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July: Less Plastic- Dishes

In the month of July, we have renewed our commitment to limit single use plastic in our lives. I will remind you, we are not perfect. However, we are working to make changes. As a family this a a goal we have been working towards for the last couple of years. Taking it up a notch in 2021.

I am going to try and make several posts about the everyday changes we have made to reduce plastic. What has worked and what we have not liked.

For no particular reason lets start with dishes. A job that never ends. We have tried to make our own dishwasher soap out of washing powder, citric acid and something else. I tried a couple of Pinterest recipes. I did not care for them.

I have tried to make my own bar dish soap and wash all my dishes by hand. It worked ok. It still was not my favorite. I did learn however, if there was a issue with soap supply, that I can survive, make my own and clean my dishes. I call that a win.

What we have found that works best for us is a product from the company Dropps. These are dishwasher pods that come in an all paper box, and contain dissolving vegetable based pods. They work. They don’t break the bank. Best of all they come to my door. Win all around and I am not doing all the dishes by hand! Lesson learned with these is dont get them wet. The veggie packets will dissolve easier than other pods. Still a win in my book.

Another change that we have made is we no longer buy sponges. I use washcloths and a reusable scrub brush which I already owned. I will be replacing it with a wooden scrub brush when it needs it, but I am not going to throw away something that works.

These are two simple changes we have made in our dish routine. What have you done? I would love to hear from you.

Farm Update

Spring is in full swing and Summer will be here in a couple days. Hard to believe we are so close to the summer solstice. Im not ready for days to start getting shorter, but I am tired.

Our strawberries are producing, not enough for my massive strawberry addiction, they are my favorite, but a local family farm is helping make up for our farms shortcomings. We are freezing and canning away. This year my daughter is helping with the preserving, her knife skills are impressive. She is making her first batch of jam all by herself. Im not sure if her desire to learn homesteading skills has increased or if she is making every excuse possible to avoid going outside with the cicadas.

Oh the cicadas, I don’t mind the sound. I don’t even really mind them. They just make everything look dirty and they dog wont stop eating them! The chickens and ducks love them. Hindsight is 20/20, I should have covered the farm with 100s of birds. The backyard has very few cicadas. Everywhere else they fly in your face, your hair, your clothes. It is no fun. So my daughter has decided to stay inside and make jam. When life gives you cicadas!

We have 9 baby goats with hopefully 5 more on the way. Baby goats are the cutest animal. Add baby piglets and tiny kittens the farm is calendar cute. We might do a photo shoot next year! It is hard to be grumpy when your surrounded by so many things that are just happy to be alive and love you.

The garden is busy. Always lots of work. Im still working on never having weeds. When I figure it out I will let you know, but it is getting easier. We are expanding it to an additional 50×100 foot section. My head spins just thinking of it. Moving compost and mulch one bucket at a time. Who needs a gym membership!

Well, back to work. I pray you all are healthy. God is good and life is precious. I appreciate my animals reminding me of that everyday.

Less Waste Food Storage

This year we have been focusing on our environmental impact and our human impact. We want to live a life that respects God, his creation and other people. It has not been easy. There are so many things that I did not think about when I made this pledge, like underwear. Have you ever tried to find underwear made in the USA from materials that are harvested and grown in a sustainable manner. Not possible. Toothbrushes have also been a challenge. There are so many things that we use everyday and take for granted. Small things like salt, highlighters, shoelaces. How do I source these things locally and sustainably? It has been a challenge. We are still learning to say the least, we have so much room for improvement. What we have learned is that the best thing to do is live without or with less and consume less. We have made several swaps to try and reduce our impact. Today, I am going to focus on food storage in the kitchen.

