Thursday, December 2, 2010

Life-changing Events...

It's been about one month since my last post.  Life has been very busy, unpredictable, and rather unusual. 

This is my painting for this year's Christmas card...

Strangely enough, I've found a couple of spare moments and began to doodle this Christmas tree watercolor.  Until life irons itself out a bit, I leave you all with best wishes, a merry Christmas, and a small cliff-hanger....

Y-Not Homestead... where you are.....?

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Those Darn Cows!

Yesterday morning my son comes in first thing in the morning to inform me that the cows found a way into the garden and ate the last two cabbages.  Well, I'm not a morning person, and news such as this, on top of that....let's just say all I could do was nod and say okay.  I'm not too worried about the cabbages, really.  It's the fact that the cows got in!  Like other ruminants, they eat anything!

They are not dainty creatures.  They do not exude decorum.  They're more like bulldozers.  These midnight marauders trampled right over my chicken wire trampling the plants while chomping into anything that their noses drifted over, including my garlic!  Now, not much bothers garlic but that didn't seem to phase the beasts.  Not when you regularly see cows out in the chaparral with cactus stickers covering their entire faces!

Of course, the flowers were almost finished, but it would have been nice to enjoy the last few cosmos that WERE blooming!  To add insult to injury they left their deposits everywhere, as you can see at the bottom of the picture.

And more here... They didn't even bother the tomatoes!  What gives?

I'm not too keen about their manure because it's full of weed seeds.

It could have been worse!  They could have spread their destruction throughout a thriving garden!


Tuesday, November 2, 2010

A Little of This A Little of That

Since the weather is teasing us with warm days, it's prompted a mix of activities.  On top of which, we are house and cat sitting for a neighbor.  And as neighbors go they are about 14 miles of dirt road from where we are at home!  How's that for a 'neighbor?!' 

Not only is it dirt road, as all our roads are, but there are some pretty hilly, rough and rocky sections that make it hard for road maintenance.  So, maintenance usually doesn't happen.  It's a really good thing having 4 wheel drive!  But here, it's all in a day's work.  You just accept it as normal.

While driving to my neighbor's house, I took a picture of this scene.  It's only a portion of my 'backyard.'  It's our very own mini-grand canyon!  Only a couple of the ranchers out here know the only real (best) way to cross this canyon.

You just can't beat this southwestern-style vista!

On the way home, my steely-eyed six year old saw these foraging javelina out in a clearing.

Back home, I dug up the old zinnias saving most of the seed-heads.

Then I planted garlic in the raised bed.  We'll see what happens.

One of my other little projects has involved the herbs I'd hung to dry.

While separating the herbs from their dry stems, the aroma was delightfully strong and pungent!  Maybe that's what I'll do for little Christmas gifts, homemade herbal sachets...

Hopefully the weather will hold out for awhile, this has been nice compared to last year!

Friday, October 22, 2010

Fall Garden

After a beautiful, gentle rain, I had to get outside.  I went out to visit the garden and couldn't believe my eyes.  It was actually quite beautiful.  There can be no argument, Autumn is a beautiful season.

Come take a look...

The air is fresh and crisp...

Doesn't this make you want to slow down and take a deep refreshing breath?
Go ahead, I know you want to...
Maybe you need to, just like I have been needing long deep breaths myself.
Oops, made myself yawn... :0D

By this time I'm feeling refreshed and inspired.  I remember last year.  This time last year was cold and the garden was long since retired.  But this year, these cosmos flowers have only now come into their own.

I couldn't help but rescue this tomato from off the vine because I knew the forecast called for more rain.  This could mean frosty temps, so I didn't want it left out in the cold!

It's almost hard to believe the garden is retiring...

These flowers look so ethereal.

There's something so idyllic about this view... so pretty.

Well, the garden is retiring.  Here's the proof.

At least there's enough seed for next year!
  Seeds for more ideas, and more plants!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Pursuing a Myth?

