Simplicity by Choice

Off-Grid Living & Self-Reliance

Returning to My Heart November 27, 2013

Filed under: faith,family,simplicity — ourprairiehome @ 7:06 am
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About three years ago, you wouldn’t have caught me wearing a pair of jeans.  The closest to it was maybe the leggings that I wore under my long skirts to keep warm in winter or the sleep pants that I wore at night.  Then, I allows the opinions of others to influence my clothing choices.  It began rather innocently at first.  I had a long running agreement with my father-in-law, Carl, that when we were able to make a trip to New York to visit, I was going to go on a ride with him on his Harley.  Well, a Harley motorcycle ride and long skirts just don’t seem to go together very well.  So, I bought a pair of jeans at a thrift store just for that purpose.  Once I wore those jeans, it became easier to give in and start wearing them more often.  Soon, I was buying a couple of more pair at yard sales.  It seemed easier somehow.  I didn’t get the comments or “looks” from others that the dresses and skirts always brought about.  In short, I allowed peer pressure to affect my choices.

Over the past couple of months, I have found myself missing the more modest style of dressing.  Unfortunately, by now my wardrobe no longer contains the skirts or dresses I wore previously.  I have a bad habit of putting my family’s clothing needs ahead of my own.  I will wear my own clothing until it is thread worn or no longer repairable.  It didn’t help that I rarely will buy my clothing new.  I usually buy the clothing second-hand.

Last week, I had a bit extra and was able to finally go to a thrift store and find a couple of long skirts.  One is a black ankle length skirt made of the thermal waffle weave fabric.  It will be perfect to use in winter to help me stay warmer.  The second is a dual purpose skirt.  It is a long white tiered skirt with a built in slip.  It is modest enough to wear as a skirt but would also make a wonderful long half slip.  It is so hard to find long half slips.  Typically, they are much shorter.

While there, I also found a couple of headscarves.  I have missed the headcoverings.  After conversations with my husband, I am going to start wearing a covering again.  It won’t be the style I wore previously that looked more like an Amish prayer kapp.  Instead, I will be wearing a more modern style.  A snood or bandana makes a good covering for around home when I am working about the house.  For outings, I am planning to wear pretty scarves.  I have always loved the gypsy or bohemian style of wearing a colorful scarf.  It is modern, yet still very feminine.

Our definition of modesty may very well be different that what others’ consider modest.  The method in which I dress will reflect the leading of our hearts in what is modest and appropriate.  I may not fall in line with what others’ believe but we have to follow what we feel is right.  Each person decides for themselves what is right.  I won’t dictate to anyone what they should or shouldn’t wear.  I can only follow the leadings that I am feeling is right for myself and our daughter.

Little Miss has been asking me to make or buy her some skirts or dresses.  She told me that she misses seeing me wear a headcovering as well wanting some of her own.  With that in mind, I am making her some bandanas to wear.  I may even make her one or two snoods to wear at home.  A favorite that she currently wears is an extra bandana of mine made from a heavy flannel.  In winter months, it is very good at keeping our heads warm.  It is so sweet to have a young daughter wanting to make the changes as well.  I hadn’t even spoken of it to her.  She brought up the subject to me even before I bought the new-to-me skirts.  I like that she is making this choice herself.  At her age, the changes made now may stick with her as she grows.  She already has such a heart for the topic of modesty.  Lord willing, she will continue to follow this path and prove the truths in the training up of a child in their youth so that when they are old, they will not depart from it.

 

 

 

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To Him That I Have Given a Little October 24, 2013

Filed under: faith,family,simplicity — ourprairiehome @ 12:37 am

Over the past 2 days, I have been thinking about the parable of the talents (Matthew 25: 14-30).  Ironically, our young daughter gave me a wonderful example of this parable.

In the parable, three men are given talents (coins) by their master.  Each one is expected to be wise with how they use the talents given to them.  One used his talents in a way that increased them. The second lost talents due to poor judgment. The third hid his talent away and the master later took it from him as a result of him not using the talent given to him.

This year, an apple in our yard finally bore enough fruit not only for us to enjoy but to share as well.  In the 12 years that my husband has lived here, it has never produced a harvest like this. It has been a blessing.

As I was preparing applies for canning, our 7 year old daughter asked me not to throw away all of the seeds.  When I asked why she wanted them, she replied that she wanted to plant the seeds. I explained how long it would takes to grow a tree from seed, but she was adamant about it. She tools me that the Lord blessed us with the apples and she didn’t want to waste the blessings.  She saved 12 seeds and we planted them in a container.  They now are in a kitchen window where we can keep close watch over them.

