Trying to Find Our Own Way

This is the story of how our family is striving to find new meaning (and a little independence) in this crazy, fast-paced world of commercialism, genetically-modified foods, and 'Big Business America' by raising a few animals, growing some of our own food, and supporting as many sustainable ways of life as possible. We don't have a tv, but we love Netflix. We unplug our appliances when they're not in use, and we make our own natural laundry soap and cleaners, but nothing can replace a long, hot shower some days. We're not perfect in our efforts to be a "green" family, but we're definitely trying to make a difference, one day and one step at a time. Please follow us on our adventure!

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Making Lemonade

A tree and several branches have fallen into our yard and I have been cleaning and cutting for a few days now, but on the upside we will have a lot of firewood. Learned to throw an axe while chopping said trees and branches. The wood will be great when we build the earth oven and put a burning stove in the house. Tired, see ya.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Chaos in the Coops

For weeks now, I've been trying to find time to sit down and write about all of the chaos that's been going on around here. But, between potty-training Eli, getting used to washing diapers every day, dealing with a screaming baby who doesn't want to be put down, and making batch upon batch of laundry soap, I really haven't had the time or energy to write about anything. I've barely been able to make it to the bathroom without a kid on my hip or my leg, much less shower every day or eat three square meals. Wow. Pioneer women must have had nerves of steel. Lately, I feel like mine are made of mush. Everything feels like mush some days, my brain, my body, and somehow, over the course of having three children in the last three years, that flabby skin that hangs from the undersides of some women's arms has found its way into my life as well. Man oh man. I need time for the gym. Maybe some Zumba. I would really love to have some time for that.
My sweet Cullie Girl having yet another screaming moment.
Anyway, so back to the chaos that I've been meaning to write about. There was a string of days a few weeks back, when I thought, "Wow, what else can happen around here?" Cullie was screaming because I had to put her down to help Eli, who was walking around the house with his pants down around his ankles announcing to the family, "I'm pee-in', I'm pee-in'", and I looked outside from the laundry room out at the chicken coop to see that one of the ducks had gotten his head and half of his body stuck in the fencing. So, I pulled Eli's pants up, helped him wash his hands, and ran for the wire cutters. "Oh no," I thought. "I'm going to have to cut this duck out of the fence. How am I going to patch it so the others don't get out when I'm finished rescuing this poor thing?" I finally got him free, after negotiating wings and legs back through the fencing, and I only had to bend one small part of the metal. I could hear Cullie screaming at the top of her lungs through the open windows, so I hurried back inside to rescue her. Eli met me with some sort of food or drink request, as usual, and I looked back out at the coop once again on the way back to the kitchen. Damned if that duck wasn't stuck in the fence again!! So, outside I went to rescue the duck again, Cullie screaming again because I put her down on her play mat on the kitchen floor, boys chasing me through the house asking me what's wrong. I again bent the metal, negotiated wings and feet and pushed him back through the fence. He skinned his neck up pretty good at some point during all of this, and I told the boys about it on the way back in the house. Of course, the bleeding duck was top news in the house that afternoon, and over the next few days, wouldn't you know that that stupid duck got stuck in that same position, same section of fencing, four or five more times. I finally had to stretch a piece of wire along the middle of the bottom section so that he couldn't fit his head through there anymore. Sheesh.

I'm glad we survived that initial week of potty training and that the duck, too, survived that week, period. He's doing fine now. His neck is healing nicely, and I think he may have finally learned his lesson about trying to get food on the outside of the coop. It's a good thing too, because Adrian was thinking about having some yummy duck for dinner.

There's something happening here.......

This place is finally coming together, in my mind anyway. I said earlier that I am going to re-do all the gardens, my plan is to build raised beds but first.... Cleaning up the trees and branches that have made their way into my yard and on to my corn,*&*&%! After that build the run at the other end of the yard for a goat, also for rabbits. Raise the patio cover, build the earth oven. This weekend we are picking up wood for fencing that a guy is giving away, nice, but more work. The plan for this place is not only to feed us but to give people a chance to see a house in the city become a self sustainable farm, basically. I would like to offer deals on picking your own veggies on a drive by basis or CSA type of situation, either way people could tour the place and feel it out.
Eli helping Daddy measure.
Lindley taking a break from "working so hard."

Our squash is blooming, a very pretty yellow flower, if any one knows a way to prolong the bloom once picked please tell. Peas and beans are starting to produce and my radish and other things are leafing right up.









I replaced the old metal columns on our porch with pine timber and I think it looks pretty cool anyway, kind of rustic. (Farrah asks that you please don't look at her sad flower beds. The strawberry plants are still tiny, and the snap dragons are having a hard time. Thanks.)





Sunday, April 3, 2011

Plans for a Half-Acre Homestead Store

Adrian and I are creative in different ways, but we make a great creative team. He's good at wood-working and making art from salvaged materials, like beat-up old tin and hundred-year-old wood and nails. And he loves using old-timey tools. I'm more of the crafty type (when I have time), and I've recently developed a love for making all-natural household cleaners and body products.

So, we've decided to pool our collective creative energies and open a Half-Acre Homestead store, where we can sell our handmade folk art and my La Pan's Lovely line of all-natural household and body products at reasonable prices. Natural vanilla sugar scrubs for dry skin, soothing cinnamon oatmeal milk baths, gentle sweet orange milk bath, and my latest laundry soaps made with organic, free trade peppermint and lavender soaps...all in super cute bottles and jars. :) We're hoping to set our big debut for Sat, April 16th at the Saturday Market down at the 8th Street Plaza, downtown Augusta, and we'll also be selling things through Facebook and this blog. Please come down and see what we've been working on!

