Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Adjusting to life and all about friendships

I've been thinking about moving here a lot recently and giving some thought to the differences of living in town and living in the city.  Besides the obvious changes of course!  I remember that I just wanted to live it, breathe it and some days I didn't think I could live a minute longer in the city.  The desire and the KNOWING that we were going to move EVENTUALLY at times turned me into a crazy woman with a one-track-mind.  Just driving back into the city after being away for a few hours felt like a wet blanket had been dropped over my head. It was a life-and-soul-sucking feeling.

I was talking with the farrier the other day.  She came to do Maybe-the-donkey's feet and while she worked we had a really great little chat.  She excitedly shared that since she had been here the last time they had FINALLY moved to their dream property.  They had been looking for years and had even had a tour of our farm before we bought it but the timing wasn't quite right.  Of course it wasn't.... because it was supposed to ours :)  She described her new place as 6 acres of peace and quiet.  She said the house needed some work and wasn't a "perfect" house but she is so delighted to be there.  Every morning she hears the birds singing and sees some birds she's never even seen before!  The quiet after living in the city is deafening.  She asks her husband almost daily:  have I said how much I love it here???  No honey - NOT TODAY!  

I could so relate...coming to live here was difficult for most of the rest of my family.  In different degrees they struggled with the move.  My DH had the hardest time being "so far" from town and "civilization".  He went to town almost every day for the first year we lived here.  Now sometimes a three or four days go by and we say:  oh yeah we haven't left the farm for a few days.  My kids had never known anything but the house in town and it held a lot of memories.  There some sadness but my daughter now says the worst thing about moving was that we couldn't get the antique wardrobe out of the basement so it had to stay there.  They have all happily adjusted and I used to bite my tongue so I didn't say I TOLD YOU SO!  (cause I did tell them so!)

I left the house in town without a backwards glance.  My Mom and I finished cleaning the house from top to bottom, locked up the doors and drove away.  I was so glad to be done with it and I couldn't have been happier about going to the country!  Every day here is such a blessing and to paraphrase of bumper sticker I once saw:

A bad day living on the farm is better than ANY day living in the city.

(that might be just a touch overly dramatic.)

If I had one thing that perhaps surprised me or caught me off guard it was just one area - friends.  I've always been a little bit different - I home schooled, cooked healthy food from scratch whenever possible, didn't go-with-the flow when it came to parenting or decision-making, decided I was less interested in what people thought of me and more interested in what God thought of me and wanted me to do with my life.  I took the "left turn in Albuquerque" and never came back.  Some of my friends would smile politely and once in awhile even seemed to be interested!  I just couldn't imagine that a move 15 minutes away would be the end of many of those friendships...but it was.  The distance and the lifestyle change was just too much of a strain for some.  I have less time and less interest so the responsibility lies with my choices as well.  I just didn't see it coming.

That made me sad.  It also had me searching my heart for why it happened.  I finally realised that life is a series of seasons and THAT season was over and a new one was beginning.  

For everything there is a season,     a time for every activity under heaven.

A time to be born and a time to die.     A time to plant and a time to harvest.
A time to cry and a time to laugh.     A time to grieve and a time to dance.
    A time to embrace and a time to turn away. 
A time to search and a time to quit searching


    A time to keep and a time to throw away.
 (Ecclesiastes 3:1-4)

That made it a little easier.  I have an adventurers heart so a new thing is always exciting!  But I am also a firmly-rooted lover of all things old and stable at the same time.  I wanted to move HERE but I never want to move again.   My elderly neighbour used to tell me that he was going to leave his home in a pine box - and he did - that is my declaration too - especially since he was very elderly!

I've mentioned before that it is difficult to "break in" to a new community.  You're the "new people" for 20 years!  As time goes by we're feeling more and more like we belong here but I am so grateful for my faithful friends and family - the ones that have stuck by our family through thick and thin, through disappointment and failure and through this crazy adventure in country living.  Without them life would be empty and lonely.  As my roots grow deep here at Shalom Engedi Farm I  know that the future holds wonderful treasures of new friends, new promises and new adventures.

Perhaps if you have dreams of moving and change in your life you will need to cross this bridge too - I'm just here to light the path... and I'm so glad you're along for the ride!