In our daughter’s eyes, those seeds are a way to provide supplies not just for our family. They can also provide for other families as well. She has taken a blessing that we received and is using it to increase the blessing in the future.

As a prepare to remodel the front room in our house, I look around and have to all myself why we still have so much.  We don’t have a lot by other people’s standards, but we do have more than we need.  I notice it each time I have to clean a room. I ask myself, why do we still have this stuff?  Sadly, we fall victim to what is comfortable.  Items that we have owned for a period of time and never used, we are certain we will suddenly need if it is gone.  So, we hang onto it.  In reality, if it hasn’t been needed within six months, then you probably don’t need it at all.

We are being poor stewards over the blessings we have been given if we allow this attitude to prevail.  We get overwhelmed as we keep hanging on to stuff. We no longer enjoy the blessings.  On the midst of thus, we don’t feel the Lord putting out a blessing onto us.  Why would He?  If we are not good stewards of what we already have, why would we be blessed with more? 

It takes rooms to train ourselves to purge the unnecessary things. As a society, we learn early the idea of “he with the most toys wins.”  Learning the difference between want and need are critical, but often not taught to children.  As adults, we have to learn this. Not only for ourselves but to be able to teach out to our children.  If we do not, is it any wonder that so many are growing up with a sense of entitlement? 

In the center of all this is the thought – is the Lord willing to bless those who show no gratitude for what He had already given them?

Something to ponder….

 

Loving Summer July 4, 2013

Filed under: faith,family,homesteading — ourprairiehome @ 4:30 pm
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This summer has been a very mild one.  Last year, we were already in the triple digits by June.  This year, we have only had 1 day in the triple digits.  The average temp has only be in the 80’s.  I love it!

On the home front, there are small changes happening that will bring great blessings to the family.  My Beloved husband has been truck driving throughout most of our marriage.  With this job, he is away from home a minimum of a week at a time.  Currently, he is home overnight once a week.  Not much time for family with that schedule, but it is what the company demands of him.  We have been working towards the day when he can be home more often.  In the past years, we tried twice to do this and failed.  He had found a local job each time, but they were not trucking related.  Living in a rural area as we do, you have to have a specialized job in order to make ends meet.  During one period of about 2.5 years, our family of 4 lived on a single income that was barely above minimum wage.  Our lifestyle helped to make that possible, but we still were getting behind.  Financial needs were met but we could not make any improvements to the homestead.  So, back to trucking he went.  The challenge now has been that I don’t have the ability to do all the work necessary on the homestead while tending the home, kids, homeschooling, etc.  We basically have been just taking care of essentials.  In many ways, it was no better than when he worked local.  Basic needs are met, but there is no time for expansion when my husband is home.  So, after much prayer, we were prompted to take it slower this time around.  Last week, my husband was able to get the extra endorsements on his trucking license to allow him to drive any type of truck, including those for the fuel companies.  Now, the next step is that he will be looking for a local trucking job that will allow him to be home more often, yet pay what we need.  Lord willing, he will have a new job by summer’s end.

Our children are having a lot of fun this summer.  Between trips to the zoo, vacation Bible school, and playing outdoors, they are kept busy.  In August, our baby girl will start going to Girl Scouts.  Wow!!!  The time has surely flown by.  She is so excited to start up.  We signed her up during the spring.  Our son is making headway in his development.  He has finally regained the ability to feed himself, even using utensils for the first time.  He is chattering a lot more often than previously.  He still doesn’t say any words, but jabbers like an infant learning to make letter sounds.  Cute part is that he does it in such a way that it sounds like he is singing.  He is such a happy little boy.

It has been such a wonderful time for us.  So many blessings that outweigh any challenges that we have faced.

 

God’s Will April 22, 2013

Filed under: faith,family — ourprairiehome @ 4:54 am
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Today, we had the blessing of being able to go to church services at our home church in OKC. My beloved husband was home long enough from his trucking job to go with us. It was so timely that we went today. Our pastor spoke about God’s Will in our lives. One thought kept coming to my mind as I listened to the sermon. If I knew ahead of time what God’s will was for me, would I have accepted it? Or would I have fought against it?

In every person’s life, there are moments and experiences that we go through and wonder “why?” I have certainly had many of these in my 50 years of life. At the time when I was going through the experiences, I had many times questioned the purpose of it. I learned through time however that God has His own timing. While He may not bring about the hardships of our lives, He can certainly turn that experience into something good. We learn from those experiences. We grow in faith. We become more humble. How often have you gone through a rough patch only to be able to later comfort someone else going through a similar situation? The compassion and empathy you feel was gained through your own experiences.

