Callapitters and buzzy things

***If you are a long-time reader of my blog, you will notice that I have changed formats. I wanted to put a larger emphasis on my photos. Let me know what you think in the comments! Thanks for reading! ***

No matter how long I live on this piece of property, I will never cease to be amazed at the sheer magnitude of the biodiversity that inhabits this fifteen acres. As a passionate learner of things, I have to tip my hat to a wondrous God who has knit all of these living creatures together into this planet that we call Earth.

Springtime in Texas offers some great opportunities to take beautiful pictures. Whether it’s the wildflowers, the landscape, or the critters that dwell within, you can get some nice photos if you are patient (and lucky) enough.

One of the critters that I have always loved are the caterpillars. When I was little, I would catch the ‘webworms’ (Eastern Tent caterpillars) that fell from the trees. To me, they looked like tiny, living Oriental rugs. As I grew up, I was sad to discover that they would happily defoliate my fruit trees. However, I still love to pick them up and marvel at those little living rainbows.

One of the caterpillars I see frequently are those of the White-Marked Tussock Moth (Orgyia leucostigma). These remind me of the Chinese Lion dancers’ costumes with their lacquered red heads, fuzzy protuberances, and poofy backs.

I found this little guy on our tomato plants yesterday. Since I have sensitive skin, I don’t handle caterpillars bare-handed except for the tent caterpillars, which I know don’t affect me. Even caterpillars who don’t have poisonous or irritating spines can cause skin reactions in sensitive people (like ME). Still, it is noted that this caterpillar may cause allergic reactions in some people according to my guide book. So, gloves it is!

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Now, see if you don’t agree with me on the Chinese Lion thing!

Now for some more garden critter photos!

I took about twenty shots before I got this lazy honeybee to NOT stick her bee butt into the lens rather than her face. I like that I was able to get her feeding on the nectar. Patience pays off!

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Here is a photo that I’ve been waiting years to snap. This is a Grey Hairstreak butterfly (Strymon melinus). They can be flighty little things, which is why I could never get a good shot. Again, patience won when I found these lazy guys on my standing cypress flowers:

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I hope you enjoyed your guided bug tour for today!

 

What if?

Warning: Soap box post ahead. In no way is this post intended to incite a riot among my readers; it is simply a post which will attempt to get you to think outside of the dreaded box.


 

When I was in fourth grade, I had a friend who would play the “What if” game. It would begin with me saying something very bland, such as: “I’m going to the lake this weekend.” He would then start in with the “what ifs”, such as:

What if it rains?

What if the lake is all dried up?

What if you run out of sunscreen and get so sunburned you have to go to the ER?

What if there is a rare freshwater shark that no one knows about and you get attacked?

What if  meteor falls in the lake while you’re swimming?

The What If game almost always ended in my demise or dismemberment and I would roll my eyes as far as I could and holler out a disgusted “AAAAUUUUUUGGGGGHHHHH! SERIOUSLY!!!”


 

But today, let’s play the What If game with happier consequences.

  • What if you stopped caring what others thought of you? Perhaps, more truthfully, what if you stopping caring about what you think others are thinking about you?
  • What if you stepped outside of the box of social norms? The house, the cars, compulsory schooling, college right out of high school, “socially acceptable” job, etc.
  • What if you stopped comparing yourself to others?
  • What if you were happy with the way you looked?
  • What if you quit that job you hated and followed your passion?
  • What if you were totally debt free?
  • What if I told you that grades in school don’t matter in the long run?
  • What if I told you that you can be perfectly happy and successful without a college degree?
  • What if, every morning, you chose joy?
  • What if you were less selfish?
  • What if you forgave instead of harboring anger?
  • What if you truly lived by the Golden Rule? (Do to others as you would have them do to you)

 

Do some of these questions make you squeamish? Angry? Sad? Uncomfortable?

Again, my intent is to not anger, but to get you to think outside of the box. I wouldn’t ask any question of you that I have not asked of myself. I still struggle with some of the answers.

