Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Oh What a Beautiful Morning

I just had to snap a picture this morning in the semi-darkness.
Unfortunately, my picture doesn't do God's beauty justice.  But you'll just have to take my word for it.  Beautiful!  I love how you can see the glow of the sun ready to make an appearance over the mountain.  The moon was just sticking out through the trees, and wow! 

The sky was clear and all the stars were shining.  Of course with no cloud cover it was also freezing.  But my spirits were quickly warmed at this sight. 

It can be hard dragging myself out of bed to go do chores in the morning.  But I sure get to experience some amazing sights that the Lord made.  I'm sure thankful for that! Sights like this make waking up a little easier.  

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Sausage Gravy Casserole

Let's set the scene a little before we begin, shall we?

Saturday.  About 11:45.  In the kitchen.  Making lunch.  Decided on sausage gravy over noodles with buttery sliced carrots on the side.  Yum!  The sausage is browning.  The water is boiling.  The carrots are peeled and sliced.  I'm looking forward to eating. The kids and Bryan are watching some TV, enjoying some relaxed time together...

Ready?  Action!

Bryan: "Honey, are you going to eat lunch before you leave?"

Me: "Where am I going?"

Bryan: "Isn't your dog class this afternoon?"

Me: "Oh yes...thanks!  We will be eating first.. just give me a minute"

--- the current rate, the lunch I was prepping was going to be done at 12:15.  We had to leave at 12:30.  That wouldn't work! I'd be late to puppy kindergarten.  Didn't want that!

Time to improvise.  I do that a lot in the kitchen.

I grabbed some tortillas, mayo and lunch meat from the fridge and Ellie helped me assemble wraps for lunch.  Once I get all the kids going with their lunch, I return to the kitchen.  My sausage gravy is getting close to done.  The carrots are finally tender.  And my noodles are ready to drain. 

Not wanting to waste anything, I used my few remaining minutes to drain the noodles.  I added a little extra chicken broth to my gravy.  And I mixed them together in a greased 9X13 pan.  Hmm...noodles and meat in a pan.  That makes...Dinner!

Looking at the carrots, I was inspired further.  I stirred them in and realized with satisfaction that I had a complete meal sitting here.  I threw foil on top of my makeshift casserole, and got it in the fridge until later in the day.

Good thing my wonderful husband fixed the stove for me while I was gone!

Dinner prep was simple that night.  Turn oven on.  Put pan in oven.  Set timer.  Wait.

And my experiment?  It was sure tasty!  And filling.  And the carrots made a great addition!

I love it when things work out like that.

If you'd like to make a batch, first mix up some sausage gravy.

Sausage Gravy

1 pound pork sausage
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup flour
2 cups chicken broth
2 cups milk
Salt, pepper and garlic powder to taste

Brown your meat in a large frying pan until cooked over medium heat.  Stir the flour into your hot browned meat.  Add the butter and sizzle it all around, cooking about two minutes to get rid of the flour taste.

Slowly add broth while stirring to get rid of flour lumps.  Add milk.  Stir some more.  Let cook over medium until thick, stirring fairly frequently to avoid scorching.

Meanwhile, boil enough water to cook a pound of whole wheat egg noodles.  And peel 2 pounds of carrots and slice into coins.

Put your carrots in a pan with a lid, about 1/4 cup of water, and 2 T butter.  Cook over medium heat until just fork tender.

Cook your noodles al dente and drain.  Put noodles in a 9X3 dish.  Quickly stir sausage gravy into them.  Add drained carrots and stir.  Bake at 350 for 30 minutes.

Hope you enjoy as much as we did! 

Monday, February 24, 2014

Living the Crazy Life Without Going Crazy

Life is crazy!  I've definitely uttered those words on more than one occasion.  With so much on our plate, it kind of feels like a three-ring circus around here at times.  But, between homeschooling, church, farm chores and responsibilities, doctor appointments, and shopping, life must happen.  And I want to make sure that life is a good one.  With memories for my kids.  And them not having regrets about their crazy mom who made life miserable!

So how do we survive the crazy life without going crazy?  Here are five simple things that have been key for me.  If you have others, I'd love to hear them, so please share!

1.  Spend time with the Lord

Even if it's just singing hymns and praying while milking the cow in the wee hours of the morning.  Or a few Bible verses printed out and hung above the sink you can focus on while washing dishes.  Or a whispered prayer for patience as you discover that the two year old found a marker.  And practiced making lovely circles and lines on the floor of her bedroom. 

My point here is that time with the Lord does not need to be scheduled. It doesn't need to involve all kinds of apps and books and study tools.  You can go to the Lord throughout the day.   Your heart needs to be pointing towards Him all day long.  And that can happen even when life is crazy.  And probably should happen more during those seasons. 

