Thursday, January 31, 2013

Today's laugh

Joshua (16months) just brought me his shoes and coat. I think he is ready to go outside. What do you think?

Super Bowls and Milk Cows

Mom's is recovering nicely.

We have run into a slight problem; we did feel the need for a Super Bowl party at my parents home (they are the pastors of our church and only live a mile from the church sight). There are some people we to connect with outside the church and this seems a great oppurtunity.

But the tumor was so deep, mom's recovery isn't as fast as we expected.

This means the music for church, weekly Sunday potluck, AND preparing for the party all fall on me and my family (Dad's a great minister and knows when to delegate. He can't play an instrument and hates to cook, so he has delegated these parts of the church to my mom. She loves both, but doesn't mind delegating down either when necessary.)

The other women will be bringing things for the potluck, so I won't have to do too much except a pan of chicken (and our normal bread and desert) and putting it all together at the last minute.

My daughter, Joy (21), mom and I are the only piano players (well, I might could get my 18yo Jim to do it if I had to, but he never has before and really only knows two songs.) So this week Joy will pick the music and play the piano while I lead (most of the time, mom, who has more than 40 years of experience, plays the piano, I pick the music ahead of time, and Joy leads, but once a month we have been switching it all around to give Joy and I practice on the piano).

Now the party. I'll be making the shopping list with mom later this morning and the girls and I will probably go get the groceries. Unless I decide to have Jim drive Joy and I in Dad's car. Since Jim's driving test is tomorrow (in Dad's car) he might ought to have the practice.

Talked to my nephew 

about off-grid living and farming yesterday. Sure was fun:-) The entire concept has been a hobby for me most of my life. We do have chickens, rabbits and a pathetic orchard and garden. But that is as close as we've been able to come right now. Hubby isn't as interested, so we mostly dream and then enjoy the luxuries of the on-grid life:-D

The first book I would recommend to someone thinking of this hobby/lifestyle is Back to Basics. It is very shallow in its information, but it covers every aspect of homesteading. A reading of it can give you an idea of what areas you want to learn more about and what you really aren't interested in. It also helps to let you know what all you need to think about.

The second book I would recommend is Carla Emery's Encyclopedia of Country Living.
This book cover EVERYTHING! from how to live in a tent in winter with little kids while you build your house to how to butcher a beef calf. She lived this life and records her knowledge in detail, including recipes! Great book:-)

Talking to Daniel kind of makes me miss having a cow. We have decided the next cow we get will be a "real" cow, not a cull from the local dairy. "Real" cows cost three times as much so it will be a while before we can afford one.

Two of us can milk a three-teated cow (I told you they were culls, lol) in 20 minutes by hand. Now, we love spending the time with the cow and would not want to lessen that. The time in the outside fresh air is priceless. However, a "real" cow should produce 2-4 times as much milk. And when you are sick the cow still needs milking. So I also want a milking machine when we get our cow.

I found that processing the milk daily took as much time as milking. This meant filtering (hair, dust, hay, etc. Anything in the air in the milk shed) the milk when it first comes into the house (a large non-disposable coffee filter fits just inside the top of the jugs we were using for milk and was the absolute best method I found. It even worked better than a real milk filter. Of course, we were only dealing with a couple of gallons at a time.)

Home grown milk will begin to smell "milkey" after a couple of days. This is because it doesn't have chemicals added to mask its natural smell. If you have a cow, it's not really a problem. Just give anything more than a day old to the animals and drink the freshest:-)
The jugs we used have a nice big mouth for later cream removal and are easy to wash. Any soup ladle would work great to skim the cream with.
After filtering the milk, we put the new milk in the back of the fridge, take the old milk out and skim off the cream (we had Jerseys. We got a good 1 1/2-2 inches of cream [which equals about a cup per inch] off of every gallon:-) The milk went back in the fridge to be drunk (too thick to drink with the cream in it!) and the cream went into the blender. It took just 5-10 minutes to churn in the blender (faster when room temperature, but I am too distractable to leave it to warm up). It is so fascinating to watch it go from cream to whipped cream to butter! And Jersey cream really is YELLOW when it becomes butter. It is almost orange, it's so yellow.

