, and anything else I can think of.

  • I’ve got to get the garden turned over and garlic in the ground.  I tried growing garlic in containers last year but there just wasn’t enough drainage.  This year its going in one of the raised beds that we used for eggplant and peppers.  It will mean needing to build a new bed this spring but thats alright. 
Time to fill the pantry 
  • Chicken coop.  This is the big one! Those pesky ladies have hidden their nests for the last time.  They are getting a new coop with a big fenced in run so that I can actually find the eggs.
  • I’ve got a freezer full of random produce (peppers, blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, tomatoes) and it’s time to start canning it.  Hot pepper jelly, mixed berry jam, and probably tomato puree or salsa.
  • It’s time to give the house a good deep cleaning and get it ready for winter.  The thermal curtains need to be hung and the vents and fans need a good dusting.
Thankfully, the weather has been a nice mix of cool and sunny.  Perfect for getting massive amounts of work done.  Now, if it will stay like that for a few more weeks then we’ll be all set. 

What do you have to do to get ready for winter?
Linking up with: Frugal Days, Sustainable WaysNatural Living Link Up, Homestead Barn HopThe Modest MomHomemade Mondays