2.  Don't overbook

Just say no.  It's a two letter word that brings much freedom.  No.  Say it with me now.  NO! 

Skip the family function.  Stay home from the monthly Bible study.  Don't  feel pressured to join in on every homeschooling group that meets in your area. 

Those three things can all be good things.  But if they are the tipping point for your mental stability, and the health of your family, they are not worth it.  Period.  Don't drag your family off in every direction if you don't have to.  It's better to skip something than to be totally stressed over it. 

We've said no to what others would consider important.  No--Owen no longer goes to therapy.  Driving all over the countryside to see an OT, a PT and a speech therapist just wasn't worth it.  We did it for many years.  I wish I would have learned to say no sooner!

We also ditched a couple of specialists. The geneticist for example.  We're supposed to be seeing her annually still.  But you know what?  She didn't really do anything for us or Owen once she made the diagnosis.  So we said no a few years back. 

Embrace the items on your plate.  Let go of what you can.  And learn to say no.  There will likely be a season in life when you can say yes again.  But until then...use those two letters. 

3.  Keep life simple where you can

Gourmet meals?  Nope--they don't happen.   Beautifully ironed pillowcase?  Nope--won't find those here!  Wonderfully planned out intricate homeschool lessons that take hours and hours to complete?  Again, nope. 

I make it a point to simplify life where possible.  Life is crazy enough on its own without me going and creating more crazy.  Simple meals.  Simple cleaning.  Simple schooling.  It's good enough. 

4.  Embrace the moments more

Some days we just stop.  And purpose to enjoy each other.  We stay in jammies all day.  We eat popcorn for lunch and veg with a movie for quiet time.  We do the essential chores and let everything else go.  It'll all be waiting for me tomorrow--I promise you that much! 

But my kids?  They are growing.  They won't always be here longing for me to play tractors.  They won't always want to sit and snuggle up together with a movie.

Jayme is already 12.  The years with kids in the house are fleeting.  Enjoy every moment that you can. 

Spend time together whenever possible.  Have helpers in the kitchen.  Clean together.   These little moments add up to a lifetime of memories.  

Don't be in such a rush to get everything done that you miss the people you are supposed to be doing it with. Don't live life on auto-pilot, mindlessly moving from one task to another on your never ending to do list.   

5. Add some humor

Take time to laugh.  Laugh with your spouse.  Laugh with your kids.  Enjoy the work that you are doing.  Race to feed the chickens.  See who can blow the biggest bubble with the soap you're washing dishes with. It might add a step or two to your tasks, but it'll make your spirit lighter.  And sometimes a light spirit and a good laugh is all that stands between me and the loony bin. 

Just remember...sometimes you can't take away the crazy. So learn to embrace it.  I sure wouldn't trade my crazy life.  I love it! 

Who knows...maybe that just proves that I am crazy!

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Pic Round Up #8

I'm really starting to enjoy capturing life's little moments with my iPhone.  I used to wait until I had picture perfect moments to snap the shot, and as you can imagine...that didn't happen too often. 

Here's the weekly round up.  This is the first week where I've taken time to bring the pics into Photoshop before posting to practice my editing skills. I mainly cropped, but I tried a few filters.  Photoshop has sure changed a lot between CS2 that we used to have and the new Creative Cloud version...lots of learning to do eventually!

Sunday 2/16

Jeffrey moving hay for Samurai.  He's learned how many flakes each animal or group of animals get, and it provides great real world counting practice! 

Monday 2/17

The kids are bound and determined to make me a better builder with Legos.  It was picked for family playtime yet again.  This time I got smart.  I used my cell phone to find directions online.  Much easier for me! I made the house and the boat.  Jayme made the little creature out front. 

Tuesday 2/18

Reclaiming water Grouse Creek Farm style!  The rain was just pouring down that day.  Careful placing of a couple of five gallon buckets quickly captured all the water I needed for afternoon chore time.
Wednesday 2/19

Food pictures.  I enjoy looking at these online, but have discovered I don't enjoy taking them.  Hence the reason that my food posts don't contain the gorgeous pics that so many other blogs feature.  Oh well! I still enjoy eating the food.  And that counts for a whole lot more!

Thursday 2/20

Oops! I forgot to make yogurt on Wednesday.  Didn't have enough for everyone for Thursday breakfast.  Since the chickens think it's spring and are finally laying well again, I surprised the kids with berry vanilla egg pudding for breakfast.  They didn't complain about missing the yogurt!

Friday 2/21

We tried making homemade gummies for the first time ever!  It was great fun.  And WAY easier than I thought it'd be with our cool silicone baking trays.  The kids loved them.  I'll post the process one of these days!