You scoop the little balls of butter out, press them in a bowl and drain off the milk. Then you wash it in COLD water (hot water melts the butter and just makes a horrid mess). Press out all the water, salt and eat:-)

It wasn't unusual to get a pound a day.

Now this butter doesn't keep as good as the store bought stuff because it hasn't been pasteurized (killed). So if you aren't going to be able to use it in a couple of days, freeze it:-)

We usually gave the milk left from the churning to the dog or chickens, but occasionally I added it to the milk for yogurt or cheese.

Any milk more than a day old got processed into either yogurt or mozzarella. I tried other types of cheese but couldn't get consistent at it.

I have looked at yogurt makers, but my method works best. Bring the milk almost to a boil (180 degrees) to kill the enzymes in it. Cool it off. Divide it into quart jars (I did a gallon [week's worth] at a time). Add a couple of tablespoons of yogurt to each jar. Put the lids on and shake them. Set the jars on a heating pad set on medium and cover with a thick bath towel. Check it every couple of hours. When it tastes and smells sweet-ish and yogurt-y, it's done. It probably won't be as thick as what you buy in the store. (I have a friend who sets her quarts in an ice chest, covers them with hot water and puts the lid on. Her yogurt does taste better than mine, so it's worth a try).

We flavored our yogurt before eating it by adding 1 quart of yogurt and 1 small bag of frozen fruit to a blender. I like just a touch of honey or maple syrup, too, though my little girls prefer it without. I have been known to use a spoonful of Jello per cup, instead.

As far as cheese goes, my favorite recipe was 30 Minute Mozzarella (found here). I actually use the book Home Cheese Making but it's the same recipe.

Now, you can buy home pasteurizers, but here is my article why you don't want to.


Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Thank you all for the prayers. Mom's surgery went fine.

We had a nice time visiting though it did get tedious.

My future sister-in-law cooked supper: chili Verde, red rice, and I threw in a ham. Good stuff:-)

It was so nice to hear my Hubby, dad, uncle and brother telling jokes and visiting over supper. I wish we could have that more often. that's the way it's supposed to be.

Herbs (and other alternatives) vs traditional meds? Hard question. The answer is "Both." Sometimes one is best, sometimes the other. We all need to take responsibility to educate ourselves and choose what is best for each of us at each time.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

My mom's surgery is today.

 All prayers are appreciated.

"There is no great loss without some small gain" - Caroline Ingles, Laura Ingles Wilder's mother.

The good thing about mom's surgery is my brother, his fiance, (from So Ca) and my uncle Jesse (from Kansas) have come to support her. So I expect to have a great time visiting during the surgery and over supper tonight:-)

Toddlers are so strange. This morning while nursing while asleep, Joshua evidently wanted to see how much trouble he could get into at the same time. Grabbing hair, tugging on clothes, squirming, etc. Made it hard to doze.

Hubby was late home due to an accident on the road. I pray for his safety regularly. Thankfully he has never been involved in anything major, but other people's accidents always re-energize my prayers.

Kids are cranky this AM. Sigh.

I have always believed in the incredible importance of HomeMakers. There is NO more important job in the world.

This doesn't mean I'm good at it.

I was not one of those girls born with a feather duster in one hand and a spatula in the other, (though a couple of my daughters were, strange creatures that they are). No, I was born with a horse bridle in one hand and a mucking fork in the other. I would find it much more fun to be out wrestling a steer in the mud than baking a cake.

But my job as Mom and HomeMaker is so important it is worth learning to do and even enjoy.

I am doing better all the time, but I still have a long way to go, unfortunately.

Our recent stay at my mom and dad's (due to a frozen pipe) did tell me it's not all my fault, though. Their house is twice the size of ours and only a few years old. This made all the difference in how hard it was to keep clean. Seems part of my sense of failure in my own home is because it's impossible to make old walls look new. Go figure.

(yeah, yeah, I know I could paint them. but they are old mobile home paneling/wall paper, so this would mean sanding, taping, mudding,  priming then painting, all of which takes money [minor annoyance] and time. I can't run a house in the midst of all that mess and it would take too long to accomplish this to survive without running the house. So it won't be done anytime soon)

Checking out a new grammar program: Analytical Grammar. Anyone know anything about it?

