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Oh, but how I wish it was a virtue….because I would be so very virtuous.

Today I feel completely impatient with everything around me.  The ducks took too long to find their way outside.  John stood for too long at the counter and I was tapping my foot to get in there and do my own thing.  Luca took his nap too late and I was trying to get work done.  The worst impatience I felt today was when Donovan was having trouble with some math.  Guess who hates math?  Guess who gets impatient when something seems simple to her but it’s not simple to someone else?  ME. I was even impatient as I had to wait to get on here and write about my impatience!  

But here’s the gift of being where I am.  I recall feeling impatient to get here….but today, I am here.  I was impatient waiting for the goat to have babies…..but she did it in her own time and I learned so much from it.  I have been impatient for Spring, but it has finally made some headway.  

I’m trying to beat my impatience, but it keeps showing its ugly head. I’m so impatient with my impatience that I could scream.  But why do I keep being impatient, if it’s been proven to me time and again that things happen in their own time?  I can’t go out and pry the daffodils open….well, I could, but if I did, they’d be mangled and ugly.  I can’t go out and demand the goat go in labor, or push John out of my way in the kitchen (well, I could, but he’d likely push back).  I am trying to have control over things that are so obviously out of my control.

Today I am going outside and starting some seeds.  Talk about the ultimate test of my patience.  I need to go enjoy the weather and the animals and the smell of Spring.  While I am sowing seeds for the future, I will intentionally drink in the present beautiful, renewing moment.  It’s a very concrete lesson I am giving myself.  As a person who spends most of my time inside of my brain, I sometimes need to put my hands on things to internalize an idea.  Here we go….I’ll start flowers, but I will soak in the children running around the yard, the wind moving across the hills, the forever blue of the sky, and the bleatings of a tiny goat who is a living definition of the word ‘frolicking’.  I will invest in the future as I live in the now…..for me, that’s big.  

Back to math…..say a prayer!

 

Hello, my name is Miranda Saunders.  I am Susan Saunders’ daughter. I am home schooled in fifth grade. One of my assignments is to be a journalist so I am trying here. I am ten years old going on eleven. My birthday is in January. I have two sisters and three brothers.  My favorite color is neon green. I love Tye Dye, peace signs and Twilight. As you know, we live on a farm with 12 chickens, a cat, and a new puppy. We all love our animals and each other. We have a wide creek in our 200 acre back yard. I also enjoy painting and doing lots of art. I like kirigami, origami and drawing. My favorite food is bread with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. I enjoy making bread, cookies and soup.  Please give me ideas of what I can write about as a journalist. Thank you.

Food, Food, Food

A friend said to me last night, “Have you ever been so surrounded by such good food before in your life?”  The answer is a resounding NO.

A big part of our homesteading journey is the journey to eating real foods.  We’ve always been wary of additives, preservatives, sweeteners, oils, and the insanity of factory farming. The truth is, in our search for simplicity because our society is convenience-based, we have made our food supply into the most complicated thing EVER.

I am constantly stunned by the simplicity of the food we are choosing to eat.  I love Michael Pollan for saying, “If you can’t pronounce it, DON’T EAT IT”.

Our food rules:  eat locally whenever possible, organically next, and minimally.  We use REAL foods:  butter, never margarine, honey, never aspartame, lard instead of shortening.  It’s best if we can make it ourselves from something we already have.  I’m racking my brain trying to come up with ways to use the apple mash that’s leftover when you press cider.

We buy pork from one of several farms here in Floyd, beef from up the street, chickens that lay the eggs we buy (from a farm right up the street), and vegetables from the Farmer’s Market or one of several stands in the area.  I bake ALL of our bread, including sandwich bread, Italian bread, I even tried English muffins.  I actually like that the bread molds if we don’t finish it within a few days:  it is REAL.   I’ve even gotten to mill wheat berries and make my own flour, which we turned around and baked into bread.  I make about half of our cereal.  We drink milk from a local-ish creamery, but starting early October, we’ll be getting our milk from the cows down the street.