Saturday 2/22

Ah...the ever dwindling firewood supply.  The extreme cold weeks we experienced this year led to hotter fires or more wood used. We've kept it going continually--I think we've only had to build four fires since December--otherwise it's been burning. We think we have enough to finish out the season.  But just in case...

It's a good thing Bryan is going out to deck some wood today.  When the snow melts and it's warmer out, the kids and I will join him.  Until then, I'm very thankful to have a husband who takes care of it!

And another week is all wrapped up! 

Friday, February 21, 2014

Eating Books

 Since I'm learning how important catchy titles are for my posts, I thought I'd try this one out for size.  It's a battle we fight daily in our house.  Owen wants to eat books.

Pica stinks.  It's really taken over parts of our lives, and none of the many doctors Owen sees have any brilliant solutions. We're just stuck fighting the battle.  And too often, the Pica wins.  

Owen devours books.  Literally.  If someone leaves a book down, he rips it and begins eating.  He can get half a page in his mouth in seconds.  It's swallowed just as quickly.

We've tried several types of discipline, to no avail.  Owen just seems to be unable to control this urge.  It's the weirdest thing I've ever seen. 

Board books used to be safe.  They were too thick for him to rip.  But now he's almost eight and super strong.  Board books are no longer Owen proof. 

We're praying for this situation, and for now the answer seems to be to keep books away from Owen. And Owen away from books. Which I hate. But I hate it even more when we forget.  And a favorite book gets destroyed in seconds. 

Even our daily kid's devotion book isn't safe...I think it made it a week past Christmas when we got it.

No matter how hard we try to watch Owen, he continually proves that he is quick.  And smart.  If I hold him on my lap while reading a story, he cuddles for a second, and then quick as a wink flashes an arm out to grab a page.  Books don't stand a chance against our little he man. 

Do you know how hard it is to create a literacy environment when you can't leave a basket of books down for the kids to explore?  When you can't even read a story to the family without having to ensure that one member is either in the other room, being held by someone not reading, or strapped down in a booster seat or his wheelchair?  Talk about taking the spontaneity out of reading.  

I think of all the problems that Angelman Syndrome has introduced to our family, this is the one I struggle with the most.  I have a reading endorsement.  I have a masters in elementary reading and literacy.  And I can't leave a basket of books down for my kids to look at.  I can't stop what I'm doing and randomly read a book without ensuring that Owen is ready. 

We have an entire upstairs hallway full of great books.  A wonderful selection of books with a matching tape or CD. Books that I'd love for the kids to have unlimited access to.  But for now, they mostly stay upstairs.  Since Owen doesn't have access to the upstairs unless he is right with me, the kids can read books up there.  

But it's not the same.  We don't really go upstairs much during the day, except for chores and quiet time.  We live downstairs.  And books and downstairs can't go together now.

I've dabbled in creating talking books using PowerPoint.  Scanning in pages of books, adding audio of me reading them, and even adding the BoardMaker symbols for some words.  But it's not the same.  Interacting with a computer is not the same as interacting with a book.  Even if it's a book on the computer.   And they are definitely time consuming to create.

No...for now, it is definitely a struggle.  A war between Owen and books.  A challenge for me to teach Jeff and Ellie to read while having to be so careful about reading material.  And I don't have the answer.  Yet.

I have faith that the Lord will provide a solution someday.  Maybe the Pica will be treatable in the future.  Maybe Owen will outgrow his love for the taste of books.  Maybe I'll be able to add enough books to the iPad to go with the books I read so Owen will be able to keep his hands busy with that.

I'm not sure what the solution will be.  I just know that the Lord will provide help.  Even if its just helping me deal with my internal struggles. Helping me to get over the hate I feel for Pica.  Helping me to not be so attached to books. 

Until then, we'll just keep fighting.  Just keep the books away from Owen.  And provide literacy in other ways.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Fast Five Ingredient Dinners: Crockpot Edition! Creamy Chicken Taco Casserole

While waiting on the bake element to arrive for our oven, the crockpot has been a huge help!  Last night's South of the Border dinner was a hit.  I was planning on making chicken tacos of some kind.  I knew I wanted them to be creamy.  And cheesy.  So I threw some ingredients together and put them in the crockpot in the morning.

It took about fifteen minutes to get everything in place, and that included time to grate the cheese. 

I left the crock in the fridge until about 1:30, and then placed the crock in the pot and turned it on.  I let it cook on high until it was time to eat about four hours later.  Next time I'll do low--it was a little overcooked.  But it sure was tasty!  And only used five ingredients.

My total hands on time was about sixteen minutes.  It takes a minute to turn on the crock after all! 

Ready to mix up some Creamy Chicken Taco Casserole?

