Simplicity by Choice

Off-Grid Living & Self-Reliance

Homestead Christmas December 23, 2015

We haven’t always celebrated Christmas.  In fact, it has only been in recent years that we even got a small tree.  A local shop owner saw our daughter admiring the little artificial tree. She and I  talked about how pretty it was, not knowing that the owner overheard us. As we left, he came out carrying a box.  He said that we had forgotten something.  To our delight, he placed the tree in our trunk.

The main reason for not celebrating was due to the holiday being so commercial. It was all about the gifts, not the religious story.  People routinely go into debt trying to buy the perfect gift.  It just didn’t feel right.

After having the kids, we made the decision to celebrate.  The compromise for us was that we limit the gifts.  We also teach the kids to make their gifts.  This one simple thing helps teach children to give of their time and talents to others.

The little ones are ages 9 and 7 years old this season.  With a little guidance, Little Miss chose a project to make for Daddy.  She wanted to make him something that he can take onto the truck with him.  It was a simple project to complete but very useful.  Little Man needed more help with his gift to Daddy.  Mostly due to his lack of fine motor development.  He had fun with it though.

Giving homemade gifts whenever possible has become a family tradition.  We also limit the number of gifts.  In doing this, the kids are much more appreciative of what they receive.

The Christmas tree has a few secondhand ornaments.  Gradually, we are adding handmade ornaments to it each year.  A new thing added to the tree this year also was battery powered little lights.  We found those at Hobby Lobby.

Having a simple Christmas has been a blessing. We can focus on the meaning of the holiday without all the stress and hoopla that other families face.  We can use it as a time to serve others and give of ourselves in remebrance of Christ giving of Himself for us.  It is also an opportunity to teach the kids that it isn’t all about than, but learn to enjoy the giving to others.

I love how we celebrate Christmas. It is so much more peaceful and enjoyable for our family.  I pray that others can enjoy the holiday as that celebrate with their families.

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Simplicity Goals – Livingroom April 12, 2015

Filed under: old fashioned,simplicity — ourprairiehome @ 2:59 am
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It has been a little while since I last posted in this topic.  Life happens and gets in the way of best intentions sometimes.  I have finally set up a planner for my blog posts to help me be more efficient in this area.  I have been very surprised at the response about my kitchen post.  It would seem that our family is not the only ones thinking of scaling back to the basics.

livingroom

 

When you look at the picture above, what do you notice?  There is little excess.  In fact, there is no excess that is visible in the photo.  Can you imagine how easy it would be to keep this space clean?  Think of how peaceful your time would be when spent in this room.

Tonight, I wanted to continue the Simplicity Goals series with the livingroom.  I remember when visiting Katie and Levi Schwartzentruber, as you entered their home, the first room you entered was the livingroom.  Hardwood floors were the norm throughout their home.  Katie often mentioned to me that the wooden floors were more practical and easier to maintain with a family.  There livingroom, unlike most homes today, did not have a lot of seating for guests.  There were two rockers, both near a woodstove.  These were where Levi and Katie would sit.  The children typically sat on a bench or on the floor.    In the corner of the room, Katie had her treadle sewing machine and oft times, there was a quilt set up on the frame to be hand quilted.  When chores were done, or during a quilting bee, chairs and benches from the kitchen were brought in and placed around the quilt frame while the ladies worked on the quilt.

I remember how welcoming the space was.  When the number of guests was more than the livingroom, chairs were brought in.  Often, there were wooden chairs on the porch that could be brought in.  Chairs from around the dining table as well.  Just as with the quilting bees, chairs were brought in as needed.  On a daily basis though, the room was kept with the minimal furniture.  This reflected the Amish beliefs about not being given to excess.  Yet, we can learn so much from it today.

How often do we allow ourselves to be caught up in the wants and expectations that our society dictates?  We have become convinced that we must have all the comforts we can afford.  There are often times a feeling of needing to have just the right decor in our home.  How many of you know of someone who routinely changes their room decor to match the seasons?  I am not saying that this is a bad thing.  It just isn’t for me.  I look at not only the cost of the decor items, but the amount of storage required when these items are swapped out each season.  Then, you have the maintaining of the items, or their replacement when worn or damaged.