As much as I do not wish to be anywhere near what is considered “normal”, I also do not want to alienate my associates and my friends, so therefore I must temper my thoughts and my conversations with the knowledge that there will always be those who do not agree with me. And you know what? That’s perfectly fine. I don’t know anyone who agrees upon every single issue with another person. I don’t even think that’s humanly possible. But it doesn’t mean that you are wrong or your friend is wrong because your thoughts are different. I have been seeing far too many hateful posts and comments on social media lately. It saddens me.


Several years ago, I read “The Last American” by Elizabeth Gilbert. There was a single passage that stuck with me about circles and boxes. So, here is the truth bomb for you: Life is a circle, not a box. So why are we so adamant about forcing the round peg into the square hole?


Passage from “The Last American”:

Eustace Conway left home at 17 to live on his own in the wilderness. Here he discusses two different worlds while speaking to elementary school children :

“‘I live, in nature, where everything is connected, circular. The seasons are circular. The planet is circular, and so is its passage around the sun. The course of water over the earth is circular coming down from the sky and circulating through the world to spread life and then evaporating up again. I live in a circular teepee and I build my fire in a circle, and when my loved ones visit me, we sit in a circle and talk. The life cycles of plants and animals are circular. I live outside where I can see this. The ancient people understood that our world is a circle, but we modern people have lost sight of that. I don’t live inside buildings, because buildings are dead places where life stops. I don’t want to live in a dead place. People say that I don’t live in the real world, but it’s modern Americans who live in a fake world, because they’ve stepped outside the natural circle of life.

‘I saw the circle of life most clearly when I was riding my horse across America and I came across the body of a coyote that had recently died. The animal was mummified from the desert heat, but all around it, in a lush circle, was a small band of fresh green grass. The earth was borrowing nutrients from the animal and regenerating itself. This wasn’t about death, I realized; this was about eternal life. I took the teeth from that coyote and made myself this necklace right here, which always circles my neck, so I’d never forget that lesson.

‘Do people live in circles today? No. They live in boxes. They wake up every morning in the box of their bedroom because a box next to them started making beeping noises to tell them it was time to get up. They eat their breakfast out of a box and then they throw that box away into another box. Then they leave the box where they live and get into a box with wheels and drive to work, which is just another big box broken up into lots of little cubicle boxes where a bunch of people spend their days sitting and staring at the computer boxes in front of them. When the day is over, everyone gets into the box with wheels again and goes home to their house box and spends the evening staring at the television boxes for entertainment. They get their music from a box, they get their food from a box, they keep their clothing in a box, they live their lives in a box. Does that sound like anybody you know?’”

Now, friends, I will ask you again, “What if?”

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“This Wheel’s On Fire…

rollin’ down the roooooaaad! Best notify my next of kin, this wheel shall exploooode!”

(apologies if you never watched Ab Fab…you’re scratching your head right now) And in case you’ve forgotten the song:

And that, friends, pretty much sums up our latest family vacation.

Yes, my dears, we have survived yet another vacation. Perhaps this is why we waited two years this time? While I will work on links to former vacations to share with you at the end, let’s review this year’s 2017 voyage, shall we?

Let’s begin with the “pre-flight” checklist! As a person who has never, and I repeat never has an uneventful vacation, you would assume that I would be prepared for anything. Typically, I am! If you have ever gone on a trip with me, you will know that I try to keep my emergency arsenal fully stocked.

Scene: A vacation, somewhere in the U.S.:

Friend: Do you have an umbrella? I didn’t think about rain.

Me: Yes, I brought four.

Friend: My button came off! Do you have a sewing kit?

Me: Yes, it’s in my bag.

Friend: I think I’m having a serious reaction to this bug bite!

Me: I have bentonite clay, Benadryl, hydrocortisone cream, lavender essential oil, or an Epi-Pen. Which would you like?

Friend: Oh my gosh, my car won’t start! What am I going to do?

Me: I have a disposable Honda in my purse.

So you see, I am usually pretty well prepared for what comes our way. And as the resident weather nut, you would also assume that I would have packed everything for inclement weather on this trip. I checked the forecast on Saturday and Sunday, and it showed that, by some miracle of God, it would be sunny skies and in the 70s. As I was packing the motorhome, I literally put my hand on my scanner/weather radio and thought, “I should bring this.” But I didn’t bring it, because, it was supposed to be sunny! Warm! Perfect weather! And I also walked right past my mud boots…twice. No, I won’t need those if it’s sunny! No, siree, no boots for me!