Food Storage: Plastic, plastic, plastic. It is everywhere. Everything comes wrapped in plastic and then we repackage it in plastic and then store it in plastic. Plastic, plastic, plastic. We have not thrown away all the plastic in the kitchen. Plastic is really useful and if I already have it I am going to use it. We are trying to not buy new plastic. We wash and reuse our plastic zip lock bags. Once there is a hole in it, we will throw it away. I also do not reuse it if I stored meat in it. I also wash any plastic zip type bags I get from the store. Almonds are an example. When I buy almonds, they come in a resealable bag. I wash that bag and reuse it. These bags are stronger than the clear storage bags you can buy and they are “free”. Win, win for me.

https://www.amazon.com/s?k=reuseable+ziplock+backs&i=garden&crid=315XTIPOS1IM0&sprefix=reusea%2Cgarden%2C169&ref=nb_sb_ss_ts-doa-p_1_6

Wax fabric wraps: If we need to cover something instead of using plastic wrap, I use wax fabric wraps. We make these using the bees wax from our hives but you can also buy wax from a local bee keeper or Amazon if you must. Most grocery stores actually sell the fabric wraps ready to use. So next time you need plastic wrap, try a fabric wrap instead.

https://www.amazon.com/Bees-Wrap-15317231-Breadwrap-single-x23/dp/B00GK3QTCE

Butcher paper: We have continued to try and work with our butchers to use paper instead of plastic. It is not always an option, but I will continue to ask. We have found one place that will use paper and we use them when we can. If we butcher ourselves and when we store butter, baked goods, or cheese in the freezer we use butcher paper. I can burn it when I am done or compost it. Zero waste and plastic free.

https://www.amazon.com/White-Freezer-Paper-Roll-1000/dp/B01LXEG58H

Mason / Ball jars: We can a lot of our food. We are blessed to have a healthy supply of canning jars. We use these jars for everything from milk storage, leftovers and salad dressings.

https://www.amazon.com/Ball-Mason-Jars-16-Bundle/dp/B07P981TCR

These are just a couple of swaps that we have made in our kitchen to help decrease our plastic usage and consumption. Are we zero plastic? No! We use and reuse as much as possible. We are still seeking alternatives and I still buy potato chips. We are trying and I am proud of that! What changes have you made that you can share with me? We are all in this together and have a wonderful chance to learn from each other.

The Why

What if I wrote what my heart wanted to write.  The whispers of the tulips, the hum of the honey bee.   Oh the green of spring.  There is no finer a color.  The color of new birth, fresh beginings and purity.  Leaves so tender, if you touch them with your nail they turn dark green like they are almost a state of matter between liquid and a solid.  The fragil leaves that are nursed around the clock.  Water,  light, beautiful dark earth.  All elements we falsly believe that we can control or take part in.  We only can be so lucky as to make up for our interupting it and allow it to continue as it was created to do.  What a blessing we have to be a part of nature at all.  To plant the seed where we choose, to love and feed the animals as they grow.  All gifts. To tend this garden, to feel the earth.  See it breath and live. Watch it move, streaming with life.  

This is the why.  Connected to the earth I feel connected to our creator.  Blessed to witness the intricate details of design.  The more I participate and interact with this creation the more I learn how interwoven all the elements are.  Everything created for a purpose, to do it’s part of the waltz.  The connection, partnership, and tapistry of creation draws me in.  How can I farm the way it was designed?  Using each detail and talent that the Lord has placed in my dominion.  The connections.  Weeds as much of a curse as they are, have a purpose.  Their roots carry the water and nutrition deep into the soil, helping it to heal from years of abuse and stripping.  When I harvest those weeds they feed my goats, who in turn provide nutrition for the soil and milk for my family.  The milk goes on to become yogurt and cheese, the whey is passed to the chickens and the pigs. Each with their own job to do.  

Learning my place in this amazing creation, understanding the world around me and the creator who spoke it into exsistance.  May I be blessed enough to never stop learning.  May the flowers never stop talking to me.  The sounds of the bees humming in my ears.  The sweet smell of tomato plants and rosemary when you brush up against them.  The feel of the black earth on my skin. The taste of honeysuckle when the wind blows.  What joy it all brings.  May I learn how to listen more intently.  Longing to lessen my impact and increase the nuturing of the design. Attempting to find my string of the tapistry. 

Update on consuming less

As I spend my Friday night mindlessly exhaused I stare at my computer, YouTube and Social media have me completely unaware of the moments passing.  There are so many  ads.  Ads for things that I never would have even thought about and for a brief second do I think I need them.  Wow!  I am that easily manipulated.  Wow!  

This year we strived as a family to consume less.  I would say that we are definately consuming less, we still have a long way to go.  We do still buy way more than I want.  We order staples from a store about once a month.  High salt food that I can not replace with food on the farm.  I have a condition where I am always low on sodium and feel like I am the only person in the world that needs a high salt diet.  This horrible high salt diet also causes us to eat out way more than I would like.  I really, honestly would never like to eat out, but I need to figure out a way to maintain a healthy low salt diet for my family consistanting of food raised on our property while having 8000-12000 milligrams of sodium a day myself is really hard to do. 

