Year nine on the farm: Older, fatter, and furrier

October 2017 marks two milestones for our family; we have now been on the farm for nine years, and I turned forty.

Turning 4-Oh

Something about turning forty has changed me. With any luck, I hope to live another forty years. It would be a gift of another lifetime! With that, it got my little pea brain churning, thinking about:

  • The importance of living every day to the fullest
  • Celebrating every birthday, and that sending birthday cards to family/friends is no longer optional
  • Planning for a life we’d like to live after the kids have moved out
  • Becoming debt-free so we can work minimally and live to the max
  • Maintaining our health so we can enjoy life to the fullest

I also think about how I have already lived four years longer than my own grandfather did, and how every day is truly a blessing.

On a funnier note, I am trying to understand why, at forty:

  • My body has begun to cling to every single calorie like a person dangling from the side of a cliff
  • God decided that visible nose hairs are not optional just because you are a woman while simultaneously they become more prevalent/darker…yet at the same time, I am losing the hair on the top of my head
  • Any new hair I DO happen to grow on my head is either white and silky or a thick and extremely unruly black menace that sticks straight out
  • I can throw out my back by simply standing up and moving my leg half-inch in the ‘wrong’ direction

These are the things I ponder now.

 Year Nine on the Farm

With this year, we are still working on paying off our debt, maintaining the home and grounds, and now we are downsizing.

While I did keep some baby chicks hatched this year, the new goal is to continue to downsize the flock until we have a nice number of laying hens. Let’s face it: I do NOT get $100 worth of eggs a month that I’m paying for the feed at this point! We do have some older layers as well as several hens who are more like pets, but as usual, we also possess a disproportionately large number of roosters who are getting fat on my dollar.

Now for a review in photos!

October 2016:

That time that everyone got ticked off after playing Sorry:

November 2016:

The cold and wet beginning to our square foot beds:

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Our living room/library area after bringing in the ferns for the winter:

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Fall foliage:

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December 2016:

A beautiful winter sunset!

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From 65 degrees to 48 in 47 minutes!

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January 2017:

One day, as I was hanging laundry, I looked up to see this ‘mackerel sky’. I made myself pretty dizzy trying to take a good pic.

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This year marked the beginning of new beds and a new gardening method: Square Foot Gardening. I love it!!! Jason built the beds. The soil you see was just, well…crappy, but it’s all I had. Now it has much better soil.

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2017 was the Year of the Annoying Ladybug/Asian Ladybeetle invasion. Here is a group in our barn, but there were hundreds in the house. Yuck. Glad they do eat aphids, but it would be lovely if they would hibernate outdoors like REAL ladybugs!!!

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February:

Being sensitive to sodium nitrate (Read: gives me major migraines), I can only eat uncured meats. Let’s face it, when you live in the sticks, things can be difficult to find. Our local Wal-Mart decided to stop carrying ‘my’ bacon, so I was forced to drive thirty miles to find some. Jason came to the rescue with my Valentine’s gift!

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Ladybug invasion continues in the warm sun:

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A true ladybug! I found several Twice-Stabbed ladybeetles on our pear trees. Yaaaay!

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March:

Another ‘true’ ladybug, the Convergent Ladybeetle. I probably learned more about ladybugs this year than in my last 40 years!

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April:

April showers and all of that!

May:

May’s warmth brings out the reptiles! Anoles and rat snakes are in full force!

June:

A cicada emerges!

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Swedish strawberry cake:

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A new friend emerges from the woods! My first photos of Eleanor, the wild cat.

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July:

Happy Fourth!!!

We add another new family member. Meet Esther. Note: Esther is the one without the beard.

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August:

Esther enjoys robes and hiding in the mini pantry. This behavior was not endorsed by yours truly. No one likes cat hair in their cereal.

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September:

Another new family member! Meet Milo:

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2017, so far, has proved to be the Year of the Cat! I also have declared it the year of Returning to the Homestead since I have now deactivated my Facebook account and suddenly have hours and hours added to my day! Amazing, isn’t it? Hope you enjoyed this year’s re-cap.

On to 2018!!!

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.