Monday: The trip to Arkansas was uneventful, other than a wrong turn in Washington (Arkansas…not the state or D.C., although you can’t rule that out with us). The weather was perfect! We set up camp and ate a hot dog feast, topped off with S’mores. Yay!

Then I decided to check the forecast again.

What was this? Severe weather in two days? Well, of course it was. We can’t go anywhere without a tornado warning. And my scanner and mud boots sat at home in Maydellish, mocking me, saying, “We tooooolllld you so! We knew it! HAHAHAHAHAHA!” I may or may not have said something ugly at that moment.

That night, Jason and Zoe had colds and coughed, sneezed, and hacked their way through the evening. Fortunately, they had mostly resolved by:

Tuesday: Rather uneventful day; no diamonds were found and we were able to walk the nature trail a time or two. Legs were killing me…I am no spring chicken anymore.

Wednesday: We woke up to this:

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And so we did this:

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I colored a lot and did some bible study. I kept thinking about Psalm 46:10, which begins with “Be still, and know that I am God…”. I am so often NOT still. So with the combination of the torrential downpour, deadly lightning, and being stuck in a 8′ x 34′ box, I was still! All day! And got to reflect on the Bible, which was nice. The rain finally let up about six o’clock in the evening, with no severe weather (WOOHOO),  and we were able to walk around the park before it got too dark.

Thursday (departure day):

We went back to the diamond mine for a last look, and I’m sorry to say that I didn’t bring home anything that was worth more than ten cents. But the searching was still fun and I got some nice garden rocks.

We broke camp at 4pm, and headed back into Murfreesboro. As we stopped at the gas station, a horrible burning smell filled the entire motorhome. Jason quickly determined it was a stuck brake caliper, which could result in many outcomes: An exploding tire, failed bearings, or (the best one) a fire. Fires and motorhomes don’t go very well together, in case you were wondering. We managed to make it to a local auto store just before they closed. The man was kind enough to lend us a couple of “c-clamps” and told us to just mail them back. Can you believe it? I called the park to make sure there were vacancies available and sure enough, there were several. Like a scene from Groundhog Day, we went back the the park and plugged in while Jason started working on the RV.

If you have never been to Murfreesboro, let me explain that it is a precious little town, but very little to it. And very little around it. For many miles. And if you are looking for a rental car, well buddy, you are straight up outta luck. Weighing the options, it would be best if Jason could fix the brakes enough to get us home. And so:

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I got to be the faithful mechanic ‘nurse’; holding the light, fetching tools, pumping the brakes and turning the steering wheel. After about two hours of sweating, greasy stains, and possibly a curse word or ten, he had resolved the issue enough for us to limp home! Hurray!!!

By this time, it’s a little after seven and starting to grow darker. I put on some truckin’ tunes (Jerry Reed, Dan Seals, a song about Bertha the Truck Drivin’ Queen, etc.) and we rolled along.  As we passed under the final overpass into Texas, I lost it. Through tears, I broke out into “Texas, Our Texas” with my hand over my heart, and somewhere in the distance an eagle cried in unison. No one was prouder at that moment to be a native Texan and back on her native soil.

Truly, this is the loveliest sight:

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There is such a stark difference between Arkansas and Texas. From the moment you cross into Texas, there are stores! There are restaurants! And, praise the dear sweet Lord, there is a Chick-Fil-A! A chicken sandwich with pickles, waffle fries, and lemonade never looked so good! I may have blubbered just a tad as I placed my order.

Everything was going so well…and then we got hit with the “Texarkana curse”, which is what happens almost every time we try to leave Texarkana. We missed a turn. We were so elated at having found the road to 59 south (HOME!!!) that we didn’t pay attention and missed what is essentially a tiny side street exit. Ten minutes later, Jason screamed, “Welcome to Arkansas?!?!!!!”

Oh, Arkansas, with your confusing roads! You have stumped us yet again!

