Simplicity by Choice

Off-Grid Living & Self-Reliance

Resetting Our Focus February 23, 2016

Filed under: homesteading,organization,simplicity — ourprairiehome @ 6:44 pm
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Over the weekend, hubby was home for his time off from the truck. What a LONG 8 weeks it was that he had been gone! Luckily, this isn’t always the length of time apart. We sure have enjoyed the family time though. As always, it goes by far too quickly for us.

I awoke early today. Long before sunrise and much earlier than my usual. It is surprising when I consider how tired that I was after yesterday. Sunday was our “Family Day” when we just had fun together. We had celebrated a joint birthday party for the kids at a children’s museum. They had a lot of fun there. Being a trucking family, we are having to be creative in our celebrations. Little Miss’ birthday will arrive before Daddy’s home again, and Pookie’s birthday will arrive just after he heads back out on the truck. Looking at the calendar, we realized that Daddy’s next home time will be Easter weekend. That would not have worked out for a birthday party. To wait until the next scheduled hometime would put the kids celebrating late April/early May. So, we had the party on Sunday instead. On their actual birthdays, we will have cake and presents. This was simply a special gathering to have fun with friends and family.

On Monday, we had a work day. I had cleared out the back room as much as I could without help. There were boxes that Hubby had to sort out and lifting that I cannot do. So, he helped me with that portion. What a task! Thankfully, it got done. We are only keeping an extremely small fraction of what was there. About 90% of it is either being donated or was put into the burn pit.

It has been frustrating to see the amount of damage the field mice had done over the past 2 years that the room was used for storage. Blankets, quilts, sleeping bags, clothing, were damaged. We will definitely be investing in more storage totes in the future. Many of the bedding items were old, so I don’t feel as bad as if they were new. It is still an expense that we will have to make though in replacing it all.

Now, the last of the room can be finished by me. Mostly clearing out a large antique desk and sorting through the bookcases. The closet will be another project for Hubby later since it contains only his things. Being so close to done is very rejuvenating to me. When first faced with clearing out a packed storage room, the task can seem overwhelming. You literally can feel drained just thinking about it. Now that it is nearly completed, I am eager to finish the job. During Hubby’s time out on the truck, I will be getting the room ready to move the kids’ bed into it next time he is home. Then, we will move into the kids’ old room.

I am really looking forward to getting the front room rearranged back into a nice area for homeschooling and relaxing. It has been too long since we have had that. I also am going to love having more useable space in the house. For many, the idea of purging over half of your belongings can seem crazy. Let’s face it, we live in a society where having more seems to be the goal. People want to have the best of everything and more of it.

This brings me to the topic I wanted to touch upon, Setting Our Focus. When we choose to simplify our lives, we have to reset our way of thinking. First, we have to consider just how we got to the place we are in. What choices did we make that led us to the lifestyle that is needing changed? We have to find those answers within ourselves before we can move forward in the simplifying. To skip this step is to set ourselves up to fail. We will be making the same choices and mistakes that caused up to be living in a way that brings about stress and financial worry.

Most often, the greatest obstacle that people have is in their purchases. Our society has the idea that you need the newest and best of everything. That is the complete opposite of those who seek a more simplified lifestyle. Yes, we want the best, but only in the fact that we are wanting something that will last. One example would be a wheat grinder. There may be cheaper ones for sale, but buying one that will last for many years of hard use is preferable in that it won’t need repairs or replacing very quickly. Cookware is another purchase where better quality is the preferred. Again, this helps to prevent having to replace items after only a couple years of use.

The purchases that we try to especially avoid are the impulsive ones. How often does a child ask for a toy at the store, only to forget about their new toy within a week of buying it? Clearance sales can be a nightmare. The impulse to buy something because of the lower price can entice you to spend money on something that you wouldn’t purchase if it were regular price.

The money spent on the frivolous and impulsive purchases can best be used to either pay down a debt, build up your food pantry or other needed supplies, or to simply put away in a savings account. Here is a personal example. Recently, Hubby and I were out running errands and bought coffee. We went to Starbucks as a treat. I spent $11 for two venti (20 ounce) size cups of coffee. At a grocery store, that same $11 could have bought a 25 lb bag of flour with $3 in change left over. This is why I refer to Starbucks as a treat. It isn’t something that we do on a regular basis. We also are aware that the cost takes away from something else.

