Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Housekeeping day

Today was a busy, productive day.  I took advantage of the fact that I had a couple days off to start on some housekeeping that should have been done a long time ago. First I transplanted some herb seedlings (cilantro, parsley, and oregano) that I started a couple of weeks ago for the kitchen.  I reused some peat pellets, so I'm not sure how well they'll do, we shall see. I'm obviously only halfway through  in this picture. Forgot to take a picture of the completed task.

Next, I cleaned out my indoor greenhouse and moved it from the warm, dark living room, to the much lighter laundry room. Hopefully that will give the little guys the little extra to make it.

When I cleaned out the greenhouse, I found my pot of seed packets and inventoried what I had. By the looks of it, I'll only need to buy tomato and bell pepper seeds this year, if everything sprouts.  I know it seems awful early to be planning my garden, but one can never plan too much.  My favorite crops so far are my Black Beauty zuchinni and armenian cucumbers.  I've yet to have a very successful tomato or bell pepper crop. Maybe this year will be the year. (Fingers crossed)

By the time I finished with those tasks, the cleaning bug had hit full force. I cleaned out the kitchen cabinets and got rid of  lots of very useful but seldom used kitchen appliances so that I could find the things I actually do use. I'll be posting on our local Freecycle group to give them to some who needs them. If you're not familiar with freecycle, its a wonderful way to keep your things out of the landfill, and find things that you can't buy.  I think most communities have freecycle web groups.

This afternoon, a friend took a drive with me to  look for property.  Seems that land here in central oklahoma is running about $3000-$5000/acre on average.  Now I just need to decide if I want to buy a smaller piece of land and own it, or finance a larger piece of land.  I'm leaning toward owning a smaller piece. The last thing I want to do is sink a bunch of money into something and be at the mercy of the bank if my grooming shop doesn't make it.  (Terrible that I'm planning for possible failure when I haven't even opened shop yet. Not pessimistic, I say. Just realistic.)

This year I plan on making all of my christmas gifts (except for the kids' gifts). I'm hoping to get a start on that Monday with my first batch EVER of hot process soap.I've made cold process, but like the hot process SO much better.  Funny thing, but after I used homeade soap, I can't make myself buy commercial soaps or body wash anymore.  The one thing I don't think I'll ever give up is my shampoo though.  But who knows. Anyone have a great shampoo recipe?.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Haircut at Home

Yesterday I decided that I just couldnt take it anymore!  My son's hair was driving me crazy. He wanted to keep it longer but it just looked... well, AWFUL.  I decided I wasnt going to pay someone to trim it and leave it long when I had scissors at home. Heck if I messed it up too badly, I have clippers here too!



And the coup de gras? He actually liked it!  Too bad, I really wanted to get my clippers out. hehe.  I also gave myself a trim, which turned out fairly well.  My daughter, however, declined and is holding out for my regular stylist to cut it.  Maddening, since all she needs is a trim. She doesn't even have bangs! lol.   Oh well,

Haircuts in a salon $30
Haircut at home   $0
Money saved  $30

Think we'll start saving money on haircuts more often. 

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Getting in the Spirit

In spite of the fact that I'm feeling a little under the weather, its been a lovely evening. The kids came home early enough to put on a little christmas cheer with me so we spent the evening decorating. I decided to let them put the tree up all by themselves this year. I tend to be a bit of a control freak, so kudos to me! I only made a couple of suggestions, but shut up when they decided to do it their way lol. Most of our ornaments are hand made with love.

Even Lucky got in the Christmas spirit... or at least he was dressed like it!

And what cold Autumn night is complete without homeade hot chocolate with fresh whipped cream?

The lights were stretched on the shrubs... not sure if I'll get anything else done this year.  

And when all the work is done, we got to sit back and enjoy the beauty of the season.

Happy Holidays everyone!

Natural Building Techniques

For quite some time I 've been reading up on various natural building techniques, including Cob, Adobe, Earthbag, Cordwood, and Strawbale.  With the possibility of being able to buy land soon looming, I have become more pressed to make decisions about what I want, and how I'll achieve my goal.

My primary goal is to build a home with my own two hands (and those of some friends), that is molded from all natural materials, off grid, utilizes passive solar techniques, and incorporates both indoor and outdoor living areas.

Exterior of Eco-Dome

 Some time ago, I thought I had settled on earthbag construction.  I fell in love with the curves, circular designs and the fact that they are very inexpensive to build.  I found these pictures at Cal-Earth. One of my favorite sites to study for earthbag building is Earthbag Plans.  There are so many neat ideas, many not realistic for me, but fun to look at just the same

Main dome of Eco-Dome

Recently I have begun reading more about straw bale homes. What I love about them is the use of thermal mass to insulate, faster erection of walls, and availability of straw, since I live here in rural Oklahoma.  In addition,  you still have the creative freedom to sculpt your home through the plastering process. I found a lovely site that shows the process in detail at House of Straw.