You'll need:

2 cups of cooked chicken (I used leftovers from a chicken I cooked in the crockpot earlier in the week)
12 flour tortillas
2 cups sour cream
Taco seasoning to taste (my kids don't like much spice, so we used about 2 tsp..)
1 1/2  cups grated cheddar cheese

Begin ripping your tortillas in half.  I used three halves for each layer, and made a four layer casserole.

Mix your sour cream and taco seasoning together in a small bowl.  

Line the bottom of your crock with tortillas halves.  Sprinkle about 1/2 cup of cooked chicken on top.

Smear with about 1/2 cup of taco sour cream.

Sprinkle about 1/4 cup of cheese over the top.

Layer it up!

Repeat three more times.  Except add extra cheese on the top.  Yum!

Bake on low for 4 hours.  Or high for 2.  But don't do high for 4.  Trust me!

Cook up some peas (Ellie's favorite veggie!) to go on the side if you'd like. 

I love quick dinners!   And my family liked this one.

This post is linked up to Raising Arrows!

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Utilizing Swagbucks: What Works For Me

I've been noticing the word Swagbucks around lately.  Until a few months ago, I had no idea what it meant.  Bloggers kept talking about buying things with Swagbucks.  It sounded complicated, and I don't have time for complicated.

So I ignored Swagbucks.  Until I came across this review one day, and realized that it wasn't really complicated. Or at least it didn't have to be!

I still thought it was probably a scam, but decided to give it a try.  I cautiously signed up, expecting lots of spam to follow. But it didn't. And I started using their search engine a few times a day.  I answered their daily polls.  I took part in a survey or two. And I slowly started earning Swagbucks.

Earning things for something you do anyway (searching?) That is pretty neat!  After a month or two, I earned enough Swagbucks (450) to redeem for a $5 Amazon gift card. This was my goal.  Earn something and see if it really worked.

I was impressed! A few days later I received email notification that my purchase was complete and was able to access the gift card code.   I used this the next time I bought something at Amazon, and it worked perfectly.  How exciting!

I've now earned three gift cards, and will continue using this website.  There are features I don't use (like the games and the TV part) because of our limited internet.  I'd waste too many precious bytes on those activities.  However, if you have unlimited internet like most of the country, it sounds like you can quickly earn even more Swagbucks that way.

My final bit of good news with this website?  I earned enough points for a $5 gift card in a single day.  By using the links from the Swagbucks website to shop.  I needed to buy somethings online.  I used Walgreens and Walmart.  By going through the Swagbucks link (instead of just going directly to the sites), I paid the same amount for the items I was going to buy anyways.  But, I was rewarded 2 points per dollar at Walgreens and 4 points per dollar at Walmart.  It added up to 481 points, and enough for $5 at Amazon!

I had problems with the toolbar, so I don't have it installed. Our anti-virus program kept calling it spyware, so I didn't feel comfortable installing it.  If you do install it, you get a point everyday you use it. Many bloggers out there are using it, and I may look into it again in the future when I have some more time to research it.

 I don't fret about doing the poll everyday or anything. I'm definitely a very casual Swagbucks user.  But, I've earned $15 in Amazon money for doing activities I do anyways.  That's awesome!  If you haven't signed up yet, check it out. If you use my referral link, that'd be awesome!  Then I get to earn Swagbucks along with you. 

It does take some time for the rewards to get posted to your account.  My online shopping points won't actually be credited officially to my account for 30 days or so (depending on the vendor).  But they are pending so I can see them there. I'm looking forward to saving $5 off my next Amazon order! The polls and surveys and video watching seem to post right away.

Have you used Swagbucks before?  Any good tips for utilizing it?

Thanksgiving List 2/19

What an awesome God we serve!  So many blessings are given to us each and everyday, and I'm trying to make it a point to focus on more of them.  It's too easy to get caught up in the woe me game, but that is not right. 

Here are some of the things I'm thankful for no particular order:

1.  My Husband

He's great!  I love how many skills he has.  Our washer was broken (again) on Monday.  Bryan came home and fixed it. The door lock mechanism was broken.  Instead of just ordering the part and waiting a week for it to arrive, he tore the part open and was able to fix it.  So cool!

2.  A working washer

One of the machines I take for granted on a daily basis.  I don't have to go down to the creek to wash clothes folks!  Talk about a blessing.  And my washer holds a lot of laundry!  Thanks so much Dad for giving that to us!!!

3. Homeschooling

I love being the one to see that look in my kids' eyes when they figure something out.  It's such a blessing to live in a country where we have the ability to do this still.  Jeffrey is figuring out this reading business, and helping him sound out words and just seeing the joy he has when he knows he read something.  Wow!  That's about all I can say! 