Today, I try to look at life from the perspective of “how can I use this situation to praise God?” Our son’s autism is one example. I could very easily give in to the negative emotions of dispair and anger that our son has classic autism. But what good would that do? Would that attitude suddenly take away the autism from our son? Would it make our family life easier? Of course, the answer to those questions is “No.”

Instead, I look for God’s grace and blessing in our son. With each new step in progress, I see God’s work. When my son, who has no speech, suddenly uses sign language for the first time spontaniously, I see God’s blessing. When I see my son, pointing outon a chart his answers to questions that I ask about his school lessons, I see God’s blessings. When my son comes up to me for a hug, I feel the love of God around us.

Does this perspective take away our son’s autism? No, but it does take away the sting of his disability. It keeps hope alive that he will continue to progress.

In thinking about God’s will for our lives, here is my thoughts. I believe that a part of His will for us is to see Him in our lives. For us to know that we never travel through live alone. His spirit is always with us, guiding us and comforting us. For me, the key to recognising the Lord’s hand in my life was to stop looking at my life experiences and situations from the perspective of the world, but to seek the evidences of the Lord’s presence in our lives.

If we can stop looking at the hard times and experiences through the perspective of “why are we having to go through this?” to a perspective of “How can this experience bring glory and praise to the Lord?”, a change happens within. The focus shifts from ourselves and all the hurt and upset we are feeling. We start to focus on the Lord and His glory. As we praise Him for the little things, we share our testimony of Him to others.

It isn’t always easy to maintain this attitude. I do have days when I just want to cry when I think on what our son cannot do. Yet, I feel as though I am cheating my son each time that I allow myself to feel that way. By focusing on his limits, I am not seeing clearly his strengths and abilities that the Lord has blessed him with. In my sorrows, I rob him of the joy I should be feeling for all he is accomplishing. The Lord has blessed us greatly with our son. Though there was much said about what his limits would be when he was first diagnosed, the Lord has shown grace on him and our son is making progress ahead of when he was expected to. Seeing all that he is able to do, how can I allow myself to grieve what he cannot do?

God’s will for our son is just as precious as it is for anyone. No matter what level of progress he ultimately makes, God is in control and has a mission for our son’s life. He has a plan for our family. While we may not have chosen to have an autistic son, the Lord saw fit to allow that to come to pass. I don’t believe that God caused our son’s autism, but I do know in my heart that He can use our son as a testimony of His grace.

 

Too Much Work? February 23, 2013

It seems strange to me to hear the opinions of others concerning our lifestyle. As early as in the book of Genesis in the Bible, Adam and Eve were instructed that their lives would require hard work. It was after they were taken out of the Garden of Eden. The Lord made it known to them that it would be by the sweat of their brow that their crops would grow. How often do we read in scripture about the hard work the people had to do in order to provide for their families? The stories of the women having to glean in the fields for grain to make their bread or the men who worked in the fields or fish with nets are abundant. The Apostle Paul even goes so far as to say in 1 Thessalonians 3:7-10 “For you yourselves know how you ought to follow our example. We were not idle when we were with you, nor did we eat anyone’s food without paying for it. On the contrary, we worked night and day, laboring and toiling so that we would not be a burden to any of you. We did this, not because we do not have the right to such help, but in order to make ourselves a model to you to follow. For even when we were with you, we gave you this rule: “If a man will not work, he shall not eat.’”

In today’s society, we have drawn away from that attitude more and more. While there are many who are physically unable to do hard work, there is always something that can be done. Unfortunately, it is in our human nature to be lazy and complacent. It is much easier to be taken care of than to work. We all have those moments in our lives. In some areas it is far easier to take advantage of modern technology. The danger in this is that here we are today with a generation of young adults who haven’t a clue how to live without modern conveniences. Is it any wonder that when a storm knocks the power out, many families freak out? It was a shock to find out a couple of years ago that some people actually believe it is not legal to be off-grid. People are so accustomed to having electricity and all the modern conveniences that they find it too strange to think some would choose to live without it.

Suddenly, we find ourselves where we are today, a nation with serious economic issues. People are unemployed or under-employed. Record numbers of people are receiving government aid through food stamps of other means. The problem lies in the fact that there are many receiving these “entitlements” that feel it is their right to receive them. My question is this; what will happen when the nation runs out of tax money to pay for it? It has happened in other nations? What makes people believe it cannot happen here?

I have said it many times in the past, but I say it again. My husband and I do not feel that ALL people should live as off-grid as we choose to do. It really isn’t for everyone. If readers are honest however, they will admit that there are things that they can implement in their own homes to make their lives just a bit easier. Whether it be to plant a small garden in their yard or in containers on their balcony, work towards becoming debt-free, or simply being more cautious in their spending.