Monday, January 28, 2013

Challenge Update & Sauerkraut

The EAT TO THE BOTTOM OF THE FREEZER is now in it's last official week and the cleaning continues!  I've been working on using up the items in my "upstairs" pantry.  I found lots of odds and ends that got shoved into the back of the cupboard, packages of dip mixes I got on sale and forgot about, a badly dented can of chick peas, several boxes of lasagne noodles with only two noodles in each box - I guess I should change the recipe so I can squeeze them all in the pan! - some gluten-free cookie mixes that were in the freezer and made their way into the cupboard and STILL weren't used up.

So what's a girl to do...make soup of course!  One can of nearly expired tomato sauce, 1 package of dry soup mix, the dented can of chick peas, some veggies from the fridge that needed eating, some of the peppers I froze last summer, yummy garlic from Michelle and a few other odds and ends.  Supper was served AND my cupboards got cleaned out in one shot.

I also found some small crocks that had been hiding deep in the cupboards so I decided to make a batch of sauerkraut- it is bubbling and nearly overflowing it's container right now.  It's such a simple process.  Chop up the cabbage, press it down in layers into a crock or jar with a sprinkle of salt in between.  Don't fill it too full because it will bubble somewhat when it's at work and you don't want it to overflow.  I have never been able to press enough water out of the cabbage to create a liquid barrier so I just add water until it covers  everything.  I place one reserved cabbage leave on top of everything and weigh it down with a small plate and a jar filled with water.  After it sits for a few days you can see some of the action happening and that's when you taste-test the yummy goodness.

It's been sitting for about a week now and I've tasted it a few times but I wanted it a little more "sauer" and crunchy - maybe tomorrow!

Tomorrow will also be baking day - a job DD usually takes care of with great skill.  She's come down with a cold so that's an automatic ban from food prep and kitchen chores. Now I get to choose what to make!

We've done so well on the challenge that we haven't run out of anything important.  That's pretty neat!  We are looking forward to a shopping trip next week to buy: 
cheese - we ate the last of it today
butter - only 1/2  a brick left
oatmeal - DD got into making oatmeal haystack cookies and used every last bit we have in the house!

That's about it!  We didn't even run out of bread.  We may keep going for an extra week as I have a few more spots to clean up.  I'm on a roll right now perhaps it's best to take advantage of it while I am!

How are all of you doing with your challenges???

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Winter chores on the farm

Winter is my least favourite time of year to be outside - it's cold and icy and I am a wimp.

I could easily cocoon myself indoors when we lived in the city but all that changes when you live in the country and have animals.  I really can't complain at all because my two-kids-living-at-home are awesome at taking care of the basics when I am busy and have other things that need to get done - like washing dozen after dozen eggs the other day when I got a few days behind!

We have developed some routines that work for us that I want to share because although doing chores in sub-temperature weather is not on my list of fun-things-to-do there are ways to make it easier.

The first thing is having proper clothing.  Warm boots, hats, mittens and a super duper coat are the bare minimum.  Think in layers because even when it's Arctic-cold outside once you start working you will get warm and want to be able to take off a layer or two. Just being in the barn means the wind chill is cut down considerably. When you're are reasonably warm everything else is easier to deal with.

I am going to admit to something that will make us sound like the most lazy farmers you ever met.  We start chores between 11-12 noon in the winter.  Shocking isn't it??  Aren't farmers up with sun? Don't they crawl out of bed in the dark and milk cows??  Yes, THEY do but WE don't.  That's one reason that lazy farmers do not have dairy cows!  

The real reason is simple: Our egg layers are notorious for laying their eggs all over the barn.  We had to check many sites every morning to make sure we got them all.  That got a bit tiring and we ended up throwing out a lot of eggs if we weren't sure how long they had been sitting there.  So now we beat the chickens at their own game!  We don't let them out until late morning in the winter so that most of them lay their eggs where they are supposed to - in the nesting boxes.  At other times of the year the sun is up earlier and so are the chickens.  Did you know that chickens lay more eggs when the days are longer?   If you want them to lay in the winter you need to add automatic lights to the chicken coop to artificially extend daylight hours.  We thought we would try that this year and see how much of a difference it makes.  If you need eggs please let me know because it works really well and we are swamped!

