Thursday, April 30, 2009

Making the Homestead Work

We've made a lot of changes around here lately. Most of them were out of a financial need but something happened along the way. I learned how much I don't need and what I can really do without. It's been quite the transformation for us. Can I call our one acre of land a homestead or even a farm. I guess it's all relative. I've learned so much this past year like who my real friends are. The ones that will help no matter what, the ones that don't make fun of me because I'm trying to make good changes for my family. I can't count the number of times I've been called Amish because I bake my own bread and now raise chickens for eggs.

There comes a time when you have to make decisions for your family that others might not approve of. Not buying store bought chicken or eggs is now one of them. Last week, I made dinner with some store bought Perdue chicken. I have to say I was completely nauseated. The meat was dry and stringy and the flavor was off. Maybe it was just old meat. The stores only tell you the last day they can sell it. They don't tell you when the bird was slaughtered or frozen or how it was kept. I found a fellow homeschooling mom just up the road from me. She raises meat chickens and processes them for customers like me. These chickens are born and raised on this farm and are free ranged to enjoy all of the wonderful farm grass and worms they can manage to eat. We will no longer buy store bought chicken or beef. We are looking into purchasing organic grass fed beef from a local farm. It may cost us more but well worth it if you ask me.
That means we'll have to probably purchase a bigger freezer. Last night, I made a pork roast in the crock pot. It looked ok but when I cut into it, it was mostly pure fat with very little meat. I paid over $15.00 for a roast that was all fat and there was not enough meat left to feed our family. Good thing my kids like vegetables. If I'm going to dish out that kind of money for meat, I at least want it to be good meat and to be enough to feed our family. When I started saving money with coupons and stockpiling my pantry, one of my criteria was that my family was going to eat well. I wasn't going to buy or eat hotdogs and mac and cheese 3 nights a week, I was agreeable to cutting our finances but not at the expense of eating poorly.

I think our family still thinks we are a little crazy with all we've done. They laugh at us when we tell them we have chickens and eggs but they all come back and ask for more eggs because they make the fluffiest omelet or scrambled eggs you've ever had.

Our pantry was so well stocked last week that I didn't need to go grocery shopping at all. Sure, we had eggs for dinner one night-my family loves having breakfast for dinner. As long as the meal are good I have no issues. I've been able to cut our grocery bill in half compared to what it was and using coupons has become a part time job for me. But we are also working on becoming debt free so anything I can do to help, puts us that much closer to our goal.

It's all about finding things that work for you. Lately, I've been pulling out antique ceramic bowls and using them. I even found my grandmothers salt dip and am now using that on my counter. I'm keeping everything handy on my counters to help in baking bread, homemade snacks, keeping things clean with homemade cleansers and laundry detergent and am enjoying putting clothes out on the clothes line. My counters used to be spotless and uncluttered but I've decided that I'd rather make it a home and make things work for me.
Silly things like these homemade knitted dishcloths just delight me. I don't know why I didn't use these sooner. (Probably because I don't know how to knit.) My friend Lisa made these for me and refuses to take any money -so I give her some fresh eggs and she makes me dishcloths. Bartering is the way I was raised and it's so rare these days. I don't know why or when people decided that Bartering wasn't a good idea. Last year, I traded some garden vegetables and an apple pie for babysitting. Easy deal if you ask me.
Managing a home in this way still gives me plenty of time for my beautiful perenial gardens. They are well established now and only need minimal care to bloom this beautifully.
My Echinacea attracts the most beautiful butterflys and birds. Every year they reseed themselves and delight me with this sea of bubble gum pink blooms. I make tea out of the blossoms so even my flower gardens are put to work.

Keeping things running smoothly in a house also requires some maintainence. I found this lovely fabric last night at Job Lot. It was an end lot sale and the original price tag said $18.00 a yard. I paid $6.00 for 3 yards and it will be enough to reupholster my dining room chairs.

Taking off these chair cushions will be no problem at all and recovering them will help them look fresh and new. Our kitchen is due to be painted and with the one wall painted red, these will fit in great and the stained seats will be no more.
In the beginning of trying all of these new things, I was overwhelmed. But it is getting easier every day as I perfect recipes, find new ways of helping us sustain ourselves and reduce our environmental impact and teaching my kids some great homeschool lessons on how manage money and be self reliant. It's a great that I hope doesn't end too soon.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Roger Williams Park and Zoo Day

The Weather was gorgeous here in Rhode Island yesterday so we decided to meet some friends at the Zoo and have a picnic at the playground at Roger Williams Park and Zoo.

The Polar Bears are no longer there. They are redoing their exhibit and it should be done next year. I can't wait to see the completed project because it will give the bears 10 times the space they had before with much more room and pools to swim in.

This strange looking duck was swimming in the ponds in the park. I have no idea what it is but the warty growths on its face made it quite hideous.