We’ve come leaps and bounds on this part of our journey, but there is more to come.  I’ve drastically cut our grocery expenses…..meaning, where once I might have spent $100 a week at Kroger, now I only buy a few things there:  it’s funny, really, I have a list:  Cereal (Cascadian Farms has a Cinnamon Crunch kids’ cereal that they love), cheese, yogurt, rice, tortillas, and maybe a few other rotating things.  ONe day, I will make my own cheese and yogurt, too, from GOOD milk.

There’s a reason why they call this stuff ‘slow food’.  I spend a LOT of time in my kitchen.  But believe me when I say it is worth it…..we are unintentionally losing weight, feeling better, and are thinking more mindfully.

Another homeschooling perk:  it’s cool to go to a wedding in Pittsburgh, come home , and have another week or so in which to prepare yourself and the kids mentally and physically for the journey which is homeschool.

Roma started preschool and loves it.  She was overheard the other day saying to her friend as she walked in the door, “We get to walk in to preschool with no mommies and no babies.”  The girl needed her own thing!

We took one of the mornings that she was away to have a school meeting.  Miranda and Donovan came to the table so excited, with sharpened pencils and clean papers.  I asked them each to write a list of at least ten different things they wanted to learn about.  I loved what they came up with.

Donovan’s List of What I’d Like to Learn About:

1. Persia

2. The City of New Dawn

3. Luca

4. Mythology

5. Planets

6. Kung Fu

7. Volcanos

8.  Fruits

9. High Fructose Corn Syrup

10. Plastic

Miranda’s List:

1. How to make different foods.

2.  Learn to teach.

3. Learn about Spanish.

4.  Learn about Greece.

5.  Learn about farming.

6.  Learn about history.

7. Learn about animals.

8.  Learn about babies.

9.  Learn to make marjatira (that’s mujadara….a lentil and rice dish).

10.  Learn to garden.

11.  Learn to make clothing.

Well, it looks like I have a lot of lesson planning to do.  I love those kids.

When my friend Sandra casually reminded me yesterday that I haven’t added a blog post in two months, I could barely believe we have been here that long.  I CAN believe that I hadn’t added a blog post, because we have been THAT busy.  (Thanks, Sandra, for keeping tabs on that for me.:) )

Wow, have we ever been busy!  Our days have become nonstop.  We’re all accustomed to  waking up early – John leaves for work at 7 – and I am usually in bed by ten  P.M. at the latest.  By that time, my feet hurt, my head is fuzzy, my hands are sore, and we just won’t talk about my nerves.

Living here is an exercise in being in the moment at all times.  Everything we do is a learning experience.  I guess the biggest one as of yet has been an experience in canning.  I’ve put up a lot of tomatoes in different forms – a puree that is great for soup base, chunked tomatoes for salsa, chili, or spaghetti sauce, and bags and bags of spaghetti sauce.  It’s been a learning experience, but like everything I’ve undertaken, it’s not as hard as it seems.    I’ve done jellies, helped Stacy with peach chutney, and canned lots of applesauce straight from our trees outside.  I now understand that every August and September will be busy kitchen days where I help preserve the harvest for the winter.  I get it, I get it, I really do!

The apple trees have been a source of endless work.  WE eat apples straight from the tree, we make applesauce, apple pie, apple cobbler.  Right this second I have four boxes of apples waiting to be processed into something….and trees with branches bending under the weight of big, ripe apples.   Last night, friends brought over their apple press (bought from a local farm here, secondhand, for twenty measly dollars), and we pressed about three gallons of apple cider.  It was SO good…..sweet and tart.  Maybe the best cider I’ve ever had, because I drank it while looking out at the tree the apples had just been plucked from.

We are on a schedule to receive our bees in December.  I have a LOT of research to do.  I have a phobia of bees.  John will look cute in a little beekeeper’s suit, don’t you think?

