it’s been a while

We’ve had a lot going on here at the homestead over the last couple of weeks — a huge mix of good and not so good and fun and not so fun.  It’s been the not so good and not so fun that have kept me from doing any writing.  Even now, I still don’t feel quite up to it, but I know that if I don’t, I probably never will, so here goes. 

As you know about six weeks ago, we were contacted by the woman from whom we bought our goats.  One of her goats had been diagnosed with scrapie, a contagious neurological disease found in goats and sheep.  It is extremely rare — in fact, hers was the first case in a goat in Arizona history.  A few days after that, we were contacted by the USDA letting us know that they were rounding up all the goats that had come from that herd or had had contact with that herd over the last five years.  Boo.  Our goats were tagged and without any other real options, we turned ownership of our goats over the to federal government (although they continued to be housed on our property at our expense).  A few weeks later, the Arizona Department of Agriculture paid us a visit and place this lovely quarantine sign on our gate.  Little did we know that problems it would cause. 

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Scrapie is not transmittable to humans nor any animals other than goats and sheep.  Sadly we had a neighbor, many houses away, who felt the need to call the city rather than to talk to us directly.  It did not go well, but it is what it is.  On a positive note, the man from the city who came and spoke with us was very nice and while our conversation was not always pleasant, we parted cordially both expressing our desires that we never meet again. 

The next day, the state came and picked up the goats.  I had talked to the boys the day before reminding them that our goats were going to be leaving.  Thomas responded with, “It’s going to be hard, but I’m going to handle it.”  Handle it he did.  I was the one standing in the middle of the road holding back the tears. 

And so, that part of our story comes to a close, and soon a new story will begin.  I hope this next story has a slightly happier ending.

Speaking of happy, our sweet rabbit Joy popped some babies last week.  She’s a little stingy with her babies, only five this time, but they are big, and getting bigger every day.

ImageHopefully, Eve will deliver sometime this week — fingers crossed. 

On the garden front, we were so excited to harvest our sweet potatoes we could hardly contain ourselves.  They had practically taken over a quarter of our garden. 

Here’s what we got —

ImageSad, huh.  Greg has sworn we will never grow sweet potatoes again.  Bummer.  Oh well, the goats and chickens were happy.

ImageHere’s the garden today, minus the sweet potatoes. 

ImageWe added three more rows of corn, two rows of lettuce (we’re big salad eaters around here), tomatoes, peppers, beets, zucchini, carrots, swiss chard and green onions.  The beans and peas will go in this coming weekend along with some medicinal herbs.  Let the praying begin.

On the homeschooling front, we keep moving right along.  I made some changes with Muffa’s reading program, and I’m really looking forward to implementing it over the next few weeks.  Thomas is becoming quite the speller.  He’s read for years, but couldn’t spell the word cat if his life depended on it.  He can spell cat and many other words now, no problem. 

Science continues to be the favorite subject around here.  We’ve moved onto studying the planets.  After reading about Venus, we did a little hands on activity to reinforce what we learned about atmospheres using a towel, a hair dryer and an ice cube.

ImageI cannot say enough good things about our science curriculum, God’s Design for Science.  Love, love, love it. 

We headed back to the Arizona Natural History Museum this past week and did a little panning for gold.  I’m happy to report, we’re officially rich.  Well, not really, but it was fun just the same.

ImageImageImageOn the family front, we’ve enjoyed football games, birthdays (Hailey hit 12 and I made it to 29 again) and just being together.  I think that’s about it. 

don’t you just love pancakes (part 1)

Seriously, they are so yummy.  I don’t think I know anyone that doesn’t like them.  This is actually going to be a two part post.  It may seem backwards, but I’m going to start with what goes on top first because that’s just the way it worked out this time due to my lack of planning.  I know, it’s a familiar song.  Anyway, syrup, mmm, syrup.

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We like our sweets around here and syrup is no exception.  Syrup however gets a little tricky for us.  While we like our sweets, we also like to be as natural as possible.  As much as I would like to use only pure maple syrup, it’s simply not going to happen because of its cost.  Although, if you can swing it, I highly recommend it.  Man is it good.  A sweet friend brought some back from Ohio for us and wow.  Anyway, after looking at the ingredients on the fakey stuff in the store, I knew I could come up with something better.

Turns out, making syrup is super easy, and now, it’s the only way to go for us.

Homemade Pancake Syrup

1 cup water

2 cups organic sugar

1 tsp maple flavoring (again, this in not ideal, but it’s still better than the high fructose corn syrup laden stuff you get in the store)

Bring water to a boil.  Add sugar and turn down heat.  Using a wisk, stir until sugar completely dissolves.  Patience, my friend, patience.  If you are using white sugar it goes pretty fast, but with unrefined organic sugar, expect to stir for at least a few minutes.  Add flavoring and stir again until mixed.  Grab your pancakes and pour away.