I had failed at my navigator role! I had to lead us, with a limping vehicle, mind you, through the back streets of Texarkana late at night. Through the old industrial districts, with their liquor stores and their barred windows of all places! Would Texarkana never end? At a critical turn, the brand new Keurig decided to jump off of the counter and hit the floor with the most God-awful crash you have ever heard in your life. You could smell the stress! Finally, I got us BACK to 369 and to 59 south. We got home a little before 2am and I have that home never looked so beautiful…ever.

And that, friends, is how the 2017 family vacay went down. As Jason said, “Anyone could just take a “regular” vacation.” And I agree. We will make this thing happen despite tornadoes, flaming tires, or illnesses! Hear! Hear!

 

 

 

 

 

The Great Egg Miracle!

***Spoiler: This post is only a joke. No chickens were harmed in the making of this post. Do not attempt the following unless you want to kill your flock and/or get arrested for public indecency.***

So the other day, I had a nice little old man give me some tips on how to increase my flock’s egg production. He said that if I gave them some expired Vicodin, a handful of Froot Loops, and dance nekkid to the Hokey Pokey in my front yard it would increase their egg laying dramatically. Well, look what happened! I guess he knows what he was talking about!!! 97 eggs later!!!! :O

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I’m sorry! I had to do it! After the great “expired yogurt/increased egg production” post on Facebook that has been making the rounds since last week, I just had to get in my two cents.

First of all, I think that the original poster on Facebook certainly meant no harm and was simply excited to share an odd coincidence where they fed their hens some expired yogurt and seemingly, egg production exploded. One would naturally assume that the two might be related. But let’s get down to the brass tacks.

First of all, chickens don’t really digest dairy products simply because they don’t produce the enzymes to digest lactose. Oh, but some dairy doesn’t contain lactose, or at least very little, you may say. This is true, but I’d just have to ask where in nature would a chicken find dairy products? Now, is the occasional serving of funky cottage cheese or yogurt going to straight up kill your chickens? No. Is the occasional serving of yogurt going to miraculously quadruple your egg production? No.

The truth is, it’s that time of year when the day length is steadily increasing and chickens’ egg laying action naturally ramps up. The above photo (with the 97 eggs) was less than a week’s worth of eggs out of my small flock. About a month ago or so, I was having to BUY eggs! Now see what happens as spring gets closer! So, you can easily see how, if I were to have given my hens some yogurt a few weeks ago, I would naturally assume that it was due to the yogurt that my hens became egg-laying machines, right?

What I found particularly hilarious after reading the comment section on the original FB yogurt/hen post was that people were very, very excited that they actually had EXPIRED yogurt to give their flock. As if the expiration date possessed a magical quality where, the day (or week) after it expired, this yogurt turned into egg makin’ steroids for chickens. There were dozens of people shouting, “I have expired yogurt! Woohoo!” or something similar.

On the other hand, there were some odd comments from some animal rights folks who seemed to think that all of the eggs were laid in a single day. Or something. It would be like looking at my photo above and thinking that I had five or ten hens laying ALL of those in a day.

Let’s clear this up right now: Chickens only lay a single egg a day. There may be the very rare occasion where a hen lays two a day, but I have only had that happen once in eight years. Trust me, you ain’t getting those broodies to lay on your schedule. I bought eggs five times this winter while my hens took a winter break. There is NOTHING I do to “make” them lay eggs. I don’t stand over them with a tiny bullwhip and shame them into making my breakfast.

The only thing that I would personally NOT recommend is using artificial lighting for your hens, which can ‘trick’ them into thinking that the day length is not decreasing in the winter. Even God had to take a day off, y’all. Let those girls take a break for a bit and they will get it going again in the spring. No expired yogurt, Vicodin, Froot Loops, or nude Hokey Pokey required.

Peace out, y’all.

P.S. The original poster of the egg/yogurt post is a fabulous craftsperson, and I’m just going to throw that out because I happened to go over and do some Facebook page stalking.  I’d love to own one of their baskets! And in no way am I trying to make fun of them. I just want to clear the air on the matter. Chicken lovers unite!

 

 

Spring is almost here! 

I can always tell that spring is just around the corner. The henbit is blooming, narcissus are looking at the sky with their bright bonnets, and the bluebirds and wrens are looking for places to lay their eggs. 