Ok, waste that goes out the door:
  • All foods feed something. Dog gets first choice, then they go to the chickens. Cuts the feed bills and adds entertainment value to the hen's diet.
  • All non-edible compostibles go to the garden (i.e. orange peels)
  • paper with no color dyes can also go to the garden. Does anyone know if the color dyes in newspapers is still toxic? Our local papers use color on every page. Blahhh.
  • I think we will use cardboard boxes to cover the paths between the garden beds this year.
  • Ideally, wood waste would be reused as shelves or animal pens then burned in the fireplace. We don't have a fireplace, so it just sits for now.
  • Metal can be recycled, but it often takes as many resources to recycle as it does to just mine new, so you're not "saving Mother Earth" (a rather pagan idea in the first place) but just reducing the cost of hauling to the dump.
  • Ditto the plastics.
  • Most plastic, all Styrofoam, and colored paper gets hauled to the dump. The more that is produced at home, the less of these there are.
We haul our own garbage off. It's cheaper, and more importantly, the stray dogs can't get into our trash truck like they did the trash can set out by the curb...


We also had a problem with our own dog dumping our cans EVERYDAY.

Tossing it all up in the pickup puts it out of his reach and keeps it away from the strays to boot. A run to the dump once a month takes care of it all and costs half what trash service cost. And going to the dump once a month takes less work than running the cans out to the road once a week. (though I delegate both to children now that I have two adult kids at home.)

Monday, January 28, 2013

Lambs and Waste

Prayer is powerful.

A couple of years ago we had a minister speak for us about prayer. Since then we have all improved our prayer lives and I have been much more faithful with a designated prayer list I pray through every morning (when I don't sleep in too late:-P) This prayer time has been especially focused on the salvation of many, including the entire corridor that runs by our church, and the children of our church members.

Yesterday a man who used to attend our church but hasn't been there for a couple of years came in. He was, of course, welcomed with open arms and has promised to return next week. I hope he does. My Hubby especially enjoyed visiting with him before and has missed his friendship.

This got me to thinking: in the last six months we have had three of these "Little Lost Lambs" come back.
  • The son of one member had a horrible accident and nearly lost his life. This caused him to rededicate to God and he has been in service every Sunday that his health has permitted. 
  • The son of another member moved back into the area and has dedicated to God, attending Sunday AND Wednesday!

I am renewed in my determination to pray regularly, to be sure:-)

In my last post I mentioned ruminating on waste systems. I actually have a running "Dream Farm/Home" in my head. Once in a while I pull a certain system out to figure out the best way to build it (better than counting sheep for sleeping:-D!) 

Let's see, there are two types of waste: what goes out the door and what goes down the drain. What goes down the drain can be divided in two groups: Black and gray.

Black waste is pretty simple. Anything that goes down the toilet is black and should go to the septic system. Period (I am simply not into "humanure.")

Gray is not so simple. Let's see, what goes down the bathroom sinks could be used to water the garden. It's just water, soap (Ivory even) and toothpaste. What goes down the shower and tub is usually just as safe for the garden except for
  • shampoo (I am not giving up my modern shampoo. I have tried old-fashiond methods of cleaning the hair and, well, YUCK. My hair gets dull and matted and limp. And I won't torture my four little girls by trying to brush their long hair attached to tender scalps if it hasn't been washed and conditioned with modern shampoos and conditioners.)
  • Toddlers that pee and poop in the tub.
So do you send that water to the septic or the garden? Sigh, probably the septic, though I hate to see all that good water going to waste.

The kitchen sink only has the problem of the grease that makes it that way. There are enzymes/bacteria that can eat that that won't harm the garden, so that's OK. The soaps should be diluted enough to be OK.

The washing machine needs a valve to divert the water whichever way a certain load needs. You can get biodegradable soaps that will help the garden so most the time the water can be fine for that. I use vinegar instead of fabric softener, which is good for the garden too. (Why vinegar?
  • Hubby is allergic to fabric softener.
  • Fabric Softener works by coating the fibers with wax. This doesn't help towels do their job very well, to say the least!
  •  It is cheap.
  • Soaps are alkaline. vinegar is acidic. The vinegar neutralizes the soap and allows it to rinse out which prevents grayness and static.)
Sometimes, however, people get tummy bugs. The wash from these occasions shouldn't go to the garden. So a valve to divert the wash water to the septic when necessary would be a simple solution.