We have researched the things we do need to buy and have tried to buy made in the USA or used when we can.  Unfortantly, that is not able to happen all the time.  

Our vacuum cleaner broken. Instead of replacing it, we were able to get it repaired.  Our washing machine also broke, I was able to find a used Maytag, (made in the USA and used bonus points).  

We are still not physically going into stores, so used clothes shopping is not easy.  We have had to buy a few items, but for the most part we are using what we already have.  

Imperfect Foods and a local dairy delivery service are great for keeping us out of the grocery stores.  We are eating through the foods we have put away from last summers bounty.  We are very thankful for such a productive year. 

Continuing to vow to do better. 

The Why

What if I wrote what my heart wanted to write.  The whispers of the tulips, the hum of the honey bee.   Oh the green of spring.  There is no finer a color.  The color of new birth, fresh beginings and purity.  Leaves so tender, if you touch them with your nail they turn dark green like they are almost a state of matter between liquid and a solid.  The fragil leaves that are nursed around the clock.  Water,  light, beautiful dark earth.  All elements we falsly believe that we can control or take part in.  We only can be so lucky as to make up for our interupting it and allow it to continue as it was created to do.  What a blessing we have to be a part of nature at all.  To plant the seed where we choose, to love and feed the animals as they grow.  All gifts. To tend this garden, to feel the earth.  See it breath and live. Watch it move, streaming with life.  

This is the why.  Connected to the earth I feel connected to our creator.  Blessed to witness the intricate details of design.  The more I participate and interact with this creation the more I learn how interwoven all the elements are.  Everything created for a purpose, to do it’s part of the waltz.  The connection, partnership, and tapistry of creation draws me in.  How can I farm the way it was designed?  Using each detail and talent that the Lord has placed in my dominion.  The connections.  Weeds as much of a curse as they are, have a purpose.  Their roots carry the water and nutrition deep into the soil, helping it to heal from years of abuse and stripping.  When I harvest those weeds they feed my goats, who in turn provide nutrition for the soil and milk for my family.  The milk goes on to become yogurt and cheese, the whey is passed to the chickens and the pigs. Each with their own job to do.  

Learning my place in this amazing creation, understanding the world around me and the creator who spoke it into exsistance.  May I be blessed enough to never stop learning.  May the flowers never stop talking to me.  The sounds of the bees humming in my ears.  The sweet smell of tomato plants and rosemary when you brush up against them.  The feel of the black earth on my skin. The taste of honeysuckle when the wind blows.  What joy it all brings.  May I learn how to listen more intently.  Longing to lessen my impact and increase the nuturing of the design. Attempting to find my string of the tapistry. 

A Quick Step

I say that Homesteading is like dancing.  The challenge is you do not always get to plan what dance you will be doing.  Today, the Lord blessed us with a quick step.  Things happened rapid fire and we were just responding to them.  Which can be a blessing and God always works things out for our good, sometimes it is just hard to keep your footing!  

One the farm we are having a challenge with foxes.  Today, the fox took our “pet” turkey.  Now, we do not normally have pet turkeys, turkeys are here for a season and then they are frozen.  This turkey had an umbilical hernia when it was younger.  This needed time to heal and she was not able to go to butcher with everyone else.  The problem then compounded itself.  She became 30 pounds.  We did not have a way to disbatch her on the farm and she was too big for the butcher to do.  So we kept her until we had another plan.  Little did we know the fox was the plan.  My husband went out and saw the fox killing her.  So we knew this was a fresh situation.  As sad and horrible as it is.  This meant that we would be able to save some of that 30 pounds of meat!  We were able to save and cook that meat for the dogs.  There was nothing wrong with it. It was perfectly wonderful meat, but I just felt safer giving it to the dogs than to me.  This situation meant that our dance changed.  We had to process this animal right away.  We respected her, loved her and valued the gift God had given us, we did not want to see it go to waste.  

While all this was going, I was in the process of making chapstick, bottling vinegar and rendering lard in the kitchen.  I had to quickly finish what I was doing to make room for this blessing.  Time to turn on the music, put your head down and just dance.  