Another exciting consequence of the day length growing longer is that my chickens begin to lay copious amounts of eggs. So far, my best layers are my mixed bantam flock, which are largely Old English Games with a dash of Silkie, and my Ameraucanas from Clayborn Farms in Waco. Everyone else is getting too old to be a reliable layer. 

If your hens are being lazy about egg laying, I have found it helpful to use ceramic eggs in the nest boxes. It seems to flip a switch in their little chicken brains that it’s time to get busy making eggs. I purchased mine at a local feed store. 
Here’s to spring!

Random find

You never know what you’ll see in the country. Yesterday, I found this adorable moth outside our shop. The common name is the Large Tolype moth. It reminds me of a fuzzy little puppy. Isn’t it cute? Odd to see it in January, but it’s been so warm lately.

Lamplight

The electricity hasn’t gone out. There is something absolutely magical about reading by the light of an oil lamp. 

When days grow dark at five o’clock, artificial light given off by electric bulbs seems harsh to my eyes. It’s too bright; too unnatural, perhaps. 

Tonight I’m enjoying the illumination and warmth given off by my Mamaw’s green glass lamp. 

I wonder how our sleep cycles would be affected if our homes weren’t kept as bright as daytime when night begins to fall?

Now, back to my reading. Goodnight, friends. 

Down at Ye Olde Noodle Hole

Buying a home is an interesting experience. You are certain to come across some surprises from time to time. For example, one year our washing machine was draining slowly. We ended up digging up the PVC drainage pipes and rather than use a joint fitting to get the water to go where they wanted (down the hill), they simply…bent the pipe.

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Yes, friends, who needs a 22 degree joint when one can use their brute force to just BEND THE PIPE almost in two? Well, now THAT certainly won’t cause issues. So after the pipe was fixed, it did lead to the discovery that our greywater from the house drains into our hillside. This is all the water you use in the house except the potty. Now this was actually a pleasant surprise! Greywater can be used to irrigate plants for your gardens as long as you are careful about the soaps and cleaners you use, assuming you do your greywater recovery correctly.

After the greywater drainage discovery, it wasn’t long that we also found that our dogs had come to the same conclusion. Yes, all of the kitchen waste that accidentally makes it down my sink does flow out by the hillside. And yes, dogs find this delectable, especially when we have a dish like spaghetti. Thus: The Noodle Hole got its name.

The screams of “The dogs are in the Noodle Hole again!!!” were pretty frequent in the first year we lived here. After running dogs out of the Noodle Hole, away from donkey dung, and out of the chicken manure, I decided that dogs are just gross. I pray to God that they don’t have taste buds.

But back to the Noodle Hole! For some reason, this year we have tons of tomato plants that have decided to set up camp by the Noodle Hole outlet as well as the washing machine drainage. I guess I had some tomato seeds in my pockets? Who knows. But there are about seven giant tomato plants, covered in green tomatoes out there now. Unfortunately, our first hard freeze is coming later this week and so I am going to pick the green fruit, take some cuttings, and cover them just to see how long the vines will make it. I have had tomato vines through January before!

Since the ‘maters enjoyed their laundry/kitchen water so much, we are planning a tiered box which will utilize the greywater and keep our tomatoes watered through the hot summer.

When life hands you a Noodle Hole, make a greywater recovery system!

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Tomatoes Love Noodles

 

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The biggest tomatoes at the Hole
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Dichondra apparently loves laundry water!

 

The Grey Days

During the fall and winter a couple of years ago, we had two or three sunny days in four months. It was terrible. Every day started off with a grey hazy morning and ended just as gloomily. I actually love cloudy days, but after a month of seeing no sun, my attitude became just as ‘blah’ as the forecast.

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Starting around Thanksgiving, I felt bone-dead tired all of the time, then eventually my attitude worsened to where I didn’t care to do anything. I didn’t want to clean, cook, do crafts, or work on my garden plan, which are all typically things that I enjoy. I also drank too much sugary coffee and stuffed myself with whatever carb was handy. Subsequently, I put on extra weight. I clearly remember one day in January where the sun was barely peeking out from the oppressive cloud cover. Since it was in the 20s that day, I sprawled out on the floor of our sunroom just like an old cat, basking in the warmth. I was desperate for some sunshine!  The ‘meh’ feeling went on for several months until February, when Mr. Sun decided to show his face again. Days were warm enough to get outside, and my mental fog dissipated.