To be continued.... (It's breakfast time:-)

Saturday, January 26, 2013

frost, pipes and Mammas

With the record breaking cold we discovered a real problem last weekend:

The pipe going from our house to the septic had frozen!

And since you simply can't have 11 people living in a house with no sewer, we moved in with my mom and dad for a few days. Since their house is twice as big as ours and 1/4 as old, this was actually more like a vacation than anything, lol!

I tried to maintain my normal schedule, including introducing our new spelling curriculum as a "soft start" to school and chore zones. It worked great! My mom's house is now clean for her company next week, we actually did less housework, and we had a change of pace for a few days.

Daily visits to our house to care for animals allowed my 18yo son to work on the problem. He had it fixed by Friday morning:-) So we are back home now.

My mom was diagnosed with breast cancer earlier this month. Those we have talked with say that it is the garden variety, boring type, very small, ideal location. So it looks like this is annoying, but not really a big deal. She will have surgery next week followed by six weeks of radiation (no chemo). Then there should never be a recurrence.

My brother and uncle are coming to be with us all for the surgery, so that's good. I always enjoy visiting with both and having both here at the same time is a real treat:-) I hope they both bring their guitars!

All the trouble with the water has got me thinking again about waste systems. Part of the problems we have had over the years is simply 11 people living with a system designed for 4 or 5. If we could reduce the amount going down the drain we would be better off in so many ways. And living in the desert west, water conversation is a way of life. I wouldn't know how to live somewhere where there was plenty of water.

I do have an HE washer, so that helps. but could we somehow filter the water and use it in the garden? Hmmmmm.....

Wednesday, January 09, 2013

Prayer request

I come to you, my readers (all three of you), to ask for prayer for my mother.  She just received the diagnosis of breast cancer. She is 69 years old and we should have her around for a lot longer. Please keep us in your prayers as we decide on treatments and our course of action.

Monday, January 07, 2013

Goals for 2013

I reread "the 7 habits of highly affective people" This last couple of weeks. That and being the New Year and making plans for the next year and all, I made a list of all my "roles" in life (wife, mom, daughter, etc). It dawned on me that I have a role I have never really taken on but should; that of family historian. Now I need to figure out how to do that.

I know I have been neglecting this blog lately. Been trying to decide what directions I want to go. I have very limited time and several other writing projects.

How do you all decide such things? What roles do you have? Has any ever snuck up on you like historian did on me?

Thursday, January 03, 2013

Who really values women?

India’s national shame: disposable girls

So much for abortion protecting women. India and China are actively KILLING their women before they can even take their first breath. How anyone can say this is good for women is beyond me. And how anyone can expect anything else when abortion is available for any reason is also beyond me. Every society will value one sex over the other. So if abortion is always available on demand one or the other will be disposed of merely for having the wrong type of chromosome.

The saddest thing is, it's not these women who are really choosing abortion. It's their parents, husbands and government. It's actually not much different here. Those who have worked in the industry say at least half of American abortions are preformed against the woman's wishes but because the dad or her parents insist.

Nigeria: Where an ageing population is not a problem
On the other hand, Nigeria truly gets it: Babies do not cause poverty.

Let me repeat, Babies do NOT NOT NOT cause poverty!!!

Politicians DO!!!

Proverbs 28:14 "A large population is a king's glory, but without subjects a prince is ruined."
 The Western world will some day regret our anti-baby attitude.

Abortion's hard-case exceptions
The Bible says that rape should be punished with the death penalty, for the MAN, not the baby as we do here in America.

Our attitude comes from seeing babies as punishments instead of blessings.

If we saw babies as blessings (as Nigeria does) we would think a woman pregnant from rape blessed by God, compensated for her pain.

If we really valued women we would treat true rape the same as violent murder.

(Just a note, though, half of all "rapes" are an under-aged girl voluntarily having sex with her adult boyfriend. A large number of the remaining rapes are committed by the woman's boyfriend or husband who she has had consensual sex with. Is the baby conceived in rape or the night before in consensual sex?)