One of the other issues when temperatures get down to minus 10 or so is that the newly laid eggs can freeze solid before you collect them.  This requires a few extra trips to the barn during the day.  Insulating the nesting boxes would probably help too but for the few weeks a year that it is an issue here we haven't bothered.

The ducks, sheep and donkey get let out at around 9 - but that's usually a quick visit to the barn to make sure all is well and open the doors.

Waiting till later in the morning usually has the benefit of it being a little warmer out when you do have to go out for chores.  A few other side benefits are knowing you can sleep in sometimes and we can go to church on Sunday mornings and come back to do chores after church without messing up the routine too much!

Winter chores differ from any other time of the year in a few ways.  Water - the bane of the barnyard has been a pain in the "roompa" this winter.  We have a water line to the barn and it's even heated but this year it's frozen and not working.  That means we are pumping water out of the cistern at the back door of the house to water animals and walking back and forth with multiple pails of water.  I am so thankful for that cistern!!!  It never freezes no matter what the weather - it's a simply ingenious old fashioned solution!  I am also grateful we don't have a barn full of cows because I don't think we could haul enough water to satisfy them.

Keeping the water from freezing in the animals dishes is the next conundrum. We've tried just about everything over the years.  Right now we've settled for heated dog dishes which is not a perfect solution but at minus 25 the water doesn't freeze and that's all that matters for a few weeks.  I've seen several really ingenious ideas.

 backyard chickens  Place a regular chicken waterer on top of the heated brick and voilĂ  - no frozen waterers in the winter!
These are on my to-do list for next year!  I hope they work as well as people say they do because it would make life much easier to not have open water dishes.  Ducks like to make a complete disaster around a water dish.  They are messy critters!  In reality it's not their fault - they need to submerge their heads to clean their eyes and without water they are at risk for infection and disease.  The temperatures we've been having lately make this very challenging - not to mention slippery for the humans!

Some people have asked if we heat the barn in any way in the coldest months.  We don't.  Animals are very hardy and keeping them too warm and then exposing them to dramatic temperature changes is not healthy for them.  Having appropriate sized coops for the amount of birds you have will allow the chickens to keep each other warm.  They get quite cozy on the roosts at night!

I've seen lots of pictures of chickens roaming farms in the dead of winter.  Not ours - ours avoid snow at all costs.  If it snows they just find a quiet-out-of-the-way place in the barn to poop - I mean sit.  Chickens poop - quite a bit actually.  In the warmer weather you don't notice it so much because they are out running around the farm but in the winter there are little poo piles everywhere - when it's REALLY cold they freeze into little rocks.  (Wow - I bet you read this blog just to hear about chicken poo!)  Sigh*  There are worse things in life but cleaning up when everything is frozen is an effort in futility so if you want to see my CLEAN barn please don't come in the winter!  It gets messy - that's life!

We take advantage of every warm spell that comes our way.  As soon as we read that the weather is going to warm up we plan for a big-barn-clean-up. If the temperature rises enough the water pipes defrost so this is the time the feeders and waterers get scrubbed extra clean and the walk ways and pens get a extra tidy up. We move hay down from the hayloft to make things easier in the days to come.  We hit up the feed store and load up on the necessities and pack them into the storage room - which is easier to do when you aren't slipping and sliding and FREEZING.  You never know when the next warm spell is coming so it can't be wasted when it does.  The animals seem to enjoy those days too because we're in the barn longer and they get a little extra love.

The sheep and the donkey are actually quite easy to care for.  We use an old cooler to water them and we just drop in a pond de-icer/stock tank de-icer and their water stays frost free.  With their warm fleece they don't ever seem bothered by the cold.  Even little Hubert who is growing like a bad weed seems happy and content regardless of the temperature.

Overall doing winter chores isn't too bad.  If the weather is really miserable we get things done in record time.  Sometimes we leave the animals penned up when it's icy or blowing knowing they will be safer and more comfortable inside and also knowing we will not have to chase them around at night to get them back where they belong.