This doesn’t mean that you cannot have fun and take the kids on outings if you are simplifying your spending. On the contrary! We are able to do more. A good example is the children’s museum. To get a family of 4 into the museum costs $32 for one day. Now, if that same family were to buy a yearly family pass, it would cost about $80. Just 3 trips to the museum would more than pay for that fee. When buying the annual family pass, there is an option to pay and extra $40 to get an annual pass that will get you unlimited admissions into 5 museums in our area. One of the museums is a large science museum that is quite pricey to attend if paid by the day/visit. Add the annual pass for the museums package to the $65 cost for an annual family pass to the zoo, and you have spent less than $200. This means that your family can go to all these places, unlimited number of times, for a year at that one price. The kids love going to these locations and it is worth it for us. I realize that not everyone would enjoy it, but this gives you an idea.

 

New Gardening Project February 17, 2016

With Joseph gone doing his trucking job and me raising two kids here in the homestead alone most of the time, I am having to rethink how to have a family garden.  It has to be something that I can manage completely on my own.  I found a blog post about a No–Dig Garden that is very easy.  Once the garden beds are created, your work is nearly done.  The weeding is minimal, especially if you use mulch around the plants.  All organic materials means that each season you only have to add some more fertlizer or ammend the soil before planting again.  This is easily done.  Once your garden is finished for the season, add more compost or manure, cover with a layer of mulch, and let the garden beds rest until spring. 

I am going to use cinder blocks to form the garden beds.  These will not have mortar but simply stacked 2 rows tall.  The cavities of the blocks will contain rocks in the lower level and planting mix in the top level.  The cavities can be planted with flowers or herbs.  Another option would be to add a length of pipe in the corners and center blocks that are slightly taller than the cinder blocks.  These will be useful for forming a hoop cover.  To make the cover, take a length of off and bend it into a curve.  Place one end into a pipe, forming the curve over your garden bed.  You can also use these pipes for placing a trellis along the side for climbing plants or make a taller canopy to provide shade when necessary.

The boxes are very easy to construct.  Place 2 layers of cardboard under the garden bed to prevent growth of vegetation from under the bed.  Stack your cinder blocks to form the sides.  Next, place alternating layers of straw, manure, and planting mix into the beds.  You want it several inches above the bed.  After about 2 weeks, the materials will have settled down to the top of the bed. 

If you want the material to hold moisture better, use peat moss as one of the top layers.  I generally will mix a 50/50 mixture of potting mix and peat moss, which works great here in the southwest where temps reach over 100°F in summer.

You can plant right away after filling the garden beds or wait until the soil mixture settles down into the garden bed.  Once planted, add mulch to further cut down on moisture loss and weeding.

I can”t wait to get my new garden area set up.  The beauty of this method is that I can move the garden to another location easily.  Just dismantle the beds, set up in the new area, then refill the beds reusing the soil materials.  All the straw used breaks down and gives you compost.  You are, in essence, building and planting your garden in a contained compost bin.

During the winter, I will be able to add the wood ash from our wood stove to the garden beds to add more nutrients to the soil.  In spring, I just have to turn the soil and I am ready to plant, especially if I have added the additional manure to the garden beds at the end of growing  season the previous year.

I can’t wait to get started.  This is going to make gardening so much easier for me to manage this year.  I plan to start with 2 large or 4-6 small beds first.  I can expand later if needed.

 

Long Awaited Remodel February 11, 2016

Filed under: family,homesteading,simplicity — ourprairiehome @ 5:44 pm
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I have finally come to the conclusion that the hardest part of remodeling is clearing out a room that has been used for storage. Our home has 2 rooms in the back section of the house, which is not heated in winter. Both of those rooms have become storage areas over the years.

With the kids getting older, the need for more space is becoming one which we are having to focus upon. For years, my husband and I have been wanting to remodel the house. We love our 1890’s home, but it needs a bit of cosmetic improvements. It also needs a few upgrades, such as adding a heating system to the back section.

We have nearly finished one of the rooms. Originally, it was to become a new bedroom for my husband and I. Now, it is becoming a bedroom for my adult son who is moving here from another state. Having it’s own outdoor entrance, it will be convenient for him. He will be able to use that room until he is able to get himself set up in his own place. The second of the 2 back rooms is one of the largest rooms of the house, It is going to become the kids’ bedroom. It is large enough that we are planning to divide the room into 2 smaller ones. Each will be about the size of a small bedroom in a mobile home, which is adequate for a single child per room.