Next Thursday, I’m traveling to another farm to pick up some roosters.  Thing is, the lady there will be showing me how to butcher, pluck, and dress a rooster myself.  I am having to work myself up to it….I’ve never killed a living thing…..but I know that I have to learn to do this.  I hope to come home with six roosters for my freezer that I myself will have helped prepare.

I’ll also be coming home with….gulp….ten little chickies!  Yes, the kind that are little and cute and need a heat lamp to keep them warm.  Oy!  Well, things are just falling together, and we will be busy constructing a coop of some sort (I have my feelers out for a chicken tractor that may come my way).  So I will be looking into baby chicken care this weekend.

I think that’s enough on my plate for now.  Goats eventually…..cow one day.  More posts to follow; one on school and the kids, and one on our food journey.  Much love!  And a few pictures…..

We are here!

Yes, we have arrived.  We moved in this past Saturday.  We loaded the truck for the most part on Friday night.  That was accomplished with an amazing amount of help from church friends (you know who you are, bless you all).  Saturday morning, more people from church, as well as some old and some new friends, helped finish the loading up, and we were here, in Floyd County, by 11:30 A.M.

And a surprise awaited us……the house was TOTALLY NOT DONE.  As a matter of fact, I sit here writing this on Thursday morning, and I can hear the painter upstairs still trying to finish painting the bedrooms.  No joke….my house is like Grand Central for contractors…..carpenters, plumbers, painters, electricians in and out all day long.  we are living only on the bottom floor, which is fine because it is very spacious, but uncomfortable because we have only futons.  Donovan has braved the floor every night….he gets extra gold stars.

Anyhow, we are REALLY hoping we can move into the upstairs this weekend.  Please.

But we have not been stressed or upset about it.  As a matter of fact, having only the downstairs to unpack has been refreshing.  Beds will be nice, though….we like to camp, but intentionally – not because our bedrooms are being painted.🙂

On to the REAL matter.  The house….the land…the farm….the place.

It is absolutely, positively beautiful here.  I have spent more time on my front porch in my wicker chairs than I have anywhere else.  Unpacking kind of  loses it’s appeal when you have views like this to tempt you outside.  The weather is perfect – I have not turned my air conditioning on one time.  We’ve gone down into the cow fields a few times, met some cows, seen the bull.  We’ve counted apple trees, asked them politely to ripen into tasty apples in time for a Fall apple picking.  We’ve found peach trees, a plum tree, a very active grapevine, and some goodies left behind in the garden.  Nature here likes to surprise us with goodies!  I can’t keep the kids inside (I LOVE that).  They come back in bearing little gifts from Nature every few minutes.

We’re feeling very thankful, on the verge of something new and right, and we’re feeling humbled by the beauty of this place.  Goal One?  To unpack, to organize, to be ready for the challenges ahead.  We couldn’t have asked for a sweeter house, or a more beautiful ‘yard’, or better neighbors.  So far, so good – we’ve been blessed with tons of help accentuated by the kindness of people.  We will keep in touch, and we WILL find the camera one day soon!

Oops….

…see what a city-dwelling, store-buying, ignorance-having mama I am?

I didn’t make JELLY yesterday, I made JAM.

Jam, jam, jam, jam, jam!

Blueberries!

We're ready to pick....not hot yet.

 So we got into the car, six of us, and we drove out to Newport, VA, ony about twenty minutes from us, to a LOVELY little farm called Sinking Creek Farm.  Mission?  Blueberries.  Purpose?  Some to freeze, some to eat, some to make into freezer jelly.  It was accomplished, and then some!

Mira, ten years old, ready to pick....blueberries beware, she is ruthless.

And more pickin’ pics…..

Gotta love a baby-wearing, blueberry pickin' daddy.

Beautiful, beautiful views! (and girls, of course..)

 

Brave Donovan, who broke his arm in two places two days ago, was happy to hold buckets and take pictures.