Katie had a very simple way of decorating.  She did it with quilts.  A lightweight quilt draped over the chair not only added color to the room, but provided a back cushion as well.  On chilly evenings, it was readily available to wrap around the shoulders for warmth.  Her windows had simple black fabric for curtains.  The fabric was heavy enough to keep the chill at bay.  In summer months, she might put up white fabric curtains that were a lighter weight to allow the breeze to come through the opened windows.  On her floor, a simple braided rag rug was the only covering.  One placed near the door, others at the rocking chairs.  Again, this is what brought color to the room.

I look at the picture, as well as my memories of Katie’s home, and I find inspiration.  With the lack of “stuff” cluttering the room, Katie did not have to spend endless amounts of time cleaning.  She had too many other things to do!  I can tell you from experience that having a house cluttered with excess, on top of doing chores without the benefits of modern conveniences & appliances, is overwhelming.  You spend so much time staying on top of the household chores that the garden or other tasks can suffer from neglect.  Katie not only maintained her home, she used the treadle sewing machine to make all of her family’s clothing, she gardened and home canned the harvest, she baked breads and pies almost daily to feed a family that included 7 children, and she did all the typical things that a Momma does.  Laundry was done in a gas powered, wringer washing machine, then hung up on the clothesline to dry.  Because the clothing is made mostly from a cotton fabric, of poly/cotton blend, it needed ironing as well.  She had a busy enough day ahead of her, even with the help of her oldest daughters, that excessive clutter would have been a hindrance.

How often do we find ourselves feeling overwhelmed?  How often do we wish we could have less time cleaning and more time to pursue other activities?  How easily could we gain that extra time if we simply removed some of the clutter and excess from our homes?

To me, that picture above is close to the ideal livingroom.  Only the essential items are present.  Everything has a place and everything is in its place.  It is peaceful and serene.  I could easily be able to relax in that room.  What about you?

 

One View of Simplicity February 1, 2015

Filed under: green living,old fashioned,simplicity — ourprairiehome @ 11:20 pm
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Ever since we started on this journey to a more simplified lifestyle 6 years ago, we are often asked why we would do this to ourselves.  It seems that society’s outlook on someone deciding to live within their means (or below their means) just because they choose to, is one in which the person is looked upon as having gone off their rocker.  For us, it seems silly that the media spouts off about the cries of conservationalists and enviromentalists for people to become more conscience of their use of fossil fuels and natural resources.  These groups often push for a more sustainable lifestyle that reduces the carbon footprint of each family.  Yet, here we are, doing exactly that and we are looked upon as being radical or weird.

I read an article today, “When Bread Bags Weren’t Funny” by Megan McArdle, that a dear friend shared on Facebook.  I loved the perspective of the author.  She was spot on in her views.  She shares in the article a glimpse into our nations past.  Not the distant past, but just a generation ago, using illustrations from the Little House books series as a comparison.

As I read the article, I was nodding my head in agreement to so much of it.  I have always held the belief that as a society, we have become spoiled.  Things that are relatively new (within 2 generations) have become so commonplace that people think it is impossible to life comfortably  without them.  One example of this attitude is the air conditioner.   When people first hear that we don’t use an air conditioner in the summer, they freak out.  They can’t understand how we can manage without one.  Truth be told, generations of our ancestors survived hot summers very well without air conditioning.  Even more interesting is to note that prior to my Grandma’s generation, women wore far more heavy clothing than we do today.  Yet, even in the deep south where humidity is  stifling in the middle of summer, these southern women managed to get through the season without health issues popping up all the time.

One of the issues that really makes me wonder at the thought processes of others is when people get weird over the idea of us using wood stoves for heat and cooking in winter while we have kids in the house.  Let me say this, even our autistic child who is developmentally delayed knows to never touch the wood stoves.  He doesn’t even touch them in summer when the stoves are not in use.  He simply has be trained to not touch them.  It is no different than teaching a young child to not touch a burner on your kitchen stove or to not pick up a glass object.  You simply train them.  Yet, there are those who cannot seem to understand this concept.

As far as the economics part of simplicity, here is my opinion. We are living on a single income.  My husband doesn’t make a huge salary, but a very modest hourly wage.  The wage is low enough that many families that we know would be looking for a second income to survive on a monthly basis.  According to the US Census bureau, the poverty line for a family of 4 is about $22,300 income per year.  Our family income is close to that.  Yet, we manage on this income.  How do we do it?