I have been clearing out the back rooms a little at a time over the winter. I have been brutal in the sorting of the items in those rooms. Easily 75% of what was there is being either trashed or donated. My attitude is that unless it is a tool or other item that is necessary, anything in storage for over 6 months is not going to be kept. I am literally only saving items such as photos, some furniture, and family heirlooms. Everything else will be gone. By May, both rooms will be nearly completed. The only thing unfinished will be adding the propane heaters and the dividing wall in the kids’ room. Both rooms will be ready for use, if not already being used.

Hubby and I are going to temporarily be using the kids’ old bedroom once they are in their new space. I am looking forward to it. Over the next few years, we will be in a state of “room shuffling” while we work on the house. The kids’ current bedroom used to be a part of the old kitchen space. Originally, the house had a very large farm kitchen. A previous owner put a dividing wall up to make that extra bedroom. As soon as we no longer need that space as a bedroom anymore, the wall will be removed. The large farm kitchen will be its full size once more.

The remodeling is something we have been dreaming about for many years. We have always been in a situation of either not having the money or not having the time. Now, we are finally in a position to get the work done. We will be doing most of it ourselves. That is one reason that I am so grateful that the “bones” of the house are in good shape. Yes, we may encounter surprises along the way. One would expect that when dealing with a house of this age, but I am looking forward to the challenge.

 

Finding Peace in a Chaotic World January 28, 2016

Filed under: Uncategorized — ourprairiehome @ 4:28 am

Over the past months, I have been doing a lot of work on myself.  It had been so easy to allow myself to get overwhelmed by life.  Hubby being gone for long periods while I was home really took some getting used to again.  I had become spoiled with having him home every night.  Now, I am back to dealing with the homestead on my own while he is away. 

It has taken some time, but I am finding my peace again.  That calm that reached deep onto your soul is coming back.  Yes, I still have moments of stress, such as when I had vehicle problems.  Over all though, I am learning to roll with it. 

My blogs, unfortunately have suffered from neglect during this time.  I am working on that.  Getting used to posting from a phone app has been interesting, to say the least.  I think I have found an internet service to suit my needs.  We are going to be buying a MiFi device that works in our area.  Once I get that, I will have a better set-up for doing the blogs.  Until then, the posts will be from the phone.

 

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.

 

Early Blessings December 10, 2015

Filed under: Uncategorized — ourprairiehome @ 5:30 pm
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What a crazy few months!  Running the homestead while hubby is out on the truck has been an adjustment.  I have been getting the house ready for winter.  Firewood is being delivered a pickup truck load at a time so that we have the wood needed for the winter season.  So far the temps have been mild, but I am not holding my breath.  Back when Little Miss was a toddler, we had a very mild start to winter only to have a blizzard on Christmas Eve.

This weekend, I am putting plastic up on the windows to help keep an drafts out.  Even with double-pane windows, sometimes the cold can sneak in.  Putting the plastic up will help prevent that.

A neighbor got an extra deer this past season.  They brought to me the meat from a large buck.  I roasted it all up and cut into stew meat before pressure canning the entire thing.  Now, I have a pantry shelf loaded with venison to use throughout the winter months and into spring.

Once the daytime temps are consistently staying down in the 35-50 degree range, I will be buying a 50# bag of russet potatoes.  These will stay fresh and not grow sprouts all winter long.

I am buying a few sweet potatoes this week to allow to grow sprouts.  The sprouts are allowed to grow to be about 6 inches long.  Once they are long enough, I carefully break them off of the sweet potatoes and set them into a jar of water to grow roots.  By spring, I will have a good size batch of sweet potato slips to plant into the garden.

 

 

Bulk Food Tip September 21, 2015

Filed under: Uncategorized — ourprairiehome @ 2:58 pm

One of my favorite ways to save money is to shop the bulk food bins at Whole Foods or Sprouts Farmers Market. Both stores have a great selection in dried goods that store well in the pantry.

One problem that I see in buying these foods for the newbie is the pack of cooking instructions for those foods. With that in mind, here is a tip that I am using in my kitchen.

Take a blank book or notebook and write the basic recipes for preparing the food items. Having this information readily available will save a lot of frustration later.

Here is one example.  I recently purchased farina at Sprouts for 99 cents per pound. I filled a quart container for less than $2.00.  When I got home, I realised I had no instructions. Luckily I had a small box of farina in the pantry that I was able to copy the info from.

Having the information not only helps me, but anyone else in the family who wants to cook.  I may know how to cook lentils, but my daughter doesn’t.  

Once you have the basic cooking instructions recorded in the book, add favorite recipes using those bulk foods.  I am using a small 3-ring binder for mine. This way I can add index tabs to make finding each bulk food faster.