Making our own chapstick is something that we have started to clean up our lifestyle and use the blessings God has given us.  We use the wax from the bee hive and coconut oil.  That is it.  Clean simple chapstick using the “waste” product of bee keeping.  Part of the homestead is using all that you have been given.  
The vinegar is made from apples.  These are the storage apples that have started to go soft in the apple fridge.  I chop them up, fill a jar with apples, water and a tablespoon of sugar.  Cover with cheese cloth and let science do the work.  This jar sat on the counter for 6 weeks till it reached a pH of 3.  Today was the filtering and bottling day!  It feels good to be able to make vinegar for my family.

 
The dance continues.  This is the dance from a couple of weeks ago that I just never hit publish.  It can be added to the snapshot of this weekend. 

Sunday Snapshot for Jan 24. 

I am horrible at keeping up with the blog, I am sorry for that.  There are so many things that I do as part of the dance that we call life and I dont think of them as extraordinary.  My loving husband reminds me that our life is not ordinary and I need to write about it.  So I am just going to write about our weekend.  A normal weekend!  

We are down to only 6 bars of soap, so it was time to make another two batches.   Our soap is very simple, it is lard, goats milk and lye. We also have a few variations that include lavender oil or tea tree oil.  My family has sensitive skin and we like to keep our skin care simple.  We use this basic soap as hand soap, body soap and shampoo.  I prefer the lavender oil and during the summer when we have poison ivy and bug bites that tea tree oil is amazing.  This weekend we made a batch of with lavender oil and a batch with just goats milk.   We do this every couple of months, when we notice our supply is running low.  Start to finish it maybe takes us about an hour.  The bars of soap have to cure for about 6 weeks after they are made. 

Next, we organized and cleaned out one of our barns/sheds.  We use this building for many things throughout the year.  Right now, we are using it to get our wood splitter and lawn mowers out of the winter weather.  

The afternoon was brisk but the sun felt great.  We took advantage of the sun and split about a half a cord of  firewood. There is going to be a wintery mix of weather headed our direction this week and we wanted to get some firewood on the porch ready to use.  

As we approach the end of January, it is time to start planting for the high tunnel. Lettuces, kale, leeks and celery were started today.  We will be starting seeds now weekly till August.  It just becomes part of our weekly dance.  For the next few months the seeds will be started in the house, but eventually we head out to the high tunnel.  Our bathroom is our temporary winter  grow space, which means that we will not be fostering kittens for a while.  When we foster kittens we use our bathroom as the kitten room. We are sad to not have them, but thankful for the break and ready for the next season of our year. 

In addition to making dinner and planning out the details of our meals for the week, we made the dog’s food for the week.  Our dog has been put on a special diet by the vet.  It is rice, chicken and pumpkin to supplement her store bought dog food.  We buy the rice in bulk but the chicken and pumpkin come from the farm.  We feed the dogs old laying hens, roosters or male ducks.  This helps to keep the flock controled and allows everything to go to use.  Crock pots or the woodstove  make short work of cooking the squash, rice and chicken. We are thankful to reduce the amount of dog food we are buying at the store.  I do not think we will ever produce all our animal feed on the farm, but we are working to supplement not only the dogs food, but the pigs and chickens feed as well.  This year we will be planting a garden just for the animals.  A few seeds, soil and sunshine can save us hundreds of dollars in grain.  

This year we are still working on making as much as we can on the farm.  I have told you how we are replacing store soap with our soap.  Another simple replacement we have made to reduce waste and save money is paper products.  We use cloth napkins, washcloths, and handkerchiefs.  The toilet paper we use is bought in bulk and there is no plastic in the packaging.  Reducing our pastic useage, which is one of our goals. 

These are just things that we do as we go about our day.  The dance always changes as we the needs of the farm change.  I dont always know the steps or the song, but I dance my way through it anyway.  

Life is a Dance, You Learn as You Go. ~John Micheal Montgomery

Happy New Year!