First, we don’t use credit unless critical.  We now have 1 credit card that is held in reserve for medical expenses only.  We are part of a medical sharing program and this credit card is what we use if we have to go to a doctor or buy medication.  Secondly, we only are buying essentials.  We see no need to go into debt to buy things that are unnecessary.  One point brought up in the article that I agree with is the opinion expressed about clothing.  In earlier generations, a person only had a week’s worth of clothing.  It was common for a woman to have what was termed her “work dresses” which were worn throughout the week.  These were the dresses worn as she did her daily tasks. The fabrics were sturdy ones that could take a lot of use.  For Sundays, she may have a single dress that was only for church or a special occasion, such as a wedding.  It was not uncommon for a woman to wear her Sunday best as her wedding dress.  When I was growing up, we got new (or new to us from the thrift store) clothes that were purchased just before the new school year began.  Our older clothes that still fit became our play clothes.  Each day, we would put on our school clothes before heading out to the bus.  When we got home, we had to change into our play clothes so that our newer outfits wouldn’t get messed up as we did chores or went out to play.  Today, many kids get a complete new wardrobe of clothing when school begins and they wear these same clothes whether playing outdoors or going to school.  Seldom do I hear someone talk about play clothes for their younger kids.  Often, kids today have more clothing than can fit in their dressers and closets.  Why?  Why would anyone need that many clothes?  How much money is spent on buying and maintaining that amount of clothing?  Where else could that money be better used?  It isn’t just the kids either.  Many adults have far more than they need, yet society says more is the better option.  If you don’t have a lot, then you are poor and underprivileged.  You are lacking in their eyes.  But who is truly lacking in this?

Toys for kids is another area where people go nutty.  In the Little House books, the Ingalls children had a special toy.  In the first book, Little House in the Big Woods, Laura writes about her sister, Mary, having a doll.  Laura’ parents couldn’t afford a doll for Laura, so Laura had a doll made by wrapping a cloth around a corn cob.  Later, she would get a doll of her own.  At that time however, Laura was happy to play with her corn cob doll.  Our kids have had a lot of toys given to them over the years.  We finally took on the task of buying each child an 18-gallon size plastic tote.  Because their bedroom is small, the toys that fit in their totes is all they keep.  We have given the excess to a thrift store run by a church that uses the proceeds for a youth ministry.  Our kids don’t feel slighted one bit by having to donate the extra toys.  They still have all their favorites.  Later, once the house remodel is done, they will appreciate even more the downsizing of their toys.  The room we are fixing up for them is the largest in our house.  We will be putting a wall down the center to give each of the two kids a room of their own.  Their rooms at that time will be about the size of a small bedroom in a single wide trailer.  More than enough room for them since they spend so little time in their bedroom anyways. Most of the time the family gathers in the kitchen/dining room or are outdoors.

My current project is attacking the homeschool shelves.  Every homeschooling family will shudder at the thought of what I am doing.  I am boxing up and donating all the excessive books that I have.  When I started buying them, I planned to use them with both children.  Now that I have a better idea of what Pookie is capable of doing, I know that it may be years before he can use some of these resources, if he is ever able to use them.  Instead of keeping everything on the hopes that he may one day be able to use the materials, I am donating everything Little Miss is not using within the next year.  By doing this, I will be able to clear nearly all the shelves.  Yes, like many homeschool families, I have a large amount of books and resources cluttering my shelves.  Not for too much longer though.

My feeling is that there was much to be appreciated about the more sparse furnishings.  The less you have, the easier to maintain and keep clean.  Purchases now are being considered by how much real use will it get.  I take time to consider each purchase and try to never buy anything on a whim or impulse.  Such was the way of things with earlier generations.  Money was scarce and they had to be thoughtful in considering each and every purchase they made.  Why is it so strange to others if a family lives that way now?  I can only think that it is because it is more acceptable to give in to our desires and wants without considering the financial consequences of those purchases.

As I think on that article mentioned above, I can only smile to think that someone else is “getting it” and understanding that there is no shame in choosing to live with less.

 

 

Old Fashioned Romance January 6, 2015

Filed under: faith,family,old fashioned — ourprairiehome @ 9:09 am
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Recently, I had the opportunity to review a book titled, “The Old Fashioned Way: Reclaiming the Lost Art of Romance” by Ginger Kolbaba.

Old Fashioned Way

On Amazon, the book is described as follows.