Even though I never thought teaching middle school would be my forte, I have to admit that I'm really enjoying having Jayme in sixth grade.  She's learning so much, and is able to have some pretty involved conversations about what she's learning. I love the connections she makes between subjects. 

Having Owen home has allowed me to ensure he's being exposed to literacy and math.  He's listening to the ABC song with us, drawing on his iPad, and just being involved in every way possible.  Where he can't speak, I can't imagine just sending him away for the majority of his day and having no real idea what is happening. 

4.  Potty Training

Between Sydney, Owen and the puppy...let's just say it's been a potty filled month.  But...Owen is now wearing underwear most of the time.  I still have him in a diaper at night--but he's stayed dry the last two!  We've even ventured out of the house a few times in underwear.  I'm impressed! 

5.  Our Puppy

Cinders LOVES the snow!

Cinders is getting big!  He's just over 20 pounds now at 11 weeks.  He's getting used to life at the farm, and we're getting used to life with a dog.  He loves playing fetch, and I have lots of good throwers to keep him busy.  No wonder he's sleeping through the night already!

6.  A night of sleep

Owen slept through the night last night!  It's the second time in about a week, and it is refreshing!  I'm still getting up once with Simon, but he goes back to sleep easily, so I don't really count that as disturbing my sleep.  (Weird as that sounds....when you're used to being up for at least an hour in the middle of the night, waking up long enough to walk downstairs and hook a nursing baby up doesn't seem bad at all!) 

7.  Hay

Our cows and bull and sheep need to eat.  We were blessed with an amazing deal of $3.50 a bale for 20 bales. It came out to be just a few bales short of a ton, so a great price on local hay. My step-dad helped me get it yesterday.  (Or I should say, he loaded it and unloaded it...I didn't help too much...)Yeah for hay! 

8.  The Crockpot

The bake element went out in our oven.  Bryan was able to take it out, and we got one ordered.  Sometime this week the new piece will arrive, and we'll have our oven back.  Until then, I'm super thankful for the crockpot!  Hot meals with no oven.  And they get to cook all day, making dinner super simple!

What things are you thankful for this week?

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Weekly Pic Round Up #7

It's Saturday!  Before we head down to our first day of puppy kindergarten (sans Cinders since he won't have two sets of puppy shots until Monday...) I wanted to take a few minutes to share my pics from this past week.

Sunday, January 9

Jayme, Jeffrey and Ellie took time for sledding before heading back into town for evening church.  They had never been on this hill before, but my dad said it was one he used to sled on when he was younger, so they have been waiting for enough snow to try it out. They had a blast!

Monday, January 10

Snow meet school!  Jeffrey is learning to use a ruler and was proud to show off his new skills.  2 inches of new snow fell Monday.

Tuesday, January 11

An updated picture of our bull.  He's a good looking one, and is settling into life at Grouse Creek.

Wednesday, January 12

Good thing you don't need power to play Legos and take pictures! Jayme is hard at work on her castle. 

Thursday, January 13

With our last few kids, we have waited until six month to start any foods besides breast milk. Simon reached this age on February 9th, and enjoyed his first bites of applesauce today.  We don't buy Gerbers, so this is just the jarred organic applesauce from Costco that we all eat.    

Friday, January 14

This picture was proceeded by the following warnings...Sydney, stay out of the puddle.  Sydney get off the ice. Sydney you're going to get wet.  Then there was a big crack and a scream.

She found out the hard way that Mommy's warnings are usually for a good reason.  We'll call it a good dose of natural consequence!

I snapped the picture and then scooped her out. 

Saturday, January 15

The same puddle as above.  It had refrozen over, and Jeffrey and Ellie decided to ice skate.  Ellie got scared and Jeffrey played the role of the loving big brother and rescued first Ellie's baby doll and then Ellie from the ice.  It was sweet!

That wraps up another week!

Friday, February 14, 2014

Life Without Power

At 8:53 Wednesday morning, our power went out.  That was unexpected for sure!  All during our freezing cold weather and bad rain and wind storm, I kept thinking we'd be without electricity.  But it stayed on.  Until Wednesday morning.  A beautiful sunny morning with blue skies. Not a day for power going out.

But alas, my thoughts on the matter weren't going to bring the lights back.  So I had to make a choice.  I could complain and grumble and bring the spirits of everyone in the house down.  Or I could put on a cheery face and choose to make it a good day.  Just a moment of internal debate was needed. 

I needed a good day.  The kids needed a good day.  And you know what?  You definitely don't need electricity for that.

Owen had been in the tub a few minutes, and I knew that the water it held would be essential for flushing purposes.  I got him out and dried and dressed.  And then I sent Jeffrey to the barn for a 5 gallon bucket.  Jeffrey, Ellie and Sydney helped me use cups to empty the tub into the bucket. 