I realize that my biggest challenges will be the actual cost of building, and the manpower of getting the job done to make it the most economical choice.  

My plan is to first find a piece of  land.  When I find the piece that speaks to me, I will spend a year just  observing the land during the seasons for changes - become familiar before building, spending plenty of time there simply absorbing the landscape. I know this will help me not only make better decisions, but will also give me the time to begin saving the money to do the actual building.  

Of course, seeing as I'm still learning this whole process, this plan may change many times between now and the completed process. But I promise to keep you posted along the way!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Homestead Stuffing

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!  We had a wonderful day with friends, old and new.  And for today's meal, we brought two dishes. One inspired the title of today's blog:

I was late getting started making our traditional Sourdough Stuffing last night. Normally it is made using our heirloom cast iron meat grinder.  As fate would have it, we forgot to bring it home from Mom's house last year, which I'd forgotten until I started looking for it. So I decided to use my food processor.... but we couldn't find a vital piece of the equipment.  In the end, I made do with what I had on hand: A knife, a cutting board, and my hands - the way it was done for  centuries.

May I say I liked it better than any other year in history.  From now on I will be making it the same way, and will always call it Homestead stuffing! lol

Homestead Stuffing
3 Sourdough Boules
2 cups milk
2 bunches celery
2 onions
2 eggs
1 stick butter
poultry seasoning to taste

Let bread stale either in room air or in the oven. Put milk in a pan and add bread, allowing it to soak up the milk.  Squeeze milk out of the bread, and tear into small pieces.  Chop celery and onion finely. Combine bread pieces, celery, and onion and mix well. Beat eggs and stir into bread mixture. Melt butter in saucepan and pour over bread mixture. Mix well. Add Poultry seasoning to taste.  Bake in 350 degree oven, covered, for 1 hour.  Uncover and bake until top is crusty.

And of course, don't forget the most important ingredient for a happy Thanksgiving: Remembering to give thanks. Here are just a few of the people I am thankful for in my life:

 My daughter and her best friend

My son

And my dear friend (with his daughter)

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Autumn is in full swing again, and I'm loving the color that always abounds.

Tomorrow is the one year anniversary of my car accident.  It seems like every day since that day has continued to revolve around that crazy 15 seconds.  Tomorrow will again be another crazy day. Ironically it will also bring an ironic closure to the entire experience.  I won't go into detail, but to say that it will all be over soon.

Unfortunately, I have been so preoccupied by those events that I had forgotten what my ultimate life goals are- To become self sufficient and gloriously happy in the simplicity of my life.  As I mentioned before, I have continued to make me own laundry soap this year. I have also continued to make my own tootpaste.  My daughter isn't easily impressed, but my son loves the stuff and won't use the store bought anymore.  

For those interested, here is my recipe for homeade toothpaste

3/8 cup baking soda
1/8 cup salt
1/8 cup glycerin
enough water to reach your desired consistancy
peppermint or other essential oil to taste (cinnamon, clove, vanilla, or whatever you enjoy)

Mix all ingredients together and pour or spoon into the container of your choice. This recipe fits perfectly into a 3 oz travel container like the pink one in the picture.

Friday, November 18, 2011

A change of direction

My journey to change the way I live my life has taken me in a new direction. I have decided to make a dramatic change in careers.  After 17 years as a nurse, I have begun apprenticing as a dog groomer in my mothers shop. This is the main reason I haven't posted in such a long time.  Between working as a nurse full time (weekend double shifts), and grooming dogs 4 days a week during the week, I have been pretty busy.

 Today, as I sat here at the computer, it occurred to me that this year has just flown away from me.  Last time I posted it was cold and snowy.  Since then we had a turbulent spring, a record breaking heatwave, and unprecedented earthquakes. My weren't those exciting.  No, really!  Having grown up in California, I've actually missed the quakes I'd grown accustomed to.  Now my children have experienced them too!  My son just stood there with a silly smile on his face, and my daughter was completely unimpressed.  She kills me.

I began apprenticing in Mom's grooming shop in July.  It has been alot of fun so far.  

There are days when I wonder if I've just lost my mind. The thought of being self employed is more than a little scary; Especially the idea of not having a guaranteed paycheck. But the pro's are pretty great too, and I think they far outweight the cons. I'm ready to be my own boss!

As for self-sufficiency, I'm am working at that in baby steps.  I am happy to say I haven't bought laundry soap in a year. By making it at home I would estimate than I've saved about $300 this year.  Since my garden never made it into the yard last year, I hope to spend this winter preparing some raised beds, learning to grow mushrooms, and growing fresh herbs in pots indoors.  And of course, research, research, research!