 Just when I was feeling really despondent, my sister comes through like no one else can!  She sent me an email containing an article called, "What Makes Us Tick? The Ten Desires That Drive Us" by Hugh Mackay.

It starts out explaining that sadness is as natural and no less valid than happiness.  As a society we expect to be happy most of the time and that we view it as if it is a tangible goal and that it is a 'natural' state to be in all the time.  In reality we would not know happiness if it weren't for it's opposite, sadness.  To feel ALL emotions at varying times is to experience the full spectrum of being human.  "There is no sovereign emotion," states the article.

"Mackay maintains that the fleeting moments of bliss and joy only make sense because they represent a contrast to the experience of pain, trauma, or sadness or even with those times when we feel trapped by routine."

He goes on to say, "Ancient wisdom suggests that the pursuit of personal happiness is counter-productive.  The more you seek it, the less likely you are to find it.  Asking, 'how can I become happier?' is a classic sign that we have missed the point.  He suggests that, 'how can I become more useful?' might be more appropriate."

He does not cite any particular source of ancient wisdom, but my favorite source is the Bible!  This is what the Bible is all about, relationship.  It's not a religion, it's a way of life.  It's how we can better serve God through our service to one another!  It says that is how true happiness is found.  That is, true contentedness and fulfillment.

"Given the turbulent times, Mackay asks are we exacerbating the problem by putting too much emphasis on 'positive outcomes' and not enough on the process of living courageously, kindly, or even nobly?"

The article continues, "Mackay hopes that happiness is beyond people's control.  Happiness is not something that can be summoned at will.  If ancient wisdom teaches anything, it is that the deepest forms of happiness - satisfaction, contentment, peace of mind - have almost nothing to do with pleasure and do not come to those who desire and pursue them.

"For Mackay, the test of a 'life well lived', lies in the quality of personal relationships and the care we devote to them.  Everything else is peripheral, and mostly trivial.

"He believes that personal relationships are the test-bed of sensitivity, moral courage and capacity for love.  These are, he says, not only the source of life's richest meanings, but - as people struggle to establish them, nurture them, and sometimes forsake them - they teach that notions like happiness or sadness are mere accidents of our fluctuating emotional state.  These are, Mackay maintains, incidental to the great realization that it is in loving we are made whole."

 1 Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal.
 2 And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.
 3 And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing.
 4 Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up;
 5 does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil;
 6 does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth;
 7 bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
 8 Love never fails...  
13 And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

1 Corinthians 13:1-8, 13 (NKJV)

Like the mythological unicorn, happiness cannot be captured, controlled or maintained like a possession.  But we can have something even better and more fulfilling simply by treating others as we would love to be treated (Luke 6:31).  When do we feel our happiest and most fulfilled?  Of course it's when we serve others out of love and concern for them!  And isn't it true that no one cares how much we know, or how good we are at something?  What they WILL remember is how we made them FEEL!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Low-Fat Pumpkin Muffins

I made these wonderful pumpkin muffins from scratch!  Most of my baking is from scratch.  We live 60 miles from town with at least 17 miles of irregularly maintained dirt road.  This  means we can't just pick something up at the store on a whim.  It helps to plan a menu to help make sure I have the ingredients I will be needing.  This also means I try to keep my menu simple and versatile.  Baking is an effective way to accomplish that.

I used to be of the opinion that if it involved using the oven, then it was, well, involving.  Now I am of the belief that it has saved me time, energy, and money.  Muffins are now an integral part of our meals, especially breakfast.  Living so far from a town or grocery store makes the time it takes to make these a practicality.  Take these Pumpkin Muffins for example.  While doing school work with the kids, I also cut up and steamed two of our garden grown Pie Pumpkins.  In only took about 15-20 minutes to steam them until they fell off the skin.  Since we are right there on the dinning room table doing school, I can easily use the same time slot to do this steaming, separating, and pureeing.  The pumpkin puree then goes into the fridge.