The days of hiding out inside during the winter might be gone but they've been replaced by something surprisingly better - an enjoyment of winter I haven't had for a long time.  Maybe I'm not such a wimp after all!

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Organizing: Spring Cleaning in January

Week three of the EAT TO THE BOTTOM OF THE FREEZER CHALLENGE and we are doing really well.  I have stuck to the plan and only broke down for a bag of hamburger buns that we could have done without but we were having company so I splurged!

I never have time to do much spring cleaning in the spring so thankfully the mood still strikes albeit a few months early - usually in January.  I think doing the Eat To the Bottom of the Freezer Challenge this month helps.

Last week I cleaned out every cupboard in the kitchen.  My kitchen is small by magazine standards - I know it could be smaller yet but to give you the idea my brother was once working in it and he said:  Anita this is a one "backside" kitchen! (that's not quite verbatim since I can't print what he actually said!)  It certainly is but that doesn't stop me from stuffing the cupboards full and making it work.  Somehow in the fall when I am busy canning not everything gets put away where it should go and eventually I end up with a few of those avalanche cupboards - you know - the ones where everything comes flying out when you open the door.

I really like useful gadgets and tools.  Some of the older ones I have already posted on the blog previously.  I have a hard time resisting kitchen items like rolling pins, or flour sifters, or measuring cups and spoons.  I have a thing for dishes too - I have several sets that I change out every so often.  There's a red theme of course! One set is all glass - purchased BEFORE we moved here.  I'm back to my red dishes now and they make me smile every time I set the table.  I have a few sets of "breakfast plates and bowls" with nostalgic scenes of chubby-faced children eating Rice Krispies.  When children come to visit I use those dishes and they are usually quite excited about them.

I am switching as many storage containers over to glass as I can.  I've never been a fan of plastic - somehow it never feels clean to me.  I love glass everything and that's not necessarily a match made in heaven for someone with hard water since it  makes for spotty dishes if you don't dry them right away.  Oh well.

I have been given several boxes of those beautiful old canning jars that I've written about many times before and although they might be fine for canning pickled beets or the like according to my older neighbour I wouldn't feel comfortable doing that so I have slowly switched out my regular canning/storage jars for those old beauties.  I am so glad I can still get the rubber rings for them.  I store most of my dry grains, dehydrated vegetables, seeds, spices etc. in them.    I like the look of them when I open the cupboards!

My cupboards are getting a paint job in the next few weeks - my daughter has offered to help since we're doing inside and out which is a messy project.  She's a great painter and I am looking forward to a freshened up kitchen.

Yesterday in my continuing rampage of cleaning I tackled the master bedroom.  It's a bit of a joke in this house because most people in new houses have closets bigger than our bedroom.  It just fits the bed and a desk and room to get in.  No closets, no extra anything.  I've always stored things under the bed in an attempt to make good use of the space but a few nights ago I was awakened to a symphony.  One man snoring.  One dog snoring.  One mouse under the bed chewing on something.  GREAT.  It's rather disconcerting to hear hurry-scurry two feet away from your head!!  I made up my mind right then that I was going to remove the basket under the bed and do some cleaning.  The carpet has always bothered me in this room because of my allergies and it's advanced age so out it came piece by piece as my daughter and I manoeuvred around the furniture.  There's some really cool tiles under the carpet so they will do just fine for a few years...and  MUCH better - nothing for the mice to chew on at least it was quiet last night anyway!

I guess it's that nesting snuggle-down-in-the-warmth-of-hearth-and-home feeling that sets off these mid-winter clean ups.  It's a good feeling to accomplish things when the weather is not calling me to be outside.  If I keep it up at this pace I'll have everything on my long-to-do-list done before spring but then again there's always time for another cup of tea.

How's your Challenge going??  Has it spurred you on to cleaning too?  Maybe I'm just the odd-ball!

Monday, January 14, 2013

UPDATE: Eat to the Bottom of the Freezer Challenge

It's a week into this years EAT TO THE BOTTOM OF THE FREEZER CHALLENGE and so far - so good.

I have stuck to the challenge by only buying fresh fruits and vegetables and forgoing any other purchases - even those non-necessities that aren't related to food.  It's a good break from the spendy culture we live in - but I am not committing to that last part of the challenge for the rest of the month - just as long as I can - simply because running a business and a farm means I can't stop spending completely.  Oh How I Wish!