So after about an hour and a half of picking some very nice bushes at the start of the season, we lwft with close to five pounds of berries.  This farm is awesome – it’s run by two agriculture teachers from VT.  The lady took me around and showed me her awe-inspiring gardens, chicken coops, and then buckets of blueberry bushes that she is selling.  Hmmmm.  INteresting.  Roma had one major meltdown.  Other than that it was so amazingly peaceful.  I scored some squash and zucchini from her garden, too.

Then we went to the farmers’ market, where we got a Weathertop Farms chicken, a homemade lemon bar, some tiny plums, some raspberries, and some lettuce….then we headed home where I would attempt to make my first-ever batch of jelly.

OK, so, to some of you out there, you’re like, DUH.  Jelly is EASY.  Well, now  know that!  But it was a fun adventure and very tasty end results, too.  But I figured there may be someone out there who is like me and had never done this before.  Thank goodness for the Internet (and my awesome friends from church).

MMMMM...blueberries. First of the season, organic, lovingly grown, and delish.

 So here’s the score:

So here we go.  Romaleta (Roma) is my helper in the kitchen at all times.  Miranda can make about anything by herself, and Roma will be soon behind her – I’m very impressed with her kitchen knowledge and her willingness to really “dig in”.  Literally.

First we rinsed the berries.  Good thing…Roma found one little pet worm.

Sweet Roma washes the berries.

...and poses.

 Then we crushed….

 ….till it looked more like this (we like skins in the jelly).

Then we mixed organic sugar, pectin, and all the fruit together….

 

…and then, Roma had to taste it….

...of course.

And then, VOILA!

Twelve perfect little jelly jars with yummy organic jelly! These are freezer-safe....and not plastic.

 Thank God I go to a Mennonite church, and these people know how to do this stuff….I got some help from my friend Janie, and am very happy with my first go-round at freezer jelly!

Now.....what's next?🙂

A fulfilling day indeed!

The Unburdening

If you know me well enough, you know I am extremely organized…inside of my head.  Now, making that organization manifest itself OUTSIDE of my head….that’s another story entirely.  Seriously, I know where every single thing is in my house at any given time.  Except for my keys, and John’s ridiculously morphing, moving, disappearing wallet. 

Here’s what keeps me from ultimate organization:  an abundance of Stuff. By Stuff, I mean clothes, clothes, clothes, clothes, kid clutter, toys, bric-a-brac (I love that word so much!), clothes, knick-knacks, toys, clothes, and electronics.  I also have a somewhat mild case of OCD that makes it so that when I sit in a cluttered up room, my mind starts going crazy.  I count the pieces of clutter….from my vantage point in a chair I will estimate how long it will take to clean the room up, and I will form five or six plans of action, I visualize the room uncluttered….in short, I do anything EXCEPT declutter the room.  And then there are times when I become a whirling dervish and dispose of every single thing in the offending room within three minutes.  John loves that mode and calls it my superpower.  The kids fear it.  Who knows what will disappear when the Whirling Dervish comes through?

Well, guess what?  I AM SICK OF THE CLUTTER.  It BURDENS my soul, my heart, my life, my very being.  I function better in minimal spaces.  Having eight people in our family, that’s just a joke.  Until now.

This move is a move towards living more simply, becoming less of a consumer family, and getting back to basics.  John was all about it, too, though I think he’d agree that he is a little more reticent to part with his electronic equipment than I am to part with anything.  We made a pact to really get rid of things.  We started with a yard sale last weekend.

It was a big one.  I sold things I never thought I would sell, mainly because I just never thought about whether or not it was a necessity.  We sold bulky furniture, couches, chairs, bookshelves, and things to go on those bookshelves…..we unloaded thirteen trash bags overflowing with clothes (YAY!!!!!), got rid of knick-knacks that were dust collectors or had no sentimental value, sold paintings and CD’s and EVERY VHS tape in the house, tapes, DVD’s.  At the end of it, we’d made a pretty little pile of cash, and our yard still had bags and boxes of Stuff in it.  We gave it away on Craigslist.