The next morning I pull out the puree and prepare these muffins.  Here's the recipe:

  • 1 3/4 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1/4 cup wheat germ
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 3 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
    (or 1/2 tsp each of cloves & nutmeg and 1/4 tsp each of allspice and ginger) 
  • 1/3 cup pecan pieces

  • 2 large egg whites or 1 large whole egg
  • 1 cup fresh pureed cooked pumpkin
  • 1 cup rolled oats
  • 3/4 cup skim milk
  • 1/2 cup dark corn syrup
      Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Spread out the pecans on a cookie sheet and toast for about 5-8 minutes.  Lightly grease muffin tin.  Increase oven temperature to 400 degrees.
     In a large bowl, mix first 7 (dry) ingredients together including toasted pecans.  In a small bowl, mix together last 5 ingredients.

Add the liquid ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir just until moistened.  Spoon into muffin cups and bake 20 - 25 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in the center of a muffin comes out clean.  Cool 1 minute and then serve!

These are delicious warm with a little butter or margarine!!!  Add a cup of green tea and an egg and you've got breakfast!

This recipe was modified from it's original which is found in this indispensable little book....

Her recipe is called Pumpkin Bran Muffins.  I've had this little book for over 10 years, and over time have learned her tricks and I've learned to modify them according to the ingredients I have on-hand.

By the way... Those two pie pumpkins I used to make the puree was enough to make two from-scratch pumpkin pies and 3 batches of pumpkin muffins!

That was just over 9 cups total of pumpkin puree out of two medium sized pie pumpkins!  Wow!

Honestly, I think we are spoiled!

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Soup's On!

Money can be really tight sometimes.  Seems to be more so than it used to be.  So, like most households, I am looking for ways to cut the food budget.  For two weeks we had to make due with the most basic of essentials, such as ingredients for bread and a pot of beans and rice.  Not kidding.  This is the cheapest way to eat.  And when you have no money, it's comforting to know it's also very healthy.  No frankfurters and beans, nope, those franks are too expensive and they have questionable ingredients!

A pot of beans isn't anything worth mentioning, especially when I couldn't put my favorites in the pot; onions and garlic.  We didn't even have any margarine to put in the bowl of beans.  But, it was healthy!  Add a slice of homemade wheat or rye bread, and we were fed.  This hasn't been the first time we've had to be ultra thrifty in our meals.  It's a budget-imposed fast so to speak.

So maybe you can imagine my joy and thankfulness when we got a little money and I could go buy some more basics!

I had some fresh clean beef from our rancher thawing in the refrigerator.  Now that I could get some vegetables I was able to make a soup!  Beef and Vegetable Barley Soup.  Yum.  This is comfort food.  Nothing like clean unadulterated beef.  Good stuff!

The magic of soup is that you can make it last while filling stomachs, especially hungry growing tummies.  It's healthy, filling, and relatively cheap too.  This batch of soup for example was made in a 3.5 quart soup pot.  The beef was a trade for labor.  With the cost to make this soup divided by the number of servings, it came out to about $0.47 per serving.  Not bad for a family of five!  Not bad at all when you consider the healthy nourishment we all get.  Obviously eating out, fast food or otherwise can't begin to compete with this value.

Knowing what vegies I use the most of, and knowing which ones I can grow, would obviously reduce the cost even further!  This is my goal for next year!

This was the second soup I made this week, Pasta and Bean Soup.  It had no meat in it, so I added brown rice in order to make the protein that comes from the combination of beans and rice.  I never was a lover of beans until I learned to make pintos to my liking.  Then after trying this recipe (and modifying it for the protein) I fell in love with these little white navy beans!  I love that it only takes about 2 hours to cook them compared to about 8 hours for pintos!  I really liked the clean light flavor of these navy beans.  I will be using them a lot more often!  This soup was cheaper than the Beef and Barley above.  With about the same number of servings it came out to be $0.40 per serving!  It was delicious too!