This is great practise for seeing how balanced our food storage really is.  Do we have loads of one type of food - tomatoes for instance - and not enough butter.  We always seem to have a butter shortage in January - perhaps because we tend to bake even more than usual due to the lack of ANY store bought treats.

So far we haven't suffered at all but it IS only week one.  I may be crying the blues by week four and wishing for some chocolate!

I am always amazed at all the bits and pieces I DO find.  I have a problem keeping track sometimes because we have 5 freezers - that sounds ridiculous but it's not really as bad as it sounds.   (Well - maybe it is but until I have a root cellar that's the way it is.)

We have a mid sized 40+ year old freezer that was left here when we moved to the  farm.  It would have left long ago to be re-purposed into animal feed storage or an outdoor cold cellar except for ONE thing.  It's the only freezer that still functions in our unheated far-back-room.  The newer fridges and freezers were never meant for the cold temperatures in the winter and quit working altogether between November and April out there.  (We found that out the hard way when we bought a new fridge and left it out there last winter).  It is used as our chicken-holding-freezer when we butcher a lot at one time. It probably costs a fortune to run - I'm not sure I want to know exactly how much.  We empty it as quickly as we can and the beast just keeps on going even after months of sitting unplugged.  They just don't make 'em like they used to.

Freezer two is our second oldest freezer - probably 18 years old. It's a chest freezer and I hate trying to keep it organized.  I am not really sure what is at the bottom on any given month which is how this freezer challenge got started in the first place.  Right now - the parts I can see anyway - are filled with chicken, hamburger and a few on-sale turkeys.

Freezer three is only one year old and it's my favourite - an upright.  If you are reading this and having any thoughts about buying a new freezer - an upright is the hands down winner EVERY TIME!!  So much easier to keep organized and no standing on your head digging through 4 feet  of frozen food to see if there is any cauliflower down-there-somewhere!

The other two freezers are the compartments on the two fridges.  We have two fridges because of our eggs sales - trust me there is no room for 50 dozen eggs in my kitchen fridge - feel free to buy some and rescue me from my overflow.  Maybe I should do a series of posts on angel food cake or quiche to get everyone in the mood for EGGS. These two compartments hold our every day food - nuts, seeds, leftovers etc.

Well - back to my original point - sometimes I forget WHAT exactly is WHERE.  I have a great plan - every freezer has a different purpose.  The plan is brilliant - I just don't always do it.  For example my Mom brought over a few bags of frozen strawberries, croquettes and oilebollen and they went into the most convenient freezer - not the one they SHOULD have gone into.  They are now keeping the turkeys company and I will have to go on a polar excursion to find them back.

Why on earth do I have so much food stored in freezers - you might ask??  Ah - it's also part of my grand scheme.  In the summer and fall I can all the garden produce I can manage.  By Christmas I take a break (from sheer canning overload!) but it's the time of year we usually butcher our chickens and turkey goes on super-sale at the grocery store so I stock up. Now that all the busyness of the holidays are over I can take up canning again and put up all the meat so I'll have enough until next year this time.  It's the only cycle that will keep some sanity in the process.

You can read Staci's update here:

farmgals update here: (she also has recipes for things you never  knew you wanted to eat!)

and oldschoolgirls update here:

That's where we're at!  How are you doing on YOUR challenge??


Saturday, January 12, 2013

Remembering a special person in our community...

The ladies of the Enfield community in 1955 standing at the back porch of our farmhouse.