My first set of bottles and jars, some filled with my first batch of oatmeal cinnamon milk bath. They still tags and finishing touches. So exciting!


Adrian makes really simple pieces made of salvaged metal and hundred-year-old heart pine wood like these if you're interested. He'll have a few of the hanging racks at the Saturday Market. We use ours in the bathroom for towels, but they can be used by the front door for coats and bags or outside for tools too!


I love this sign hanging on our front door!
Our towel rack


Here are some of Adrian's metal folk art pieces from 2009 that he sold around town under the Fat Belly Farm name. They sold really well (except for the few that are hanging in our house actually), and he'll make these for you special order if you see one you like. They vary in size, so please just ask if you're interested in one.


This is my favorite one.


A blue wind heart! It hangs from ribbon and catches the wind after the heart is turned 90 degrees.




I really like this little orange flower too!



A 3-tiered wind heart. These look awesome spinning in the wind.







We have one similar to this in our kitchen. I love the way the rustic art gives a room such a cozy feeling!


Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Big Changes Happenin' Around Here

Lately, I feel a real change coming over our family. Maybe it's just that my way of thinking is changing, and I'm just starting to catch up with Adrian. Whatever it is, it's a very positive feeling. I think that moving towards a life with fewer things and less reliance on other people is making us a happier family. We're spending more time together, working outside in the yard and in the garden and taking care of the animals together. Getting to this point took some work, and it's a habit that we work on every day, as we remind ourselves of the life that we're striving for.

Lilly and June scratching around the yard.
 I remember telling Adrian when we got our first pair of hens, back in 2008, "No way! I'm not having chickens roaming around in the back yard!" But, now I love our chickens. And after one of our hens was killed by a hawk and the other was attacked by the same hawk, we decided to enclose the bay part of our workshop area to make it into a chicken coup. I think that's what really started the change for me. Adrian and I built the chicken coop together, and I really felt like I could really be a part of the solution. That maybe my actions really could make our family healthier and happier, and maybe even help make the world a better place for us and others. I felt this sense of empowerment when I washed our clothes in my first batch of homemade laundry soap. It's strange that something so small could trigger such strong feelings. In some ways, these feelings of change are helping me to embrace motherhood in ways that I hadn't before. Trading my career that took me overseas for months at a time for a position as a full-time mother of three little ones hasn't been the easiest for me. But I finally feel like I have some perspective and the motivation to be more proactive for the good of myself and my family. It really is my job to make sure that my children know what it means to live, that they eat foods that are healthy for them and not going to give them cancer, that they grow up knowing responsibility and respect for the planet that we live on and the people that live here, and that they don't take everything offered by "big business America" at face value. I want them to learn to investigate and question anything that seems to be too convenient. I want them to think about how their actions affect other people now and in the future.

I'm happy that the boys have already been learning these things, even before I had my 'light bulb moment'. I love that Adrian takes the boys out to feed the chickens and care for the ducklings. I love that Lindley talks about our animals like some other children his age talk about cartoon characters. Now, don't get me wrong, he still acts like he's Batman, demanding a cape to complete his costume, but at least he knows firsthand where eggs come from and that the chicken on our plate was actually someone else's chicken like the ones in our coop. We think it's important for children to know these things. A friend of ours told us about an organic dairy farm out in Edgefield, and we've been meaning to go out to meet them. Maybe now is the perfect time to plan that trip. Anyone want to come along?? Check them out at http://www.hickoryhillmilk.com/.

We're even trying to change more about the way we consume and the waste we produce. We're cleaning out old clothes, toys, books, shoes, anything that we don't use or need anymore and even some things that we used to think we needed, like store-bought shampoos and soaps. All of the remaining chemical cleaners under the kitchen sink are getting tossed out, and when we run out of disposable razors, Q-tips (which is going to be hard for Adrian), and diapers, we're not buying more. No more prepackaged cookies or crackers or fruit cups for the boys' lunches. Recycling doesn't cut it anymore. We're going to really try to cut back on making so much waste, period. It's amazing how much trash we create on a daily basis. No more fast food stops when we're out running errands. I'm buying as much organic food as possible, without breaking our bank account. We're growing some of the vegetables that we love to eat and composting any leftovers that the chickens don't eat. (There's a great documentary called "No Impact Man" that inspired me and reminded me of things that we used to do but have gotten away from.) If you know us, you probably think that a lot of this sounds like everything we've always talked about doing, but we have some other, more drastic things in mind for the near-future but I won't tell you about those until we have our plan in place ;).

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Turk's Tour

Turk the turkey poult took a little tour of the yard today, with both boys chasing after him frantically and shouting, "I wanna hold him, I wanna hold him!" It was definitely a sight! The little stinker is small enough to squeeze through the fencing of the chicken coop, so Adrian put him back in the big dog kennel with one of the ducklings for the night. He's so cute (and so are his five little duckling friends), but I'm trying not to get too attached. I told Adrian that we need two baby chicks for the boys to raise and keep as their pets so they won't be so upset when we serve Turk for Thanksgiving. Lindley Finn asked me the other day why we have a baby turkey, and I said, "Well, you know how everyone eats lots of food at Thanksgiving dinner?" He shook his head yes. "Well," I said, "they're eating turkey." I waited patiently for his response. You could see a light go off in his head as he said, "No, Mom, I don't want to eat Turk!" I tried to explain to him that part of having animals is raising them for food. He let it go at that, but I'm not sure how much his little 3-yr-old mind actually understands. Plan 'Turk for Thanksgiving' is still a go at the moment, but we'll see how it works out. It may become easier as he grows and starts to look more like a turkey and less like a cute little bird that fits in your hands. I sure hope so!


Ducklings sneaking out of the chicken coop's temporary door.