We discussed what we should do.  I excused the kids from school, since most of Jayme's is on the computer.  We decided art would be fun.  I ran up the stairs and found a book.  Tigress. Tigers would be fun to draw.

I pulled out some paper, black paper strips, glue, and chalk pastels.  We sat at the table, read the story and created art. 

I thought the kids would make tigers.  Nope..Ellie and Jeffrey both decided the dead bullock in the story would make better art.  This is Ellie's.  There was was no blood in the story, but she knows that dead things need blood. 

Jeffrey's dead bullock. 

Jayme's tiger.

My tiger.

Sydney loved coloring with the chalk pastels as well.  Since Owen eats paper, I had him coloring on the iPad.  He had a good time as well!

After art, it was time for lunch.  Thankfully it was Ellie's day and her lunch is cheese, crackers and meat. No cooking required!

Ellie picked Legos for her game.  We sat at the table (yeah for lots of windows!) and built for an hour.  Jeffrey and Jayme worked together on a castle.  Ellie and I were supposed to make a battering ram. Sydney alternated between sitting on the table and going in Owen's room to play MegaBlocks with him.

 Let's just say the castle turned out better.  When we battled, the ram lost almost immediately.  Legos might not be my strong suit, but it was fun! 

The power was supposed to be back on at 12:30.  Around 10 I got a call that it was moved to 2:30.  We moved into quiet time thinking power would be back up before it was over.  Nope!  Another call moved the estimation back to 6:30. 

After everyone got up, I made a big batch of popcorn on the woodstove.  We have a flat cook surface on ours, and I'm very thankful for it! The popcorn was delicious. I did chores early since I needed day light.

Dinner plans were just starting to be made when it happened.  The power came back.  The kids yelled with joy.  And we made dinner and went to church like normal.  A typical day.  But a little special because we experienced life without power. 

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Our Driveway...The River!

I started a load of laundry on Tuesday afternoon, when I heard something strange. Our washer started beeping and flashed an error code.  Not knowing what it meant, I Googled it.  Low water.  Now that was strange!  We had water.  Didn't we?

A quick turn of the faucet revealed that no...we did not have water.  Just a drizzle was coming out.  Thankful that my husband could take my call at work, I dialed his number quickly.  He suggested going down to the pump house and resetting first the pump and then the holding tank.  I hung up and headed out.  Except I never made it to the pumphouse.

As soon as I stepped outside, I heard it.  Gushing water.  Not just a trickle.  A flood.  And then I saw it...

The pipe on the front of our barn had burst.  And we were quickly turning our compacted snow driveway into a flowing river.  A river that would freeze that night and become ice.  Yikes! 

Here's a close up.  You can see two spigots where water is supposed to come out.  And one big gushing hole in the middle where it's not!

I called Bryan back, and he arranged to leave work early.  He asked me to go shut off the water supply at the pump and to see if my step-dad Steve could come look at it and let him know the size of the pipe so a stop could be made for supplies. 

A phone call to Steve was put in, and thankfully he was already on his way home from work for the day.  He shut off the water, and decided that leaving water off for too long was a bad idea.  (My parent's house and our house share a well, so flipping the pump off left the whole farm without water...)

Steve took Jeffrey and ran to the local store after cutting off the pipe.  Once they got back, the pipe was fixed pretty quickly.  Jeffrey enjoyed learning about pipe glue.  It's in pretty colors!

Just as they were finishing up, Bryan got home, and he was able to jump right on the tractor and plow the whole flooded mess out of the way.  Our driveway looked so much better when he was finished! 

I'm so thankful that the broken pipe was fixed easily.  That was a definite blessing. As practice in continuing to be more thankful and complain less in my life, here are some good things about the broken pipe.

 It happened when the stores were opened.  It happened when Bryan could get away from work.  It happened when Steve was able to quickly work on it.  And our driveway got plowed.  Which was needed. 

In fact, Bryan and I had just been talking the day before about plowing, because the weather was supposed to turn to rain on Wednesday.  But, he didn't want to take time off from work just to plow since we didn't have a ton of snow.  We prayed that the Lord would give him wisdom about this situation.  And He did!  Bryan came home early to deal with a broken water pipe.  And was able to plow.  Before it rained. 

And after our pipe got fixed, I was able to wash up that load of laundry. 

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Week 6 Pic Round Up

A cold week!  Temperatures were below zero again, and life seems to take a slower pace as we focus on staying warm.  We have the kids sleep downstairs, closer to the woodstove heat.  We keep the fire burning hot, and make hot chocolate to warm us up each morning. 