Super easy.  The fun part of making your own syrup is that you can change the flavor.  Don’t want to go with anything imitation — add pure vanilla or almond extract.  Yesterday, I had this awesome idea to try and make apple pie syrup.  (It’s the bottle in the middle, vanilla is on the left, and maple is on the right).  It’s tastes great on my finger, if it tastes as good on pancakes, I’ll share the recipe.

Enjoy.

love one another

I’ve had quite a few experiences this week that have led me to ponder over the phrase “love one another” as taught by the Savior (John 15:12)

 Thomas was asked to give a talk in church on showing our love for God through serving others.  He talked about how his brother, Hayden, always helps other players up after they get tackled on the football field — even those who aren’t on his team.  He spoke of his sister, Hailey, playing catch with him when he got tired of watching the football team.  And he remembered the stranger that stopped to help us get Greg’s father into our car after the game (it was no easy task).  

Monday, Thomas asked me who I was going to cheer for in the big race.  (Hailey, Thomas, and Hunter are planning a big race and the two little ones have been practicing for a week).  I replied, “All of you.” 

“But Mom,” he said “you can only cheer for one.” 

Not liking where this was going I responded, “I guess none of you.”

Thomas wouldn’t let it drop, “Mom you HAVE to cheer for someone.” 

Before I could even think of what to say, Thomas looked at me and said, “Why don’t you cheer for Hunter, he’s the youngest and the slowest.”

Yesterday was my birthday.  It was a great day.  My sweet husband goes to work pretty early.  He got up even earlier than he usually does so that he could take care of the animals for me.  My day was filled with cards and phone calls, visits and emails, and homemade bread and flowers.  I was truly touched by them all.  What a blessing it is to be surrounded by people that love me. 

All of these things illustrate the point made so beautifully by King Benjamin when he said, “And behold, I tell you these things that ye may learn wisdom; that ye may learn that when ye are in the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your God” (Mosiah 2:17).

I know that it is hard to see the love in the world right now when we are bombarded with news of man’s inhumanity toward man.  (I couldn’t watch the video, reading was enough for me.)  But there is love, lots of it, and love is what we need to hold on to if we are going to make it.

 

foaming hand soap

ImageThis post is really for my sister Sarah, but you can keep reading if you want to.  Long, long ago when I didn’t really care about funky chemicals in my personal care products and being frugal was a hobby rather than a way of life, I used to buy smelly soaps.  Oh how I looked forward to Bath and Body Works annual sale.  You know the one — the one with the little duckie.  I would stock up on foaming smelly soaps.  I still like my smelly soaps, but things have changed just a bit.  Now, I make my own, well sort of.

ImageAll you need is an empty foaming soap container.  I have a bunch floating around the house — this one happens to be from Young Living.  If you don’t have one, you can always find them online or just buy one pre-filled and use it up.  Actually, that’s not all you need, you also need liquid soap.  Woops.  I like Dr. Woods castile soap.  I think it’s a knock off of Dr. Bronners.  I love it.  It has great reviews and it’s way cheaper — make sure you check out Vitacost.  They have really good prices. 

My favorite right now is peppermint.  Every time I wash my hands, I feel like I’ve just stepped out of a peppermint candy shower.  Check out the ingredients — water, coconut, hemp, and olive oils, organic shea butter, vitamin e, peppermint oil, sea salt, citric acid, and rosemary extract.  I know what all the ingredients are and can actually pronounce them.

So here’s all you do — put water in your bottle.  I usually eye it so that I can have a 4 parts water to 1 part soap ratio (that’s just what I like, you can play around with more or less).  Add your soap.  Screw the top back on.  Shake.  Seriously, that’s it.  I can’t believe people (including the old me) pay $5 bucks for this stuff.  Holy cow.  Just remember water first, then soap.  Happy hand washing.

our week — 9 september 2013

Have you ever had one of those really good weeks — nothing big — but you just look back and go wow, what a nice week.  That was our week last week, at least for me.  We were super busy, we still had the goat thing hanging over our heads, and the rabbits were not responding at all to our don’t poop near your food training, but it was just a really good week.  The last month or so I have gotten way too caught up in the day to day grind and have failed to truly appreciate how wonderful life really is.   Somehow I forgot that happiness is not a matter of circumstance.  It is a matter of choice.  Anyway, enough with my philosophical blathering. 

ImageI’m not sure if you can tell from the picture or not, but it’s been raining here all morning.  In many parts of the country, that’s nothing to shout about but here in Arizona, it’s huge — a whole morning of rain.  It’s been wonderful.  It’s even brought in some cooler temperatures, but it’s humid as all get out, and just a little too sticky to be outside enjoying watching the rain from the porch. 

We skipped field trips this week and decided to focus on getting caught up with school.  (We’re almost there — how did we get behind so quickly, oh well).  Science continues to be the favorite subject.  We learned about asteroids, meteors, and comets this week.  We even made some comet models using a styrofoam ball, glue, and glitter.  It doesn’t take much to get a four and five year old excited.  Seriously, I think this was the highlight of their week.