Contrary to popular opinion, being “old fashioned” doesn’t mean you’re dull or unromantic. In fact, a true old-fashioned relationship can be more exciting and romantic than anything you’ve ever experienced! So what does it mean to do things The Old Fashioned Way? Sure, it means opening doors, holding out chairs, and taking things slow. But a true old-fashioned romance goes much deeper than that. Inspired by the motion picture Old Fashioned, this book will show you how to reclaim the lost art of romance by introducing you to romantic love as God intended it—for all of us. Regardless of your past experiences, where you’ve been, or where you are now, you can find and create a love that will last a lifetime.

As you work your way through this 40-day journey of inspiring readings and questions for reflection, you’ll discover all the unique and amazing benefits of doing things the old-fashioned way and be well on your way to creating a love story for the ages.

This book has been a very enlightening read.  I have never sen the movie, but the book gives beautiful insight into how romance should be.  The modern ideas of what is romantic and what an enduring romantic love should be is often far from what the Lord intended for us to experience.  Through this 40-day devotional, you are introduced again to what romance should be.  In reading it, I find that if more people were to apply this knowledge in their relationships, we would have a far lower divorce rate.  I am sure that some would cringe at the thought of a woman being a helpmeet to her husband, but that is because modern society has turned it into an ugly prospect.  Once you come to understand the true meaning of it, you can see how it can transform your marriage.  It isn’t just the woman however.  Men also have to play their part in this.

This book would be a wonderful devotional to share with teenagers who are approaching the dating scene.  As a Christian parent, I find that the teachings given are just as valuable to both young men and women as the knowledge was in earlier generations.

 

Christmas Ornament Exchange & More November 4, 2014

Filed under: Crafting,family,holidays,old fashioned — ourprairiehome @ 9:05 am
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On Facebook, I am hosting a Handmade Christmas Ornament Exchange.  It has been so much fun making the ornaments to mail out to the swap participants.  Mine are all crocheted.  I went onto the Ravelry website and did a search for free patterns and found a plethora of ideas.  I have always loved the look of old fashioned handmade ornaments.  Each year, I try to make a new decoration or other item to add to our collection.  Last year was the first time we had an actual Christmas tree.  It is a small tabletop style, but in our home, that works for us.

I have been busy crocheting a lot this year.  Nearly everyone will be getting something crocheted or otherwise handmade.  One new aspect is that both of the kids will be able to make gifts this year.  I wasn’t sure if our son was going to be able to do it but found some neat ideas for crafts that both kids can make.

I wanted him to make something a little more personal for his Occupational, Physical, and Speech therapists though, so designed an ornament for him to make each of them.  He is learning sign language, so that will be incorporated into his project for them.  I don’t have pictures at this time because the camera I was using doesn’t work anymore.  I will try to post a picture tutorial later though if my husband is able to take pictures for me to upload.

Here is one idea that is a very simple one to make.  I am using the air-dry modeling compound made by Crayola for this project.

“I Love You” Clay Ornament

Make a tracing of your child’s hand on a sheet of paper.  Carefully cut it out.  This will become a pattern for your ornament.  Roll out the modeling compound to 1/8″ thick.  Carefully use a knife to cut out the hand print pattern from the clay.  Fold the middle and ring fingers downward so that the clay hand print looks like the sign meaning “I love you.”  You may need to lightly dampen the folded fingers t make them stick to the palm of the hand.

Next, using a small plate or bowl, cut out a circle that is slightly larger than the clay hand, from the 1/8″ thick clay.  This will become the base you attach the hand print to.  Lightly dampen the back of the hand and place it in the center of the ornament base.  Press just firmly enough to make it stick well, but not enough to flatten the hand too much.  You want the dimension of the sign language gesture to remain clear to see.  Using a straw, make a hole for hanging the ornament at the top center.

Let the clay dry thoroughly.  You can speed up the process by placing it on a wire rack in a warm oven, if necessary.  Follow the manufacturer’s instructions carefully if you attempt to dry them in the oven.

Once completely dried and hardened, you can have your children paint their hand print ornaments.  Use a permanent marker to write their name and the year on the ornament once the paint is dry.  To give a shiny finish, you can spray the ornaments with a glossy clear coat of spray paint.  After the ornament if finished, thread a ribbon through the hole and tie the ends into a knot.  Enjoy!!!