We stay close, and just enjoy time together.  Here are some pictures from the week...

Sunday, February 2nd
Samurai escaped!  He jumped over the walls of the pen he was sharing with Ninja.  Since the gate was frozen shut, he'll be in his own pen until it warms up a bit!  He isn't too happy with that arrangement though, and bawled quite a bit more this week. 

Monday, February 3rd

The only picture I have from this day is too dark to share...oops!  Will have to remember to turn on the flash if there isn't enough light around.

Tuesday, February 4th

Grandma and Grandpa got Jeffrey a bathrobe for Christmas.  Ellie really loved it, and they surprised her with one of her own.  She was super excited, and loved modeling it for the camera.

Wednesday, February 5th

Our little baby boy is getting big!  He can crawl backwards now, but hasn't quite figured out how to go forward.  He loves to be on his belly moving now! Hard to believe he'll be six months tomorrow!

Thursday, February 6th

We painted this day.  The kids had a great time experimenting with sponges and a variety of brushes.  Owen even made a few strokes before he decided to rip his paper up and try to eat it.  Sydney was very detail oriented.  Jayme painted a pony and a cat.  Jeffrey and Ellie covered their paper with every possible color, and then used the different brushes to create pattern strokes. 

Friday, February 7th

Made dehydrated liver treats for Cinders.  He loves them! (And is learning to sit and come!)
Saturday, February 8th

Sydney found a pair of toy binoculars in the toy box.  She loved looking through them! 

That wraps up another week!

Our First Major Farm Purchase!

Ellie woke up this morning ready to go.  She's accompanying Daddy and Grandpa on a trip to Republic in the truck to pick up a beautiful red Dexter bull.  It's the first major purchase for the farm that we found and bought, and we're all excited!

This is a yearling bull, a lovely red color.  Dexter bulls are supposed to be some of the tamest there are, so we'll see.  He'll be penned separately until June, and then let out with the two milk cows and our remaining heifer.

If he's fairly tame, we'll probably keep him around at least one more year.  If he's not...well, the freezer will be ready for him come the end of summer. I'm anxious to taste Dexter meat.  It's supposed to be really good. 

A picture from the Craigslist ad...

I love that Dexters are so small.  I know this guy is only a year, and he'll grow more, but they are just so much more manageable for me than huge Holsteins or something. 

Having our own bull will help my milking plan quite a bit.  I want to breed in June so we have March calves.  Then I will milk twice a day into June, breed them back, and then once a day until December.  Not having to milk in the coldest three months of the years will be a huge blessing!

Preparing for the trip was a bit of work.  Bryan worked hard to get the livestock racks up on our truck. They haven't been on this particular vehicle before, so he had to drill some new holes.  I was out helping, and was a little surprised when he asked me for some nail polish. I wasn't sure what that was for, but I brought him out a lovely purple bottle. 

He dipped the brush into the polish, and then through the hole on the racks onto the bed of the truck.  By scooting the racks a bit to one side, he was able to drill in exactly the right spot.  I thought it was a neat solution; one I definitely hadn't heard of before.

Getting the bolt into the newly drilled hole...
 I'm so thankful that Bryan is able to work overtime right now.  It's frustrating at times to have him gone for so long, but being able to buy a bull was amazing. We saw the ad on Craigslist, realized what a good price he was, and just knew we could make it work without worrying about the financials.  Bryan is such a hard worker!

Now we just need a name for a red bull.  Any suggestions?  If we happen to get a red heifer ever, she'll be named Pippi! One of our cows (all black) would have to carry the recessive red gene for that to happen.  I'm hoping they do!


Thursday, February 6, 2014

5 "Staples" I Don't Buy Anymore

Over the past two years, our pantry has certainly changed a bit.  I've learned about the importance of whole foods, and been slowly weaning us off of processed stuff.  We are still definitely a work in progress, but the Lord has been great at bringing resources and blog posts to me at just the right time.

Here are five simple changes we made.  Five processed things I used to buy that I no longer do. Also included are the things I replaced them with--that was the really important part for me to learn about.

1.  Chicken Bouillon Cubes

I used to use these all the time! Do you know how much junk is in these?  Buying the high quality ones weren't really in the budget, so I needed another solution.

I learned how to make flavorful chicken broth from the chicken carcass.  Now I have chicken broth in the fridge or freezer, and use that.  It's way better for us and cheaper (since I'm using the bones on the chickens we raise).  Storage isn't as convenient, but we have the freezer space, so it works out. 