ImageSpeaking of highlights — Hailey was able to attend her first Young Women’s activity.  She doesn’t turn 12 until later this month, but all the girls who will be turning twelve this year were invited to attend.  She was thrilled.  Hayden had another game this weekend in which he ran in two touchdowns helping Heritage win 40-14.  And Taryn, Tayrn was asked to homecoming. 

Where I grew up, if a guy wanted to ask you to homecoming, he just walked up to you and said, “You want to go to homecoming with me?”  Not here — here it’s a big deal with all kinds of fanfare.  Taryn spent all day collecting moustaches from various and sundry people at school and performing all kinds of tricks before finally being asked.  Here’s a picture of the poster that started the whole thing and one of Thomas modeling the moustaches.

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Of course, a simple yes would never suffice so here’s her response which will be posted today on the school’s main bulletin board. 

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See, wasn’t that a great week.  I hope yours was nice as well.

a little snack for the road

I was trying to think of something snappy to call regular old trail mix for the title of this post, but I’m pretty sure I failed.  It’s cub scout day though, so you’ll have to forgive me.  Not a lot of spare time around here today to come up with creative titles.  Yes, I could plan a little better, but that’s another lesson for another post. 

ImageAnyway, back to trail mix.  My kids love peanuts are raisins, but I wanted them to branch out and add some other healthy snacks to their list or what they will eat — seeds to be specific.  So one day I made a batch of trail mix.  It was met with mixed reviews.  The peanuts and raisins were gone as were the chocolate chips I added, but many of the seeds were left behind.  Over time, less and less was left over, and now pretty much everything is eaten except for the occasional almond. 

The thing I love most about trail mix is that there is no set recipe.  I can throw in whatever I have on hand.  Here are my most common elements — peanuts, almonds, raisins, dried cranberries, dried blueberries, dried mango (cut up in small pieces), pumpkin seeds, raw sunflower seeds, unsweetened dried coconut (the really big flakes), and semi-sweet chocolate chips.  Yesterday I tossed in some white chocolate chips just for ducks, and it turned out to be a really fun addition.  Truth be told, I go pretty light on the chocolate — just enough to make it feel like a treat. 

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I don’t really have a set amount for everything.  I tend to go heavier on the peanuts and raisins because as I said the kids like them (and they’re way cheaper), but whatever floats your boat works.  I’d love some ideas as to what you would add.  Happy trails.

our week — 3 sep 2013

September is here, and fall has unofficially arrived — well, in some parts of the country.  Here is the desert, we are still hot as hot can be.  The forecast calls for 90s next week, I don’t believe it though.  I’m not sure it will ever cool off.  Anyway.  Life on the homestead keeps moving along.  We spent much of last week figuring out what to do with our goat situation.  We drove a bazillion miles, perused a ton of websites, and looked at oh so many goats.  I have to admit, it was a little easier before we knew what we were doing.  I’m hoping to have things wrapped up by the end of the week.  It’s a weird place to be — excited about our new prospects while at the same time so sad with the reality of our current circumstance. 

Since we’re talking homestead, remember those pumpkin plants we were so proud of?  Here they are this morning.

ImageWe’re pretty sure we over watered them.  Now, their nothing more than a compost pile.  So sad.  I guess our pumpkin/apple cider stand will have to wait until next year.

ImageOne good thing did come from pulling up the dead pumpkin, a boatload of marigolds were revealed.  Thomas, Muf and Greg harvested seeds from our marigolds in the spring and scattered them all over the garden.  They have finally popped up just in time for fall planting.  They’ll add a lovely bit of color in a couple of weeks.

ImageStill no babies for Eve.  Greg is hopeful, but I think it’s a case of pseudocyesis, false pregnancy.  You see, there’s always been a love triangle between Adam, Eve and Joy.  Looking back, we probably should have named them Jacob, Rachel and Leah.  Joy is our Leah.  I think Eve was jealous of the attention Joy was getting with her babies so she made up her own pregnancy, but perhaps I’m reading more into it than I should.

Surprise, surprise we are behind in homeschooling, but that didn’t stop us from taking a trip to the Arizona Science Center to see the Sesame Street Human Body Exhibit.   It’s definitely geared to toddlers and preschoolers.   Although Thomas enjoyed some of it as well.

ImageImageImageImageHere’s my review for what it’s worth, just in case it comes to a science center near you.  If your kids really, really love Sesame Street — do it.  If not, don’t go out of your way to catch it. 

On the family front, we had our second weekly mandatory game night.  Highly recommend that one.  We played Uno.  Everyone played by themselves even Thomas and Muf.  Thomas was simply giddy that he won the very first time he played.

Speaking of games, Hayden had his first football game of the year.  The pregame show included a beautiful rainbow.  Well, it was beautiful in person, you’ll have to trust me.

ImageHayden is starting quarterback on the varsity team.  Heritage has taken state for the last three years, but this year, they have a very young team.  For many of the players this is their first time ever playing football, and it was a tough first.  The team they played was really good — they trounced the last team they played.  Although Heritage lost, it was a respectable loss and the boys played well.  In the end, I think everyone was pleased with their performance including Hayden. 

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I think that’s about it.  I hope your last week was as enjoyable as ours.