Another fun idea that Little Miss is making is a crocheted garland.  She is just learning to crochet and wanted to make a simple decoration for the tree.  So, she is crocheting a long garland using the basic chain stitch.  I will be teaching her how to add beads to her garland as she crochets.  It is really simple.

Beaded Chain Stitch Garland

This is a perfect first project for a little child to make.  There is no gauge or specific hook size.  All you need is the crochet hook, a smaller steel hook that is small enough to thread through a bead’s hole, yarn, and the beads.

The distance between beads is up to the person making the garland.  On our little tree, the beads will be about one bead every 1.5″ of stitches.

Begin making the chain.  When you reach the point where you want to add a bead, carefully remove the crochet hook.  Using the steel hook, thread a bead onto the hook.  Next, grab up the loop of yarn with the steel hook and slip the bead off of the hook, bring the yarn through the bead’s hole.  Set aside the steel hook and place the yarn loop back onto the crochet hook you are using to make the chain stitching.  Continue chain stitching until you are ready to add another bead.  Repeat this pattern until the garland is the size you want.  That’s it!  A very simple garland that a child can make successfully.

There are so many handmade decorations and gifts that kids can make for others.  By teaching them from an early age to hand-make their decorations and gifts, you are not only teaching them a craft/skill, but are teaching them to give of their time and talents.  It is something that will benefit them for many years to come.

 

No Pattern Crochet Vest for Kids April 29, 2014

Filed under: Crafting,old fashioned,simplicity — ourprairiehome @ 8:01 pm

I have been wanting to crochet a few simple pull-over vests for our kids.  Nothing fancy, just am added layer to wear next winter to help stay warmer.  This morning, I remembered very old idea for making the vests.  Best part is, no pattern is required!

First step is to take measurements.  Measure the child around their chest.  Add 1.5 -2″ to this amount to allow room needed for pouring on the vest and wearing a shirt underneath.

Next, measure from 1-2″ below the armpit to the waist where you want the vest to end. 

Last measurement is the shoulder from the place where the top of the vest will be from front to back.

When crocheting the vest, you make 3 pieces: a tube that forms the body of the vest and two rectangular shoulder straps that are 2-3″ wide.

To make the body (tube) of the vest, chain stitch the length of your chest measurement.  Slip stitch to close the ring.  Chain two stitches then start crocheting with your favorite stitch pattern beginning at the second stitch from hook. Continue all the way around until you reach the beginning of the row.  Slip stitch to end that row.  Repeat the process until the tube is the length needed for the vest measurement. 

For shoulder straps, make two rectangles 2-3″ wide and the length needed according to your measurement.  You may want to place the vest body on the child and measure the strap length.  At that time, place rope markers or a short price of yarn where the straps will be attached to the front of the vest body. This will make finishing easier later.

Stitch your straps to size.  Align one short end of each strap to the placement markers on the front of the vest body.  Single crochet into place.  Lay vest flat with front side facing downward.  Align shoulder straps to the back so that they are even with the front. Single crochet into place.

To finish, you can now stitch a pretty edging onto the vest if desired.

Voila!  You are done.  A simple pullover child’s vest without a pattern.  Enjoy!

 

Unexpected Blessings January 11, 2014

Filed under: family,homesteading,old fashioned,ramblings,simplicity — ourprairiehome @ 5:22 pm
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Yesterday, I had a surplus of milkso shared it with our neighbors who are retired and raising two grandchildren. This family is very dear to us. We feel blessed to be considered a part of their family. 

While there, Momma gave me a beautiful lap/shawl size afghan that she has crocheted for me. It will always be a treasured gift.

image

This morning, Pop and his brother stopped by with a pickup truck load of pecan firewood that was cut and split to fit in my wood-burning cookstove.  What a blessing!  The load was enough to fill three large shipping crates.  When I thanked him for the wood, he told me that cutting it have him something to do.

We are so blessed to have neighbors like Momma and Pop.  Like us, they live as close to a self-reliant life as they can and have taught us so much.  In many ways, they mentor us. Always available to help us learn a new skill if needed.  Our families look out for one another just as families used to do generations ago. 

When I think of our relationship with their family, I can’t help but wonder how much better our world would be if everyone treated each other this way.  Each doing all they can to not have to depend on others.  Each being willing to shared their surplus resources or knowledge.  Utopia? Maybe.  It would sure make life better for all though if people thought less about what was in it for them and more about how they can bless another.