In a week, I typically use the crock-pot to cook a chicken.  Since I use water with this method, I get an initial batch of broth.  Then, I strip the meat off the bones, add water and some seasoning, and let it go all night in the crock-pot.  I usually get a half-gallon.  I strain the broth, put it in a jar in the fridge to cool, and repeat the process.  This time, I add a small splash of Apple Cider Vinegar to the bone/water/seasoning mix.  It cooks all day, and I usually just set the crock in the fridge to cool.  That's another 1/2 gallon.  One chicken.  At least one gallon of stock.  Pretty amazing!

This website has some great information about bone broth. When I have it simmering all night, I love to pour a fresh mug of it in the morning.  Add a bit of salt and garlic powder, and it's a tasty way to start a cold winter day!  Just the nourishment my body needs to get going on chores.

2.  Cream Soups

I used to always have these on hand.  Typically cream of mushroom, though celery and chicken were in my pantry occasionally.  Now I make my own.  I don't store the finished soup in my pantry though.  It stays in the fridge.  It's super easy to make.  Check out more details in this post of mine.  

3.  Kool-Aid 

Um...embarrassed to say, but we used to go through a gallon of Kool-Aid a day.  And that was with a family of six (5 eating)  instead of eight (7 eating).  How gross is that?  And do you know how much sugar we drank?  2 cups with every gallon, every day.  We were going through a 25 pound bag a month.  Easily.

The dental decay on my young children caused me to take a long, hard look at our habits.  Too much sugar.  Too many sweet drinks.  Had to go! I stopped buying the Kool-Aid.

But, weaning off of the sugary drinks didn't happen overnight.  Instead, I began offering raw milk (chocolate style) and homemade lemonade.  Both of these instantly reduced the amount of sugar (only 1 cup for a gallon instead of 2 cups) and were still seen as sweet, delicious choices. 

I also began increasing the amount of not sugary drinks (water, raw milk, yogurt smoothies, hot chocolate made with a little honey, etc.) until we reached a place I was happy with. Now I usually reserve the lemonade for the weekends when Bryan is home to enjoy it with us.  During this cold winter, we drink hot chocolate almost every morning. We have smoothies with lunch or dinner occasionally.  Chocolate milk is an occasional treat.  And my children (and I) now drink a lot more water.  Way better for us.

4.  Refined Sugar

White, refined sugar is not a really good choice when it comes to eating.  We used to go through at least 25 pounds a month.  Now?  I've learned to enjoy the taste of unrefined sugar.  It's a bit different, but in a good way.

Now I know that it's still sugar.  Which is why we cut back.  We now go through about 15 pounds a month.  We added two people and cut down on 10 pounds--way less individual consumption!

I made this change when Sydney was a baby.  She is the first of my kids to not have cavities by the age of 2.  I'll stick with unrefined.

When I was first going this route, I bought organic sugar at Costco.  But, it was pretty expensive.  Now?  I buy an unrefined, non-GMO option from Wal-Mart.  At about $4.50 for 8 pounds, it's a really reasonable option.  Costco was $11 for 10 pounds.  A difference that definitely affects the grocery budget.

5. Canola Oil

I used to think I was making a healthy choice by choosing canola oil.  The modern food industry certainly does a good job promoting this reasoning.  But...after doing some digging of my own, I learned how dangerous it can be.  The book Nourishing Traditions helped me to see how healthy real fats can be.

I now buy butter.  And coconut oil.  And olive oil.  Eventually I'd love to buy palm shortening to use for frying, but I haven't found it yet at a store I already go to.  I don't like running all over town for new ingredients, and I haven't yet started grocery shopping online.

Lard is another good fat.  I rendered some in the crock-pot the last time we butchered pigs.  It sure made a great pie crust!  Be careful about buying lard though.  If it's on a shelf, it's probably hydrogenated.  

These fats nourish our body.  They help us to digest food.  And they taste great!  Bring on the butter!!!

For more information on the benefits of eating real fats, check out this post.

There are other changes I've made, but these have been five easy steps in eating more real foods. Have your shopping habits changed as well?

Linked up with Raising Arrows

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Pic Round Up Week 5

Here are my daily pictures for this week.  I didn't take one each day.  Going through my phone, I see that I missed Sunday and Tuesday.  Oops!

Monday, January 27, 2014:
Jayme's 12th birthday.  Here she is showing off her bow and arrow.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Another one of Jayme.  Just doing her daily schoolwork.  I decided it's important to take some pictures of just normal, every day activities to help me remember what life was like.  Someday, I'll look back on these and miss all the activity! 

Thursday, January 30, 2014

A snowstorm finally hit!  We got six inches or so.  Here is a snow covered tree. 

Friday, January 31, 2014

Playing with the flash on my phone--this was a night time pic.  Cinders likes the snow!  

And finally...

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Hush now, quiet now, it's time to go to bed....or to the swing.  Jayme rocked (swung) Simon to sleep this afternoon.  It was so precious!