These two soups fed us for a few dinners and a couple of lunches too.  Approximately 32 servings came out to be $13.68 which averaged out to about $0.43 per meal, per person, for one whole week!  I love my job!

I am really looking forward to growing those vegies I use the most of; tomatoes, onions, garlic, and carrots.  If I could grow celery, I would.  I haven't used potatoes much for years, but I'm coming back to them for the sake of filling my boys' tummies up.  So, I shall be attempting to grow potatoes next year as well.

Can I get the cost of soup down to something like $0.10 per serving?  Sounds like a delicious challenge!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Homeschooling Soap-Box

Yesterday became a source of affirmation for me.  A close friend, actually, my adopted Dad, the kids and I went to a park in the closest town near us.  The kids were able to play on the play set and swings while Dad and I caught up on life stories.  While the kids played and we talked, here comes a couple of older boys.  They were too old for a play ground.  Turns out they were examples of being poorly prepared for the world.  They used foul language and were disrespectful.  An old school teacher was there watching her own child and at the same time was enduring their foul behavior.  She finally left and so did they.

My kids told me what they saw and how those boys were treating the grown up, telling her to be quiet (not exactly the words they used), along with their foul language.  It was a golden opportunity.  It was a chance to use what they witnessed to flesh-out what I've been teaching them all along.  It was a real life example of how someone feels around that sort of inappropriate behavior, how those boys are affecting themselves, and what sort of life and opportunities they thought those boys might have available to them once they grew up.  It was a thing of beauty listening to my boys' responses!

Then, as chance would have it, Ralph came home that night with his own example of children unfortunate enough not to be homeschooled, or at least unfortunate enough to have a civil experience of public school and its buses.  One lady Ralph knows told him of her friend who is a public school teacher who teaches first grade.  This teacher came to her in tears because her hands are completely tied.  What she has endured in a first grade class is foul language and foul behavior, including chairs being thrown at her.  The school won't do a thing to back her up or even protect her.  First grade!  It seems so ludicrous I can hardly believe it.

Her second example was her own experience on her son's school bus.  Her son had a hat stolen from him while on the bus.  No one would return it.  She got on the school bus herself and asked the crowd of kids who has the hat?  No one answered of course, and the bus driver was not engaging the situation.  What is so amazing is that the bus driver told her she was bullying the kids!!!  She confronted the bus driver twice as he was persisting in telling her she was acting inappropriately.  She finally said that she was going home to call the police and that tomorrow morning they will be at the school asking everyone what they knew of the stolen hat and who took it.  Immediately the hat was thrown up in the air and landed by one little boy who brought it up to her.

My point for relaying this undesirable information is that it affirms what so many home-schoolers are thankful for, which is the right of parents to educate their children in safety.  In my humble opinion, no child deserves growing up in such commonly hostile environments while trying to

a.) grow up
b.) learn to believe in themselves

Apparently there is a rash of bullying which has culminated in suicides.  Is it any wonder?  My first and foremost question is this - "Where are the parents in all this?"  It is ultimately the parents who must demand unwavering standards in civility, accountability, and judiciousness, not only in children but in the administrators all the way down to the bus driver.  Then the administrators and teachers wouldn't be afraid of keeping their jobs if they were backed up by standards expected from parents and society.  If we want or need someone to blame and expect to change the tide, we must look to ourselves as parents and as members of society.  Everything we see is a reflection of what we as a society accepts, endorses, or rejects.

Home-schoolers are on the front lines taking a stand against such violence and incivility.  It is a colder, crueler world than it was in pre-WWII; again, my opinion.  Ever since then, honor, a hand shake, a man's name, are no longer valuable.  Instead intolerance is the name of the game under the guise of 'tolerance.'  This is the world our homeschooled children will face.  They will be the ones to change it if anyone can.  I hope we don't wait that long.