One of the wonderful things about moving into a small community is playing Community Bingo - everyone is related to everyone and you will find connections that will astound you.
My Mom lived in our  village with her parents before she got married to my dad - that was a few years ago (ahem).  Turns out the man we buy our organic beef from was at their wedding and remembered them well.  My dear husband nearly had his ear talked off after finding that out!
A older friend at church told me many times that she used to live in Enfield.  By the time we moved here she had slipped into the fog of Alzheimer's and we weren't really able to talk about it any more.  So sad - she is a cousin to our neighbours across the road (and down the road too!)
It seems in our little-neck-of-the-woods everyone is related to EVERYONE - except us!  We have no relatives living here but we have dear friends.
One of our favourite older couples are Fred and Ruby Griffin.  Everyone calls them Uncle Fred and Aunt Ruby. We live in their old farmhouse and when people in the community ask us where we live we just smile and say "Fred and Ruby's old place" - even though they haven't lived here for 25 years.
Fred worked hard his whole life and at 93 was still out cutting the grass and pi-diddling out in the yard.  He always waved when we drove past and we waved back.  Sometimes on our evening walks he would be outside and we had some great conversations about how beautiful it was up here and the weather.  Fred was suffering with Alzheimers the last few years so sometimes the conversations were interesting bits and pieces about life on the farm and sometimes repetitions of things he'd told us a few minutes before.  He had a happy sincere way about him - always interested in helping others.  When another farmer on our road had an accident he took it upon himself to go over each day and help with the chores. He didn't want to be paid because then he would feel like he HAD to come - he just wanted to help out.
My daughter remembers meeting Uncle Fred for the first time when we attended a summer church service at the little church "downtown".  She sat and chatted with him for quite a while and remembers that conversation fondly. 
A few days after Christmas Uncle Fred slipped and broke his hip - a difficult thing to recover from when you are over 90. He passed away yesterday afternoon. We'll miss him.
                                           GRIFFIN, Frederick -
In his 93rd year
On Friday January 11, 2013.
Beloved husband of Ruby (nee McLaughlin) for 68 years. 
Dear father of Donald (Judy), Allan (Mariam), Gordon (Shirley) and Ivan (Susan).  Lovingly remembered by his grandchildren Greg (Donna), Jason (Jennifer), Andrea, James (Nicole), Steven (Celine), Matthew (Shelagh), Adam (Heather), Andy (Angie), Dave (Sarah) and Brad (Karlee) and his great-grandchildren Courtney, Katanna, Owen, Olivia, Charlotte, Clara, Eleanor, Sam, Ben, Denver, Skylar, Jayden & Sierra.  Dear brother of Celia (Rae) Cowling and Ruby Smith.
Predeceased by his parents Richard & Irene Griffin and sisters Verna, Vera & Clara.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

The Lowly Hot Water Bottle

I did it to myself - that was the worst part.  

I hurt my back the other day by being stupid.  I used to hurt my back on a regular basis - for awhile it seemed every time I turned around or bent the wrong way - I would be back in Pain-Central.

Living on the farm has obviously strengthen my back a lot.  I am able to do things I couldn't do before.  I even have muscles in my arms that show when I flex.  I'm so proud!  However because I haven't hurt by back for a few years I got a little careless.

Dumb Dumb Dumb.  The first day I couldn't sit for very long and laying down wasn't helping either so I hung over the foot stool.  It looked crazy but it was the only position that afforded any relief.  I even managed to use the computer but my typing skills went right down hill!

I tried pain meds and massage - thanks honey - but nothing was really helping.  After icing it for awhile I was searching for the heating pad when DH suggested the hot water bottle.  I've never really had a use for them in the past so when he wanted to pick one up last year - more for nostalgia than purpose I said - OK whatever.  I'm so glad he did. It was the only thing that helped.

Apparently modern day rubber water bottles with a stopper were invented in 1903.  They were used to warm up the bed on cold nights and were later replaced with the electric heating pad and electric blankets.  Did you know there's a whole museum devoted to these "hotties" or  "Dutch Wives" in Europe?  That may be a little over-board but I think I've fallen in love with them.

It makes so much sense as a way to save money and keep the heat turned down especially if you are prone to cold toes. So frugal!  I think it's a great addition to a first aid closet.  We now have two of them - I think the last one was about $14.00 at a drug store.

I suppose I should have seen this coming - every hot water bottle I've ever seen has been RED - you would think that would have been my first clue to their necessity. 

The pain is more of an ache now and I am slowly feeling better but there's no place more comfortable than snuggled up under a blanket with a hot water bottle behind my back.

Friday, January 4, 2013


It's time for my annual challenge to EAT TO THE BOTTOM OF THE FREEZER.  

This is a challenge I look forward to this every year.  You can read the post I wrote last year about this event.  It's always fun and it's a great way to force yourself to use up the bits and pieces that accumulate in the freezer and the pantry.