We often are asked how we manage on as little as we do financially. The answer is simple. We make it work. It doesn’t matter how much or little the pay is, we find a way to make the money stretch as far as possible. Being in the truck driving industry, the pay is dependent upon how many miles my husband drives. Some weeks the pay is much better than others. We have literally had a week when the truck broke down and our paycheck was in the negative due to the deductions being more than his pay that week. Then we have a paycheck come along that is very good. We learned to stock up when pay is good in preparation for the times when pay is low. It is a life of feast or famine. We are blessed in that my husband works for a company and not an owner/operator leasing to a company for his loads. A truck payment for the semi and all the permits, etc., would be hard financially devastating if we also had to make repairs to the truck as well as pay for fuel. As a company driver, the company takes care of all of those expenses.

The easy answer to how we make our income work is this. We have to work to save money. If I want to save money on the cost of doing laundry, I have to wash it by hand. This alone saves us $20 per week when compared to doing laundry at a Laundromat in town. In winter months, we use a Laundromat but in the warmer months, the laundry is done at home on a scrub board. I actually enjoy those times. I find it very peaceful and relaxing.

If we want to cut our food costs, we have to grow our own food. If unable to grow your own, you can cut costs by being less fancy in your cooking and using less processed foods. Using the raw or basic ingredients can save you a bundle in expenses. A loaf of bread that costs $2 at the store would only cost about 68 cents to make at home. On average, not including meat, you can cut your grocery expense down to about ¼ of your monthly bill if you stop buying the store versions of your favorite packaged foods. In spite of rising food costs, I am still managing to spend under $200 per month to feed our family of 4. We eat a well-balanced vegetarian diet most of the time, with a few meat meals scattered throughout the month.

For cutting costs in utilities, I am very frugal even with our water usage. Not only is this great for our environment, but it helps keep our monthly bills down. We live in a drought area. Last year, the gardens did very poorly due to the heat and drought. So, this year, I am planning a “drought garden” instead of a traditional one. A drought garden is one in which you plant vegetables and herbs that are drought resistant. Root crops are great for this! They require less water than things like green beans or tomatoes. There are varieties of fruit that are drought and heat resistant also. Many are heirloom varieties that are open pollinated (not GMO) and survive well in our region. I am planning 2 plantings of leafy greens. The first will be in early spring and the second will take place in late summer or early autumn. This will give us a nice supply of salads during the cooler months. Instead of growing celery, I am planting leaf celery. This herb tastes like celery but is far easier to grow and the leaves can be dried for winter use.

Canning may seem pricey when a person first starts, but when you remember that the jars are reusable, canning is far less expensive than buying the tins of vegetables & fruit at the store. Often, I find old canning jars at yard sales or secondhand shops. After the initial investment into buying jars, you only have to replace the flat lids that are used to seal the jars. There is a company called “Tattler” that makes the old fashioned resealable lids. These cost more than the single use lids, but are a onetime purchase. The time spent growing (or purchasing from a farmer’s market) and home canning your harvest can save your family $1,000s of dollars over a year’s time. It all depends on the amount of food you grow and preserve.

As with any other aspect of our lifestyle, the amount of work we are willing to do has a great influence in the amount of expense we have each month. The amount of work we choose to do allows us to live comfortably without the use of financial assistance or food stamps. It can be done. The question is whether others are willing to put forth the effort needed to do it. Whether it is just a little change here and a little change there, you can make a difference in your family’s spending. It is not something beyond anyone’s ability. The question comes down to how serious people are about wanting to change their spending habits and have the ability to live on less. It is only a nice idea that they would like to consider or is it something that they truly want to work towards?

 

Trip to the ER January 20, 2013

Filed under: faith,family,homesteading,simplicity — ourprairiehome @ 6:44 pm
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On Saturday, I ended up going to the ER. My legs and lower back were painful with my legs also having some numbness. Long story short, I have had this problem for a while but I was being stubborn. The doctor found that I have a lot of inflammation. In November, 2004, I had been in a minor car accident that caused a back injury. It seems that old injury is coming back to haunt me. The doctor also suspects that I may have Rheumatoid Arthritis showing up. Monday, I will be calling to set up a follow-up appointment at a clinic. Likely, there will be some testing needed to find out for certain.

I am returning to my old diet of eating vegetarian foods, leaning more heavily towards vegan diet. In the past, that helped me to have relief. I seemed to feel much better when I avoided packaged foods, meat, eggs, and most dairy products. The only animal products that I ate were hard cheeses, yogurt, butter, and sour cream.