We do not live a typical life.  Who does anyway?  Nothing worth having comes for free.  It comes from hard dedicated work shedding blood, sweat, and lots of tears.  No one will give us a civil society unless we make it that way.  The 'lowly' family is the source of good or evil in our society.  The family determines what sort of nation we will be today and tomorrow!  We get what we work for, or else we reap something worse than nothing, since indifference multiplies all our ills.

I believe in the hope of my kids and all other homeschoolers!  I also believe in the hope of the kids whose parents do engage, teach and discipline their children despite their attendance of public schools.  They are all providing the leadership of tomorrow.  They are going to be the next source of any hope for peace, civility, and freedom.

Responsibility to your parents, to your children, to your God.  This really binds us together in a way that nothing else does.  If you accept freedom, you've got to have principles about the responsibility.  You can't do this without a biblical foundation.

Margaret Thatcher

Tuesday, October 12, 2010


There is hardly a dull moment around here.  Just when you think you've gained some semblance of sanity, nature steps in to remind you that you haven't got it all figured out!

Case in point...
Dogs and cats living together....!
Oh, wait, that's already happening...!

But here's one you may not have expected...

The kittens saw the chickens feverishly pecking around and decided they wanted to see what all the fuss was about.  Discovering the free hand-out they decided they wanted their fair share of the chicken feed...
They hunkered down on top of the chicken feed, wouldn't move, and ate what they weren't sitting on, saving the rest for later, I guess.
I suspect with the colder weather, that the mice are becoming harder to find.

As Ralph took these pictures, he thought it was a great example of what 'goes down' on the homestead.  Last year the goats would run over every morning after we fed the chickens and devour their feed before the hens had a chance to barely eat any.

So, the hens, having nothing left to eat, and seeing the cats eating their own food, they would dart in and out from the cats getting their fair share of cat-kibble.  And yes, that's a piece of grass in the kitten's mouth above!

It would seem then that we have come full circle here on our humble little homestead.

Dogs and cats eating each other's food.
Goats eating chicken feed.
Chickens eating cat food.
And now, cats eating chicken food!

What next?

I'm not sure I really want an answer to that....

Thursday, October 7, 2010

First Storm of the Season

This has been an interesting past few days!  As we began school Monday morning, we were already hearing thunder rumbling through the mountains.

Once I got the kids doing some independent school work, I took some pictures of the incoming clouds.

This one is right next to our solar array, looking straight up.  I thought it was beautiful.

I come back into the house and find the boys snacking while Weston finishes up his independent work.

We brought in a few more Americana eggs before the storm starts.

The clouds start looking really serious now and it becomes difficult to stay focused on class.  The wind shakes the house as it drives the rain against the doors and windows.

It finally passes after a few minutes and I think it's all over for the day...

...but, wasn't over.  And it wasn't over until very late Tuesday.  It rained all night, the wind blew hard and temps went way down.

Tuesday wasn't much different except that we didn't see the sunrise!  It was foggy!  Not too unusual for being just over 5,000 feet in elevation.

Again, it was not easy focusing on class work.  The weather was just as wild as Monday's.  We had to mop up water that had blown in through the small spaces by the door.  We even lit a fire for the first time this season.  It was cold!  We must have fared well since I understand somewhere in Phoenix they had a tornado!?!  Bad winds anyway!

To keep things fun and interesting in class, we played 'sight word bingo.'  Cody, my sweet little four year old boy wanted to play too.  So I set him up with his own bingo card and chips.  He was finding almost every one of the sight words all by himself!  He loved it!  He won twice too!!!

I was able to get out Wednesday to take care of a neighbor's place.

I wanted to post on Monday and Tuesday, but the storm brought too much lightning too close to us.  Then on Wednesday the internet was too wacky to accomplish anything.  Looks like it's finally worked itself out.  It looks like Autumn has come with quite an introduction.  Still hoping for a milder winter this year.....