I'm starting the challenge officially next Monday January 7th and going till the end of the month.  This allows for the weekend to have a look at your supplies and see if there are any glaring holes - no sense setting up for failure.  Of course if this was an emergency you wouldn't have the weekend to stock up!

There's always EGGS!

The rules for this challenge are really whatever YOU decide they are but this year I am committing to purchasing ONLY fresh fruits and vegetables.  I know we have some bread in the freezer but when it's gone we'll be back to making it from scratch.   I have all the ingredients for baking and cooking and at this point I can't imagine what I might run out of but that's one of the points of the challenge.  When we buy bread for example we don't really give much thought to what's in it - or at least what we would need (and how much of it) to replicate a loaf of bread. I learned from the last challenges that baking our own bread required more wheat than I thought it would. 

My goals are these:

  • To clean out the freezers and reorganize while I'm at it.
  • To go through the kitchen cabinets and eat all the random leftover things - this may require some ingenuity!
  • To go though my food storage area and rotate out any food nearing it's best before date.
  • To make note of the ingredients we need to make/bake/cook that we normally just buy pre-made - a continuing journey away from processed foods.
  • To eat all the squash that is starting to "go" in my improvised cold cellar - that still is not working very well.
  • To begin some new good habits in cooking and baking more from scratch.
  • To save January's budgeted grocery money and add it in our emergency fund.

This challenge is about more than JUST saving money it's also about learning the age old maxim of "making do".   How creative can we become?  Can I still make healthy nutritious meals without multiple trips to the grocery store.  Can I mange without ANY trips to the grocery store?  DH and I would go for this option - the kids would revolt without bananas!

My daughter is a great help and support when this time of the year comes around.  She is always up for it and loves coming up with ideas for how to stick to the challenge. She is a most faithful baker as well. We're starting off with quite an advantage over some of you.  My chickens are laying madly right now (more on that soon) so we have eggs.  Our freezers are filled with frozen fruit and vegetables, home grown chicken and organic ground beef and hamburgers plus I have lots of food canned as you know if you've been reading this blog for any length of time.

Last year we ran out of butter and came to an ethical dilemma - do we go ahead and buy the butter or stick it out instead?  We were making our own bread - think warm fresh bread with butter - and doing really well on the challenge so we decided to "splurge" and buy 1 pound that we would then stretch till the end of the month.  It's not about keeping to the letter of the law so much as the spirit of the law.  If you learn something - you have not failed!

Two of the most common comments I get to this challenge are: 
  • "But I'll eat all my food storage!  All the work I did storing it up goes to waste"  - I disagree on the basis that food needs to be rotated anyway.  This is just a tool to help us do that while making decisions about what we have stored and whether it is the most appropriate for our families.    If you choose you can set aside the grocery money and buy food to replace your food storage stores.
  • But I'll miss all the great sales that I want to take advantage of to build my food storage supply."  I'm OK with shopping for those items as long as they DO go into your long term storage and don't get eaten in January. 

This challenge always inspires me.  I think of how many times I head to the store for a few things and come out with "stuff" I didn't know I needed.  I become more mindful - at least for awhile - of what is a NEED and what is a WANT.

Anyone else up for the challenge??  You can play by your own rules or choose to do it for a shorter length of time.  I know Stacy is in!!  (hi Stacy!)  Let me know by leaving a comment or emailing me so we can encourage each other!

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Great Expectations and Goal Planning

Another year.  Another chance to start over with a brand new page on a new calendar and another chance for most of the world to make those pesky New Years Resolutions.  I don't do New Years Resolutions because although I enjoy the clean-slate-fresh-start-excitement of it all I have failed too many times.  My resolutions tended to be short sighted and mostly wishful thinking that came after 2 weeks of parties and fun and not enough sleep!

That doesn't mean I don't have a plan but it took a lot longer than a few hours to put together and it's something we work on all year long - revising as we need to but always with the goal of moving forward and seeing progress.

Having a farm has increased the need for a long term plan dramatically and thankfully we learned a few lessons in the past that bare directly on this goal setting mission.