It is a new year and everyone is ready for a big change. Here on the farm we are making a new committment. We are changing things slightly, but mostly we are just taking it to the next level of what we are already doing. The year 2021 has us reflecting on our blessings. We are going to try and function with less, do without, live off the food the farm produces, eat local for what we do not grow and reduce our plastic waste. It may sounds like a crazy commitment, but it all goes hand in hand. If we are working so hard on the farm, we should eat what we are working to grow. If I am really eating what I am growing, I do not have room for from the store processed foods. When I stop buying from the store processed foods, I am reducing my plastic use. If we do need something, we will try to find it used or buy Made in the USA products. If I am a part of a farming community, I should support the farmers around me and buy from them and not far away. As I produce more on the farm, I decrease my carbon footprint. The difficult part for me is going to be the processed foods and giving up Chick-Fil-A. I have added a loop hole for my addictions and my children. We are eating foods that are as local as possible. UTZ potato chip company farms and produces their product locally. My daughter agreed to do this year experiment as long as she could still have potato chips. I am getting coffee that is not grown locally, but grown sustainably and roasted locally. Cheese, even though we produce it on the farm, I have not mastered cheddar. We will be buying cheese from a local farm that makes amazing cheddar. Still reducing our carbon footprint and eating local. We will have to buy some raw ingredients that we do not grow, like baking soda, flour, etc. Also, I still will be buying some of our grain products, like some pasta, bread, crackers and rice.  I am not able to grow those things.  We will try to get that as local as possible as well, the foods we can not get local with come from Imperfect Foods, which is still reducing our carbon footprint. So there you have it. Welcome 2021! I also wanted to clarify, we are not starting with an empty house. Our cellar is full, our pantry is full and we have full freezers. Most of the food is food we have grown and stored. We have dressers full of clothes, my kids rooms are full of toys and books. I am not depriving my kids of joy and forcing them to walk around naked! We have already been blessed with so much stuff! We want to stop buying more and truly use what we have already. So before we started this, I freaked out and wanted to buy a couple things, just in case! I admit, I did buy some cheese curls that I am hiding for emergency emotional snacking in the future. The other thing I freaked out about and wanted to buy was pens. Pens. If I ever wondered if I was truly a writer at heart. Pens. I want you to know I did not panic buy pens. There are thousands probably already in the house. I will just clean out drawers, finding the ones I already have instead of buying more. Cleaning out, using what we have, and not giving in to the fast “click” of Amazon. That is my goal. Part of eating what we have is menu planning. With it being winter and the garden is not producing, we are eating off what we have already stored. This allows me to make my menu for months at a time. I wrote another blog on how I do that here. This is what is in the rotation for this week. Menu planning, and a little prep work can cut down on the need to run out for dinner. I made a big batch of sloppy joes for lunches through the week, when that runs out I will make a pot of soup. Today, I will make banana muffins and oatmeal bars for breakfast throughout the week. This is our menu for the week.  Sunday: Pizza and leftovers Monday: Ham, broccoli and rice. Tuesday is always tacos. Wednesday: Salmon, pad thai noodles, carrots. Thursday: Chicken, sweet potatoes and green beans. Friday: Breakfast for dinner Saturday: Meatball subs with homemade rolls.

Poor piggie

One of our surprise piggies punctured his mouth and split his lip. It is almost like he gave himself a clef palette.  We took him to the vet when we realized how deep the puncture was and that there was internal soft tissue damage.

The vet is amazing! Im grateful that we have a large animal farm vet that has a heart for the animals. She sedated the piggie and sutured his mouth. The puncture went almost into his eye socket. It was very deep. Luckily, he had not developed an infection and we caught it early. Eight sutures later our little Scar Face boy is back together.

This is the number one reason our farm will never be organic. On an organic farm I would have had to kill this piggie or let him suffer. We got him the care he needed. This care includes an antibiotic. An organic farm can not give an animal an antibiotic.

We are back home now and my little Scar Face is not allowed to go back out with Mom for 24 hours. We are allowed to take him to nurse from her in the morning. Tonight he will stay with me, he still has too much of the sedation in his system. He does not like the idea of being away from Mom. So he screams. Non-stop screaming. I force fed him some goats milk by syringe and eventually by bottle. He took some but most drained out his cut mouth. Im praying he is going to be able to nurse! The milk has calmed him down some. He is almost asleep.

I hope, I will be able to transfer him to a dog crate soon so I can get some rest. Caring for this baby reminds me of the poem, So God Made A Farmer.

https://youtu.be/7UBj4Rbq3ZI

It is one of my favorite poems. Enjoy! Farm On and God Bless!