While I believe hormones totally rule our female world and could account for at least part of my ‘blah-ness’, I also thought that there was a deeper explanation for the lethargy and overall depression I had experienced. That’s when I began to research Seasonal Affective Disorder.

As it turns out, SAD (how appropriate!) is a cyclical depression that affects people most often during the autumn and winter months, although it can happen other times as well. SAD is caused by the lack of sunlight, so the number of people who are afflicted will increase the further you move from the equator. It can also occur if you live in a cloudy area with little sun or even by working in a dark office.

So what to you do to lift your mood? Dr. Norman E. Rosenthal, who first wrote about SAD in 1984, gives several tips on his site. One suggestion is to increase the light in your life! Get outside in the sun when possible. Open up those heavy drapes, or even invest in a light box. This is one reason that I pick weeds for at least an hour a day when weather permits throughout fall and winter. Other tips: Reduce stress! Don’t overeat sugary and starchy foods. Get some exercise!  Take a vacation to a sunny place and bask. And of course, if these ideas do not work, definitely talk to a professional.

After the Grey Days of 2013-14, I was talking with a friend, and she went through the exact same thing! Remember that you are NEVER alone!!!

Have you ever had the grey days of winter? I often wonder how many women go through this and don’t speak up!

May your days be sunny and bright, friends!

 

The Farmhouse Reading Room

Since I’ve taken an official break from Facebook, I have actually had time to read! Oh, how I missed my books!

While I have several on my shelves that I need to read, I always order a big bunch through Thriftbooks.com when winter comes rolling in. Yes, I know going to the library is more frugal, but I’ll be honest, I always run up a fine. I never, ever return them on time and I feel like a book-hoarding criminal. Also, I can’t stand going “into town”. I love to be at home. At Thriftbooks, I can usually get the books I want for about $3 or less and free shipping, plus, there are always coupons I earn that save more money. So with that being said, I’ll share some of my most recent reads with you.

To begin:

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One of my favorite new books is Living More With Less, by Doris Janzen Longacre. The truth is, I haven’t completed this book because I don’t want to say I’m finished with it, as nutty as that sounds! Truthfully, I only have a few pages to go.

This book will broaden your worldview mindset as you hear stories from missionaries who have traveled the globe. I often forget how fortunate we are to live in the United States, and LMWL will certainly remind you. As an example, we can turn on a tap and get clean water, whereas others must walk miles to find a reliable source. These are not just stories from missionaries, however. It is also packed with money-saving ideas from those living here in the States. While it was written by Mennonites, I assure you that everyone can benefit from some of these suggestions. It has reminded me to be a conscious consumer; what I purchase or consume today really does have an effect on people half a world away!

Also, Mrs. Longacre was already known for her other book, the More-With-Less Cookbook. I bought this as well and while most don’t fit our current diet (low-carb), I can see that there are some nice recipes and ideas there that would greatly benefit those trying to cut down on food expenditures.

Next:

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Yet another new favorite, Your Money Or Your Life by Vicki Robin and Joe Dominguez, was one I finished just a couple of days ago. For crying out loud, if you are struggling with money, want to stay home with your kids, hate your job, or maybe you “have it all” but you still feel empty inside, read this book! Actually, it’s a great book for anyone and I wish I’d read it much sooner. There are nine steps to Financial Independence, or “FI” as they call it. Just nine steps to never worrying about money again.

If you feel like a hamster on a wheel waiting for retirement, READ IT. I really can’t brag about it enough. I have to recommend buying it because I know that I’ll be using it as a reference for years to come, and I bet you will, too!

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Another winner I read was Square Foot Gardening by Mel Bartholomew. If you don’t garden because you hate weeding or maybe your plants didn’t turn out well, this is the book for YOU!  While most garden plots are traditionally done in rows, the Square Foot method uses 4′ x 4′ squares, which are further subdivided into sixteen 1′ squares. It is so easy to merge intensive gardening, succession planting,  and companion gardening by using Mel’s ideas. I have already dug up ten squares, and each person is allotted two of their very own. Jason, being the left-brained member of our family, wants them to have sides, so he will be making us some metal boxes in a couple of weeks.