How will RA affect my lifestyle? As little as possible. I will continue to do the daily tasks that I have always done. The only difference is that I will be portioning out the workload a bit more. Heavier work will be saved until my husband is home from his trucking job so that he can help me.

Already, I have been scaling the work down. That is in part the reason why I am working towards getting the house organized. Once the work is done, I will have an easier time in the daily maintenance.

The doctor sent me home with a couple of prescriptions. I will be taking Prednizone for 3 days and a muscle relaxer as needed. I am not entirely thrilled to be taking medication. I am looking at the more natural alternatives. Getting back to the vegetarian diet is only the first step.

On a fun note, my husband and I are doing something new on Monday afternoon. I haven’t been able to wear a wedding ring due to metal allergies. So, we found a tattoo design that we are getting done on our ring finger. The tattoo artist we are going to uses only organic, metal-free inks. I am really excited about this. On our anniversary, February 17th, we will be renewing our wedding vows after church services. When we married, it was very small with only the pastor, his wife, and members of their family. There were no friends or family of our own in attendance. This time, we will be married by our own pastor with our church family there with us. It is such a wonderful time for us.

In upcoming posts, I am going to start sharing more ideas on how to live without electricity. I have been really bad about not posting pictures, so am taking another step in that area. I am planning out my blog posts a bit more and listing pictures that may be needed. The future posts that are of a tutorial style will often have pictures or a link to a YouTube video to go along with it. I have been trying to figure out how to do the videos and finally have come up with a temporary solution using an old cell phone. Quality may not be as good, but it will at least give some illustration.

 

Thoughts on Child Rearing October 22, 2012

Filed under: faith,family — ourprairiehome @ 5:48 am

I have been thinking a lot lately about the topic of child rearing. I am raising little ones for the second time around. My oldest children being grown and in some cases have families of their own now. In my mid-40’s I was surprised and blessed with 2 more children. They will be ages 5 and 7 this spring.

I am finding that raising little ones at my current age is very different than with my older children. Yes, there are some similarities, but I find that I have much more patience. I am also more set in my own life. I have a firmer foundation to build upon than I did in my 20’s. One issue that has changed is that my husband and I are taking a Biblical approach to raising our 2 young ones.

Have you noticed that in general, parents are raising their children in a politically correct fashion? Many are more concerned with their child’s ego than with teaching them right from wrong. They are more concerned with making everything fair than teaching their children that sometimes, life can be seemingly unfair. They are afraid to discipline their children, worried that their child will hate them for it. They also have worry about what others might think if, heaven forbid, that actually punish their child for a wrong doing. What do these same parents think will happen if their child gets into trouble away from home? If they damage someone’s property, do they expect the property owner to be as soft in response as they are?

In raising children Biblically, you are not teaching them through discipline, as many would think. Instead, you are training them to behave properly. Just as you would teach a child not to touch a hot stove, you can train them to obey.

Many parents mistakenly think that they are training their child to do good if they are disciplining them when they do wrong. While you ARE teaching that there is a consequence to that behavior, you are not training them into doing good behavior. Training means working with your child. Even practicing situations that they have difficulty with. From the beginning, you establish boundaries and enforce them. For example, if your child is old enough to take a book off of their bookshelf, they are old enough to put it back properly. You show them how the first time or two. Then, you supervise them after. If they do not put a book away properly, you have them fix it.

Some modern thinking parents may wonder why you would want to fuss over something so minor. Okay, at what point in the bookshelf becoming messy do you find it appropriate to have the child clean it? If you wait too long, they end up having to remove all books to replace them neatly. On the other hand, if you address it right away with that first book that is not properly shelved, they only have to fix one book.

The training has to take place in all areas of the child’s life. Teaching them to do chores without grumbling or fuss, keeping their rooms neat, giving proper attention to their studies, and learning to obey without feeling the need to negotiate are all important lessons.

One that usually has people squirming is the idea of teaching children to obey without question. They mistakenly believe that you are expecting blind obedience. Well, in a sense we may be doing just that. Too many kids seem to feel that all boundaries, chores, or other responsibilities are up for negotiation. Sorry, to inform the uninformed, but you are a parent, not their best friend. They have peers to be friends with. What they need most from their parents is the instruction and guidance to help them to become the best person that they can be. If you are not teaching values to your child, then who is?

One thing that I have noticed is that the families who truly train their children instead of only disciplining them, end up having a much easier time raising their children. They also have much happier family life. Unfortunately, most parents seem to take the easier route and let society raise their kids for them.