We lived in our home in town for just over 20 years. That's a long time to not have a real plan but we were so busy living our lives and raising our family that I didn't give much thought to long term planning at that point - I was just trying to survive until nap time!  

One of the greatest lessons we learned was about having a plan.  I'll call this one The Lesson of The Kitchen Floor.

When we moved in the floor was covered in alternating black and white tiles - we could have played people-sized-checkers on it.  It was not in terrible shape but it was our new home and we wanted to make it ours. The decorating bug overcame me and I wanted that floor GONE.  Ohhh - nice clean linoleum flooring - no cracks for crumbs to get in between - easy to mop up - this was going to make life easier for me-who-happened-to-be-8-months-pregnant.  All went well - we managed to lay the flooring.  It looked great - until we moved the fridge in and gouged a huge chunk of the flooring right in front of the main entrance to the kitchen.  OH NO!  We were too broke to redo it and there didn't seem to be anyway to fix it so we lived with it.  (and have you ever tried to keep a WHITE linoleum floor clean with little kids in the house??)  

Three years later - which nicely coincided with an equally pregnant-me - we decided to make the kitchen a little bigger which meant renovating the floor again - this time going for a more "country" look by replacing the floor with painted pine boards.  I loved my new floor and the best part was when I got tired of the colour I could paint the floor again and have a whole new look.  I must have done that 3 or 4 times - it was barn red for awhile, then it was sage green...

Fast forward several years and a total kitchen renovation was in the works.  We were putting in new kitchen cabinets so that was the end of my wooden floor as the huge gaps and the demolition finished it for good.  But on to better things - lets get ceramic tile!  Oh-so-clean and easy to care for (anyone who has tried to install ceramic tile in an old house is already shaking their heads at our naivety) but we ploughed ahead and had the floor installed - insert several naughty words here to get the full effect of process. Of all the flooring this was by far the worst!  Momma Mia - it cracked, it split, it was cold - I HATED IT!  We sold the house with that floor and I wasn't sorry to leave it behind!

The moral of the story???  ...I think we exhausted all the possibilities - all on ONE tiny kitchen floor.  What a complete waste of time and money.  We could have saved ourselves lots of both if we had taken the time to make a long term plan for that kitchen.  We could have lived with the black and white tiles, made a more informed decision about our options and spent the money ONCE on a renovation that would have lasted more than a few years. 

That floor is in the  forefront of my mind when I think about renovations here at the farm - there is definitely work to be done inside and out but so far we haven't done much more than PLAN.  I do not want to repeat that scenario again.  Of course the plan doesn't always work.  We had a satellite dish installed for our internet a few weeks ago and afterwards realised it is not in the best place considering the placement of the soon-to-be-installed wood stove chimney.  Sigh.

Thankfully nothing here is so bad that we can't live with it.  When we moved here we thought we would rework the house in a certain way but after living here for 2 years we realised those plans were ill conceived for various reasons.  It's taken actually LIVING here to see what needed to be done.  The patience required is a little easier to come by at this age then it was 25 years ago.

I had someone come to visit us about a year ago and he was surprised that THIS was my dream home.  Not this house?  he asked repeatedly  (while I wanted to bonk him in the noggin) YES - THIS HOUSE!  I can see it as it WILL be although I love it - crooked walls, creaky doors and all but I have a PLAN to make it even better.  

Our lists of plans take up pages.  It's a constant work in progress and one that wouldn't get very far without constant attention. My husband and I have priority meetings regularly to stay on track.  It is probably the number one thing that keeps us getting things done on time and in order.  There's a common way to set goals using the SMART system. 

Make your goals:

This skill - and it is a learned skill - is something that carries over into other areas as well.  Planning food storage for example.  Write the plan first THEN proceed to purchasing food and or supplies. 

For practicality sake I use my favourite computer program OneNote to keep all the notes and lists.  Some people like paper copies but I do really well with notebooks made in the OneNote program.  There's a FREE program called Evernote that is similar if you're in to that kind of thing.

I have organizing and paring down my huge book collection, reorganizing my kitchen, and our annual eat-to-the-bottom-of-the-freezer-challenge on the list for January. Do you have any resolutions or goals for the year you would like to share?

Happy New Year!