The Elephant exhibit was just redone also. They have much more room to move around, a mud pit to play in and pools for cooling off.

Tae and Morgan checking out a learning table with some animal skins on it. Tae learned that every Zebra has its own pattern of stripes much like a human's fingerprints with no two ever being alike. He was amazed at how bristly the hair on the Zebra was.

Tae checks out a piece of Walrus tusk and an African carved drinking Gourd.

The Giraffe's are always fun to watch.

Beautiful patterning.

The African wild dogs were taking a snooze in the warm weather.

The Snow Leopard is just beautiful but very old.

There is also a pair of Eagles. Both the male and female were injured by hunters and can no longer fly so must remain at the Zoo. The Zoo does a lot of conservation work and releases injured animals as much as possible. This mama Eagle is sitting on a nest. I'm not sure if she has eggs or not.

The Pink Flamingos are just gorgeous. I don't know how they can sleep on one leg like that.

Creepy bats in the cave.

This is a Cavy. It looks like a cross between a deer, rabbit and kangaroo.

The moon bear was taking a nap. It's hard to see him through the glass enclosure.

We were able to watch feeding time for the seals.

These four monkeys were spotted in the trees.

This termite mound was very cool. I wonder if I can build one in the backyard with the homeschoolers. Seems easy enough.

The Anteater was very weird looking. I never realized how huge they are.

The kids played by the wetlands and were facinated with the huge Carp that came right up to the edge of the pond. They are always close up.

We also spotted this Canadian Goose sitting on a clutch of eggs. I counted at least 12 eggs.
After the Zoo we had a picnic lunch and played at the playground. Here Gideon demonstrates how to squish is mother.

Morgan loves to climb.
"Hey Mom-take a picture of me jumping off the swings."

Splat! But she's still smiling and was laughing hysterically especially after I showed her this picture. Good things kids can bounce.

Tae on the tortuous stretching machine.

Morgan and Kiara goofing off.

Future Fireman?
Morgan's left hand looks a little swollen and I had no idea that she was picking Mr. Potato Head's nose until I went through the pictures. There were three other pictures just like this.
Really nice day with friends-we had a blast.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

The Summer Weekend

We had a wonderful weekend. Aside from my 5 year old having this green snot nose thing and my 12 year old having a sore throat and fluish issues and me not feeling well on Friday we all were able to get out and enjoy the weather. The boys missed church today due to not feeling well but I was feeling much better by last night.
We were able to get a lot done this weekend.
Saturday, I ran to the garden center and bought my lettuce, spinach and broccoli and got them planted today. They are supposed to be cold crops but Rhode Island had unseasonably high temperatures (read 88 degrees in April) today so the cold crops did nothing but wilt when I planted them. My peas are doing absolutely nothing. No tiny sprouts at all.

My perennial gardens are doing very well. This is one of my favorite plants that my brother in law Kevin gave me. It's called European Ginger and the leaves are a lovely heart shaped.

My red Bleeding Heart is just starting to grow. Last year this plant was massive and stunning with all of its blooms. It was over 3 feet across.

We cleaned out my small pond that is just off the deck and divided and moved some of the hostas that I don't like. The deer make salad out of these anyway and chew them down to nothing so I wasn't really losing anything. We dug out the whole clump and threw it along the property line where the deer path is. I've planted several hostas along this path and the deer seem to appreciate the snack and then leave the rest of my gardens alone.

My Azaleas are in full bloom and a gorgeous shade of raspberry.

Our big pond is up and running along with both waterfalls. We have already seen many frogs and each year are blessed by two absolutely huge bull frogs who serenade us to sleep at night. The sound from the waterfall and the bullfrogs carries right into our bedroom window.
We love the symphony.
AHHHHHH and the springtime Koi mating dance. It happens every April when my Koi dance around each other, and rub against one another in their springtime romance. We leave the water a little green to give them some privacy. Okay-no we don't-it's green every spring. The Koi feed on all the algae so we aren't in any hurry to kill it off.

Our dog Stewie love the weather but doesn't ever stop playing. We filled up the kiddy pool to cool him off. He had a great time.
Morgan and her BFF Gab kept cool by using a lovely paper umbrella. Sweet girls.

Morgan had a soccer game on Saturday and scored a goal! So very proud of her.

Warming up in line for the game.
We started free ranging our chickens but the hawks have been everywhere so they can only be out with supervision or else a nice chicken dinner for the hawks. Our dog Stewie can care less about them and we are working with him on herding them and keeping the birds on our property. He's doing well so far but does like to give them a bit of a chase...that is until the mean Rooster starts chasing him.

The girls hanging out by by my favorite adirondack chair.
Fat bottom girls you make the rockin' world go round.

We are heading to the zoo tomorrow to meet some friends and then maybe a picnic and nature walk. The weather is supposed to be glorious again so we'll take advantage of the weather while we can. We'll save our bookwork for the rainy days.