Mel tells us that in a four person family, eight 4′ squares are all you need. Granted, this would not be enough if you planned on canning or preserving foods, so we will have a few extras. I am also going to plant a few squares just for chicken food! Why not?

I bought the original 1981 book, which uses a compost-based top soil in addition to your own soil underneath. I have read that the newer book suggests using a fully enclosed box filled with a soil mix. I did this last year before ever hearing of Square Foot Gardening, and for the most part, it did work well. Still, for deep-rooted plants like tomatoes, I wouldn’t think that a box would give adequate depth for water retention, especially during those famous Texas summers!

Now for the bomb of the bunch:

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The Womp-Womp-Wooooomp Book of the Month. I hate to give it such a bad rating, because I WANTED to love this book. I loved the idea of doing without technology! I loved the idea of living amongst a community of people who did things the old-fashioned way! The reviews were largely positive ones!

Unfortunately, I could have bought three loaves of sandwich bread for the $3 I spent on this paperweight, so I’m bummed over it.

Due to a random meeting on a bus with a community member, Mr. Brende and his new wife, the SHIMMERY-Oh-So-Shimmery and elfin-like Mary (who describes their wife as “shimmery”, anyway?), are able to move into a mish-mash group of ex-Amish, Mennonite, and other Luddite-like folks who have shunned most of technology. Eric nicknames them the Minimites. They live in a home built by said community member for when his son marries. I suppose what particularly annoys me about the story is the lack of writing skills. Brende fails to keep a story line straight and I feel as though his words are zig-zagging all over the place. Heck, I even went back to check a quote just now and realized that he had been hit by a car. I completely missed this!

Add to that frustration the fact that Mr. Brende comes off as an annoying and often pretentious wet-behind-the-ears college grad, and it just didn’t keep up my interest. I also don’t care for his comments about the people around him, as they usually come off as condescending and rude. The neighbor boy is “chubby”; the other neighbors “don’t like to be told what’s good for them”. Well, perhaps they don’t like your attitude! I suppose that the part that shocked me the most was after the birth of their first son. They went to K-Mart to get baby supplies. The total added up to a bit over $127, including a car seat, mattress, and baby blankets. They are, strangely, surprised by the amount, thinking it very expensive. Eric says, “Mary looked at me. I looked at Mary. Didn’t she know that baby items were the mother’s responsibility? “Can’t you use your credit card?” I asked.”

Ouch. I was so done. As it ends up, they leave the community and make their home in another Midwestern town, where he has a rickshaw business. He apparently doesn’t care for the German inhabitants of the town, which he makes quite clear. Pretty dumb to publish a book and let your neighbors know you don’t like them, right?

I hope that you will check out the first three books, though! They would be perfect for a rainy and cold day by the fireplace.

If you’d like to check out Thriftbooks, I have a coupon for 15% off for you! It is only good for two weeks after you sign up for it, though! It will also send ME a coupon for 20% off and you’ll be my new friend! 😉  Free shipping starts when you place an order for $10.

 

 

 

The Christmas Cactus

I love Christmas cacti, even though they should really be named Thanksgiving cacti since mine always bloom the last week of November. All year long, the weird tapeworm-ish looking plant takes a backseat, visually speaking.

Suddenly, without warning, the entire plant erupts into the brightest and most psychedelic hues of the rainbow. The colors are so bright that they almost hurt your eyes to look at them.

I used to have a huge Christmas cactus and it was glorious. When my oldest was about three, it mysteriously flew off of its shelf and landed upside down, shattering off most of the leaves and all but about two of the blooms. It was a sad day in Plant Land.

This plant was one that I think I grabbed at Lowe’s one year because fuchsia is my favorite color EVER. I stuck it in an old coffee cup and honestly I have no clue how long I have even owned it. I’m happy that this year I managed to not kill it and so I will share it with you!

Happy Wednesday!