So the little pile of cash becomes John’s “nest egg” for yard equipment.  He’s been researching exactly what he wants to care for the little yard (our five acres, not the cow acres).  He is bent on a certain Stihl string trimmer and a riding mower.  Whew.  I never thought my husband would get excited about yard and farm equipment…this is pretty cool.

So here’s how I am beginning to feel: UNBURDENED.  Will I still have a ton of stuff when we move? Yes.  There’s no way I caught all the junk on one pass through.  But I am blessed with kids that are not hoarders, a husband who recognizes my need for simplicity as well as his own, and an eagle’s eye for picking out Junk.  Beware, Junk…I am coming.  There is no safe place to hide….bwahahahaha.

Next?  Packing continues as well as weeding out junk.  It’s my goal to remain prayerful and open to this experience as it unfolds.  Again, I can’t stress how much this move could mean to evey member of our family.  We know there is something in it to be gained for each of us.  I just can’t wait to see what it is.  But it’s nice to feel the beginning of being able to breathe.  The Unburdening will continue….first by letting go of the physical things that are weighing us down – junk, weight, poor health – and simultaneously by our Creator’s revalation of what it is that our souls and spirits are needing and craving to become unburdened, as well.

Hello world, and welcome to another endeavor of mine…..one I have long wanted to do, but have not yet attempted, knowing my record of starts and stops in many projects in my life.

This one, though, just begs to be blogged…..if not for posterity’s sake, then maybe for sanity’s sake.  Heck, maybe someone out there will learn something from my family’s (mis)adventures.  Heck, maybe that person will be ME.🙂

Well, let’s start here.  We are moving.  This will be the fourth home within one year.  Talk about living out of boxes…..sheesh.  It’s a long story.  Suffice it to say that this past year has been one in which I have seen much personal growth, we have seen much familial growth (in the literal and figurative senses, both), and there has been a plethora of spiritual growth in abundance.  We’ve gone through upheaval, rejection, depression, elation, rejection, acceptance, and I am glad to say we have come out on the side of LOVE…..and that has enabled us to stay sane over the last year of move after move after move.

This move, however, is a substantial one.  We believe it is The One we have been waiting for, looking for, praying and desiring for.

We are leaving the city,  anchoring down in the country, and trying our hand at a homestead.

Wow.  Just writing that was hard. I can’t imagine what it will be like to just DO it.  I’m kind of wiped out just putting that down in words.

So, what does that mean?  I guess it means different things to different people.  No, we are not going to live in a tent while we build our own house with our own four hands.  No, I am not going to hunt wild turkey with my bare hands and teach my kids to spear fish in a stream (not yet at least). 

We have found an adorable farmhouse, a little less than 2000 square feet, charming, full of character, and just perfect in size for our family.  Our backyard is about 200 acres, houses about 75 meat cows, a stream, rolling hills and fields, and a huge rock known locally as Indian Rock.  There’s a legend that gold can be found in our streambed…the owner says people will still ask him if they can pan there.  Guess we’ll be panning, too!

We are not responsible for the cows, but we are free to roam with them, learn from them, and use the 200 acres as we’d like.  Now, our front yard is about five acres….that is cow-free, and all ours, and just begging for some other crops and animals and such.  We already have three apple trees and a large grapevine.  We already have a small organic garden started lovingly by the previous tenant (who asked if he could come back and harvest his potatoes in a few months).  My forte is NOT gardening. I have a LOT to learn in that arena.

But please…..apple trees? Grapevines?  A little milking shed?  The place is begging to be homesteaded.  We are so fortunate to have found it.  Our family has been moving towards this for years, and now we’ve been provided with the perfect venue.  A little farmhouse in Floyd County, an artistic, musical, eclectic place if I’ve ever seen one.

We’re pretty psyched.  The move will happen mid-July.  I thought I’d start blogging now so that you can see what we are doing to get ready for this endeavor.

Love to you all, and peace and joy.

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