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The Frugal Farmhouse #1

My recent post, Ch-ch-ch-changes, brought me more texts and comments than I have ever received from a single blog post! First of all, THANK YOU SO MUCH for hanging out with me on my blog/farm journal/soapbox. I am honored that you guys devote some of your very precious time to read my words! Now, one of the questions I was asked was: “So what methods have you been using to try and stay sane?”. Okay, that was totally paraphrased, but I have been working out an answer for you all in my little pea brain. I want to give you the best answer without going into an annoying amount of detail. I will also list resources to help you! Initially, I was going to put all of these into a single post, but I think it’s just too much, so let’s keep it simple and start with one goal.

Get rid of the clutter in your life.

This could mean physical clutter, mental clutter, or a combination of both. I don’t know about you, but I felt like a slave to my clutter. Whether it was my inability to say ‘no’ (which turned into mental clutter for me) or dusty knick-knacks/papers everywhere/craft supplies out the wazoo, it made my brain tired. Very…very…very tired. I can’t do visual clutter. I need clear surfaces to function. I need to wake up to a clean sink in the morning. I can’t think when there are too many things around me.  Let’s face it: Clutter is depressing.

Clutter was a constant physical reminder that I had too much going on. I read somewhere that it takes about 21 days for you to walk by something enough to where your brain ignores it. Then one day, when you finally activate your decluttering mode, you ask yourself: “How long has that pile of (enter a noun here) been sitting on the table/floor/dresser/etc.?” Suddenly, you become really annoyed with yourself because you have been so busy that your brain has been on auto-pilot for months or years and things like this happen when you are on auto-pilot mode.

So, here are some resources I have used myself that I’ve enjoyed and found to be useful. Just remember that decluttering and organizing takes time. You aren’t going to miraculously have everything organized overnight and it may take months. I know that personally, I went through several weeks of deep cleaning/purging and even months later I am refining this. One day at a time! You will get there!

Help for the clutter:

  • Kick the clutter habit one tiny step at a time with FlyLady! I love the routines for my day! I am not typically a routine person (like, at all), but now I have a morning and evening routine and I feel out of sorts if I break them. There are also housecleaning routines that you can easily adjust to your own needs. I only clean twice a week for about an hour at a time now. That’s all! Note: The full email campaign is, IMHO, just too much. Sorry, FlyLady. Be sure to update your email subscription to “FlyLady Lite” rather than the full campaign unless you enjoy email overload! Also, she offers cleaning supplies. Her Bronze microfiber rags are the absolute bomb. I prefer them to my Norwex and e-Cloth rags! They are GREAT. I’ll elaborate later on.
  • The book: “The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up” by Marie Kondo. I enjoyed this book. Okay, so I don’t fold my undies like I used to (shame, shame), but I do like the idea of getting rid of those things which give you no joy. I started my decluttering with this in mind and I was able to whip through most of my house pretty quickly.
  • The site: Organize365. This is a very popular site and offers podcasts as well as tons of info on how to become organized in your home.

 

I wanted to show you a couple of FlyLady ideas that I use regularly. This is my daily “Flight Plan”, as it is called. I won’t go into major details yet, but you can see that you do declutter for at least 15 minutes every single day. It doesn’t sound like a lot, but I promise you that even 15 minutes is a start! Not listed here is something called “Zone cleaning”, which I do every Tuesday. It is a deeper cleaning routine for one “zone” in your house.


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With FlyLady, you don’t say you are doing housecleaning! You are “blessing your home” by taking care of it, so we call it “Home Blessing Hour” when you clean. I do this twice a week: Mondays and Fridays. I like our house to be clean before the weekend and then I like a clean house to start the week, too. Just so you know, dusting, mopping, polishing are all limited to 15 minutes…no more. I use a cheap timer from Wal-Mart and I keep it in my apron pocket. FlyLady actually recommends 10 minutes for each task, but I get a more complete job done if I give myself 15 minutes. Typically, I have it all done in about 12 minutes per each job. The idea is to limit your time so that you don’t become obsessed with a perfect cleaning job. As she says, it’s not about perfection, it’s about progress. Perfection is what prevents us from starting a job…we think if we can’t do it perfectly, we just won’t do it at all. I know this has been a problem for me in the past.

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So what do you think? Where are you on clutter in your life? Are you organized or are you ready to set up a burn barrel in your front yard and throw in the contents of your home? I threatened to use a bulldozer and a burn pile more than once. I’ve come a long way, baby!

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